What is Online Booking Software? A Comprehensive Guide to Benefits, Features, Pricing and More

From its name, the definition of online booking software is a system designed to facilitate online bookings and reservations of customers, or staff and agents. Whereas before it was all a manual phone booking process where a customer calls you up, you jot down the reserved date and check your calendar, then advise the customer if it’s a go, or if not suggest that the customer pick another date, and both of you try to come up with an agreeable schedule. If any changes happen to the appointed date, you call the customer and go over the process again to find an open date. And you have to do all those with several other booking customers and try to fit them in, if you can. Even if you have a dedicated staff to handle these you lose time, and probably some potential customers, with such inefficient procedure.

The Internet dramatically changed how we do business and deal with customers, and that goes with the business of bookings and reservations. In fact, in the travel industry alone 57% of all reservations were made via the Internet. In addition, 60% of online bookings are now done through mobile devices, reflecting the trend that Internet users are spending their time more on smartphones and tablets. Online booking has made things a whole lot easier both for you and your customers. What is online booking software but a faster, more accurate, much safer (since it involves payment), and many times more convenient means to manage bookings and reservations. The purpose of online booking software is to simplify and streamline the booking procedure through automation and other tools to keep everything flowing smoothly, efficiently, and productively.

Why use online booking software? Its advantages to you and your customers are many, and will significantly impact for the better your booking operations which will result in greater efficiency, quality service, more customers, and increased revenues.

In this article, we’ll go over the different aspects of online booking, including the following details:

  1. What does online booking software do?
  2. How does online booking software work?
  3. What are the benefits of online booking software?
  4. What are the advantages of online booking software?
  5. What are the features of online booking software?
  6. What is the cost of online booking software?
  7. What are examples of online booking software?
  8. Is online booking for you?

What Does Online Booking Software Do?

What does online booking software do? The traditional users of online booking platforms are still currently the biggest business users – travel and tour booking, hotel reservation and property rental, and the hospitality industry – and special online booking systems have been designed specifically for these industries. But online booking software can encompass and support any type of booking business and in fact is generally classified into two, relating to booking volume.

  1. For small to medium businesses. These require only a small staff to manage your online booking system and caters to limited number of monthly individual or group reservations such as classes and trainings or “by appointment only” services such as clinics and med labs.
  2. For large enterprises. These are designed for high volume bookings and reservations per month like those of hotels, airlines, and other travel, transportation and accommodation services.

While there are all-in-one booking platforms that can handle all kinds of business or volume, there are also scalable solutions to fit your particular booking requirement and budget. Regardless, online booking software is there to simplify, automate, and expedite the booking process for you and your customers which include getting customer details, updating booking information, ensuring fast and secure payment, calendar and scheduling, and many others.

How Does Online Booking Software Work?

How does online booking software work? The good thing about online booking and reservation systems is that they can be integrated or embedded into your website, or even into your social media page without any complicated installation. A customer simply visits your business site or Facebook page, chooses the service or activity they would like to book, and taken to a page to fill out a booking form which you can set and customize beforehand to gather any information you may need. This completes the first part.

The second part is where the customer pays via a payment gateway which will transfer the payment to you. Online booking software are equipped to handle safe online payment processing and all information like transaction details and customer data are securely stored in a cloud content management system usually protected by encryption and SSL security protocol, accessible only through login and password.

The whole process may take just a few minutes for first time booking, and even less for repeat bookings since information required has already been entered, recorded and stored. And since the platform is web-based, customers can book on the go using mobile devices. The system will update any changes in information and schedule and will reflect these in real-time in an online calendar that both you and the customer can view. You’ll both be notified, also in real-time, either through email or SMS of any changes, or reminded of any upcoming schedule or appointment.

YouCanBookMe calendar allows self-booking by customers.

What Are the Benefits of Online Booking Software?

Now you already know the answer to the question: what is online booking software and what can it do? The foregoing sections covered its capabilities and functions that can greatly assist you in your booking operations. This time let’s focus on the most important benefits of online booking software.

  1. Simplification. Streamline bookings and reservation procedures for customers.
  2. Automation. Real-time information, updates, and communication.
  3. Payment Security. Secured, assured, and convenient payment mechanism.
  4. Bookings 24/7. Anytime, anywhere bookings with an online platform.
  5. Productivity. Reduce hours and optimize time for managing booking activities.
  6. Efficiency. Lessen customer requirements especially for repeat bookings.
  7. Accessibility. Easily access needed data from a central location wherever you are.
  8. Mobility. Manage, enable, and oversee bookings with your mobile device.
  9. Integration. Work with third party apps and services directly from your booking platform.

What Are the Advantages of Online Booking Software?

These solutions bring efficiency and a lot of benefits to the table. Here are the major advantages of online booking software:

  1. It’s the modern way of booking – The old phone system is no match; it only takes one booking at a time or two or three depending on how many phones you have installed. Still, that would require more staff and man hours. Online booking systems are the modern, digital way to take several bookings and reservations simultaneously with everything synchronized, calendared and scheduled, in addition to having all information precise, and all transactions secure.
  2. It’s a self-service portal – As a booking business owner, your role is just actually to oversee and manage as you don’t have to deal directly face to face with each customer. Of course, you and your staff must provide personalized customer support whenever there are queries on multiple channels. Online booking platforms are designed to be self-service portals where customers book themselves based on open dates provided them by the system.
  3. It’s an information resource – The information your customer provides you when booking – names, physical address, contact details, email address – is a most precious resource that an online booking software can organize, secure and protect at all times. With their email info, you can do follow ups, offer promos and discounts, and even just give them a personalized thank you message. This gives your customers easy recall and makes you the preferred choice when they require a booking service again. All these add up to quality customer service without too much effort on your part.
  4. It’s an up-selling opportunity – If you are a car rental company and a customer books a car, you can offer car accessories or other useful items in the car like a GPS or dashboard cam that the customer can use in his own car. There are many chances for up-selling and marketing strategies which would provide you additional revenues.

Bookeo lets you drill down to your schedule’s details.

What Are the Features of Online Booking Software?

Online booking and reservation is literally closing a sale since payment is required to complete the booking process. Being a revenue generator for your business means that your booking platform must be flawless, reliable, and accessible all the time. Hence, it must have features and functions to capably fulfill its purpose. Here are the most important features of online booking software:

  1. User-friendly – The platform must be easy to use to any kind of user. It must have intuitive navigation that leads the user to the next step after for example filling a form, selecting a service, or picking a schedule, and completing payment.
  2. Payment processing – The booking software should be able to accept and process deposits or payment in the most convenient, timely, secure and efficient manner.
  3. Integration – It must be able to sync with your website and social media page, integrate with your office apps, and connect with your payment system
  4. Calendar – This feature keeps track and informs you of booking commitments, schedules and changes. The calendar should be shareable and customizable, so that customers can only see relevant booking info.
  5. Data management – It must be able to collect and analyze data such as daily, weekly and monthly booking volumes, and equipped with reporting tools and centralized repository for customer information and business data.
  6. Inventory management system – It must be able to sort out, itemize and organize every available booking service you offer and automatically update items in your inventory.
  7. Automated updates – It must provide real-time and automatic updating of booking information, price rates, invoices, and the like, as well as send real-time notifications and reminders.
  8. Mobile device compatibility – The software should work on mobile devices for anytime, anywhere access of booking information by customers, agents and staff.
  9. Customer support – Software users must be able to reach the vendor or support team all the time on multiple channels in case of system glitches or for any queries.

Checkfront makes it seamless to create an invoice for bookings.

What is the Cost of Online Booking Software?

The cost of online booking software is scalable and most vendors offer a range of plans to suit your budget and booking requirement. Some even have free plans with limited number of bookings and one or two features tucked in. For paid plans – usually basic, standard, premium, and enterprise – prices go up depending on booking volume and number of features. Prices can range from single to double to triple figures for monthly subscriptions. It is wise to carefully study the plan offerings and get one initially for your existing needs and budget since you can easily upgrade to more robust plans once your booking operations grow.

What are Examples of Online Booking Software?

Different vendors have different feature set and terms. To give you an overview of the landscape, here are some examples of online booking software:

  1. YouCanBook.me is a booking platform that integrates with Google and iCloud Calendar which allows customer bookings straight into the calendar. If provides a personalized scheduling-page, convenient appointment booking by customer’s availability, booking reschedule, and automatic update of changes in the calendar. Users can also publish new booking grids to their website, their Facebook page, or send by mail to contact list.
  2. Bookeo originally catered to small businesses and individual professionals such as photographers, car washing services, therapists and the like with its basic appointment scheduling tool, but soon expanded to include more customers and business types. It has two separate products – Bookeo Class & Courses for instruction-based businesses, and Bookeo Tours & Activities for and tourism and travels. The former is an ideal for art classes, yoga sessions, cooking schools and more, while the latter is designed for guided tours and charters.
  3. Checkfront is an online booking and customer management solution that supports integration with many popular online services. It can manage bookings and reservations, facilitate online payment processing, undertake analysis and reporting of data, among other functions. The availability of the open API makes it possible to integrate the platform with websites, content management systems, payment systems, customer relationship management solutions, marketing software and analytics software.
  4. Setmore is an online scheduling software compatible with every device, making it a reliable tool for online booking, scheduling, payments, engagements, and even automation. It is specifically designed for small business, sole entrepreneurs, community organizations and NGOs looking for an effective way of connecting to online customers. It provides a comprehensive set of administrative features and is completely user-friendly. It has text reminder, mobile scheduling, and automatic alerts for changes in bookings and schedules.
  5. SimplyBook.me is an online booking system built to streamline scheduling and booking procedures. It is accessible from mobile devices or desktop PCs, provides automatic email/SMS reminders and confirmation notifications, and allows customization of booking page in the company’s website or Facebook fan-page. The software also lets users collect feedback from clients and offers them a reward system for promoting the service to others.

Is Online Booking Software For You?

Below is a checklist of some businesses that would require online booking software:

  1. Accommodation Services (hotels, lodging houses)
  2. Travel Services (airlines, cruise lines)
  3. Tours Operators (adventure/vacation packages)
  4. Hospitality and Leisure (restaurant, clubs, resorts, theme parks)
  5. Rentals (car, boat, yacht)
  6. Schools, Classes and Trainings (language, cooking, dance, art, music, computer)
  7. Entertainment & Events (movie houses, theaters, operas, concerts)
  8. Health, Beauty and Wellness (gyms, yoga, spa, massage, salon)
  9. Medical Services Providers (labs, clinics, doctors, dentists)
  10. Local Governments
  11. Childcare Providers
  12. Activities Companies
  13. Real Estate

Simply put, if you have a company website or social media page and the core of your business is taking bookings and reservations, then this type of software will be very useful. What is online booking software but simply to harness Internet, automation and other smart technology to keep booking processes as straightforward as possible, reduce steps between customers and their purchases, and hasten the closing of sales. The fewer steps in the sales transaction, the more likely it is to result in a better bottom line. Online booking software can help you realize that.

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