This is a guest blog by Scott Turner from Siege Media. Scott helps entrepreneurs and small business owners use their expertise to drive sales conversations with content. When he’s not laboring over the perfect headline, you’ll find him surfing, diving, or searching for the best tacos in San Diego.
The impact of the internet on modern-day business operations is undeniable. Everything from the way we look for jobs and even connect with colleagues has changed since the rise of the internet.
However, with small businesses, conveniences like online booking have been slow to catch on, according to a recent study by HouseCall Pro, even though they’ve been shown to increase revenue substantially:
Online booking systems can be used in everything from hotel reservations to flights and even tour experiences. And the rise of online bookings is beneficial not only for users but also for companies who can reach a much wider customer base for little additional cost.
Here’s why an online booking system will attract more customers to your tour business.
8 Benefits of online booking
As a tour company, it’s likely many people searching for you are already in the area and actively looking for a tour experience. And since nearly half of all Google searches are for local information, online booking is an easy way to maximize bookings. In fact, according to the study by Housecall Pro, owner-operated businesses saw an average increase in bookings of 43% just by implementing an online booking system.
However, in addition to an increase in bookings, you’ll likely see these benefits to your business as well:
- Eliminate Third-Party Bookers. By hosting a booking platform on your website, you eliminate third-party tour operators and retain a larger portion of your profit. Additionally, customers are less likely to go with a competitor if they are already on your platform.
- Better customer service. Simply put, an online booking system is often a better booking experience for customers. Seeing that half of all customers prefer to book online rather than in person or over the phone, having a platform that caters to this creates a better experience for your customers.
- Minimize No-Shows. It can be extremely frustrating when you have to turn down customers because of a full tour, just to have several of your pre-booked customers not show up. Many tour operators prevent this by requiring a deposit for online bookings. When customers pay a deposit, they are far more likely to show up on the actual tour day.
- Mobile booking. Many leisure travelers don’t carry laptops with them, so they are dependent on only their mobile devices. According to TrekkSoft, 49% of tour and activity bookings occur on mobile, so making your online booking platform mobile-friendly clearly has a multitude of benefits.
- Reduce booking errors. We’re human—we all make mistakes. Prevent mistakes like accidental overbooking by using an online system that integrates in real-time, so you know your information is always up-to-date.
- Book any time of the day. With an online booking system, customers can book at any time of day—meaning that for those on the other side of the world, they don’t have to be up in the middle of the night to match up with your local business hours. Seeing that 35% of customers prefer to book outside normal business hours, an online booking system can help customers find you even when you’re off the clock.
- Save time on administrative duties. Processing bookings manually is tedious and time-consuming. With an online booking system, you can automate these processes and minimize the amount of time you have to spend on administrative work.
- Get insights on your customers. With online booking, you are automatically collecting data about your customers. This data can be used to understand your customers and gain insight on what they would most want.
Tips for implementing online booking systems
The benefits of having an online booking system for tour companies are clear—but how do you implement it?
Here are some tips on how to effectively implement an online booking system on your site and grow your business:
- Integrate online booking onto your social channels. Apps like Yelp and Instagram have made this extremely simple, with “book now” buttons integrated directly into their business platforms. Particularly for the younger generation of digital natives who favor social media, having an online social presence can hugely impact your booking conversions.
- Put the option to book clearly on your website. We’ve all been on those sites where it seems like you can’t find anything you’re looking for. Improve your UI by putting the option to book front and center on your site.
- Add integration options. Ensure your booking platform integrates with scheduling apps like google calendar to help improve customer experience—and for an industry that is particularly reliant on word-of-mouth marketing, a good review from a customer can be extremely important in increasing your future bookings.
- Choose a system that works for your industry. What works for a pest control company might be different than what works for a tour operator. Although some booking systems are a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, you might want to invest in a specialized system that will maximize your booking potential. When looking for tour operator booking software, it’s important to consider whether they have features like customer relationship management tools, customer feedback systems, itinerary creation, point-of-sale software, and of course booking management.
Online booking is a competitive advantage
Between 2008 and 2015, the number of online bookings made by Americans jumped from 40.6 million to 59.8 million – nearly a 50% increase. However, 77% of all small businesses have yet to implement an online booking system. Which means if yours has one, you have a huge advantage over your competition, since half of all customers prefer to book online.
Be sure to consider an online booking system in mind when you’re building your business’ web presence!
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