How to Create an Online Booking System for your App or Site
Nowadays, the booking industry moves towards digitization at a rapid pace.
According to Finances Online research, the average annual growth rate of the online booking industry will amount to 15,1% in the next several years. Thus, to keep up with the times, many businesses take a step in this direction as well.
Those who decide that they want to digitize their booking processes often integrate booking management tools into an existing mobile or web platform.
And it’s quite reasonable since online booking options can get you more clients — 70% of respondents say they prefer an online booking option to a regular one. Besides, it can help you get an advantage to stay ahead of the competition as 31% of clients would choose a new service provider that offers online booking.
So, if you want to implement a custom online booking functionality or simply want to learn more about it — welcome!
✅ How Custom Online Booking Integration Can Help your Business
An online booking option can help businesses improve their workflow in many ways. First and foremost, it automates routine processes that otherwise take lots of time and effort from your side.
However, let’s take a look at how your business can benefit from integrating online booking into your app or website.
# 1: Booking & Its Management Automation 🎫
Although many businesses use pre-packaged solutions for integrating booking functionality like Square Appointments, Acuity Scheduling, Checkfront & others, there are several reasons why they might need to develop a custom one.
One of the main reasons is that their current solution (a website, an app, CRM, ERP, etc.) may not allow integration with such ready-to-use softwares.
It’s also pretty common for existing solutions to not allow users to change reservation details or cancel them. By implementing such a feature into your platform, everything can be displayed there & fully managed by users.
Generally, custom booking functionality can be fully tailored to your business needs.
# 2: No-shows & Less Confusion 😕
Sometimes, people confuse the time they’re supposed to come at or forget they have a reservation. Plus, it’s not always easy to deal with similar situations.
Maybe an online booking tool won’t be able to really help you with solving such issues, but it will definitely be much easier to prevent them.
- Offer users to turn on push or desktop notifications (depending on what your current platform is, it may or may not be possible) so they can be reminded of their reservation a couple of times.
If it’s not possible to use notifications, you can use text messages or call instead.
It might be a good idea to make them customizable. For instance, you can offer to set the time when the notification/reminder pops up. It can be 24/12/6/2, etc. hours before, for example.
- Integrate with users’ calendars on their devices, so the booking time is displayed there. Normally, after the booking is done, the “Add to calendar” button pops up.
In fact, setting automated reminders can help companies reduce the rate of no-shows by 29%.
# 3: Data Collection Automation 📚
Working with data collection through custom booking functionality can be more accurate & suitable for your business, compared to a ready-made option.
First of all, you can fully manage what metrics the software collects. Often, businesses track metrics such as:
- The overall number of customers per period of time.
- The overall revenue.
- The revenue made on a certain day/week/month.
- The number of no-shows & others.
What’s great about such custom tools is that you don’t have to manually change someone’s reservation status if it’s been canceled or rescheduled — the software will do it for you.
The data can be presented in various forms of infographics. It helps to track the dynamics & make the analysis easier.
# 4: Productivity Increase 📤
The booking process might require additional manual work or approval from managers, and needs to be controlled because of the lack of automation. For instance, if the booking is done by phone, a manager has to take it & add it to the CRM or whatever system you use.
Such additional tasks can result in lower productivity or distract managers from more important tasks.
Not to mention that managers’ productivity has a significant impact on the workflow’s structure, and it can be improved without such routine tasks.
# 5: 24/7 Booking Accessibility ⌛
The problem with phone booking is that users can’t be fully free in terms of when they can book an appointment. That can and most probably will result in huge opportunity costs.
But what if a person forgets to book an appointment and wants to do it at midnight? We don’t know that many businesses that offer all hours phone booking service, do you?
With online booking software, it’s not a big deal since it allows users’ to schedule appointments at any time & place.
❓ The Difference Between On-Demand & In-Advance Booking Services
Before we start talking about features and functionality, we’d like to mention that there are 2 types of online booking services — on-demand & in-advance.
Depending on the type of your business, your booking system will have special features.
Why don’t we briefly recall the difference between these 2 types?
So, on-demand booking implies services that are expected to satisfy customers’ needs in the shortest time possible.
Normally, these types of businesses are called On-Demand:
- Taxi — Uber, Ola, Curb (in the USA), etc.
- Food Delivery — Glovo, UberEats, Doordash, etc.
- Home/Repair Services — Handy, Serviz, Sears, etc.
The core feature of on-demand booking services is that customers are more likely to use them regularly without quick access to their desktops, meaning, they might need to install an app.
Thus, if you have an on-demand service, you might want to integrate booking functionality into your app.
Actually, we have a couple of articles dedicated to developing apps for your on-demand services. Here’s one about on-demand food delivery:
On the other hand, there are in-advance booking services that imply that customers book a certain day and time to receive a service.
There are a bunch of businesses that use such booking practice:
- Hospitality — hotels, restaurants, etc.
- Medical Appointments.
- Events & Entertainment.
- Education & others.
What’s important to understand when providing booking services for such businesses is that people don’t use them that regularly. Moreover, the appointment/service will be booked rather in advance than spontaneously, which requires time to think.
Thus, users are more likely to do their research from their laptops or tablets.
Consequently, it might be more practical to integrate a booking software into the web app or PWA, so users won’t need to install an app for one-time use (at least, for now).
We have an article dedicated to PWAs & Technologies for building them, which goes a little more in-depth regarding the tech part of the development. So, if you are interested in this topic, here you go:
However, this is really only relevant for typical use cases. It is possible that your on-demand service is more likely to be used from a website rather than an app.
Our intention here is to simply indicate that you should think about who, where, and how will use your service.
🚌 Our Expertise: CheckMyBus
We at Stormotion happened to work with an in-advance booking service CheckMyBus, and we developed a mobile app for them that perfectly matches their business needs.
CheckMyBus is a service that helps users compare bus ticket prices from different providers.
When their team reached out to us, they already had an app, but it was quite buggy and it only had a 2-star rating. For us that meant that the new app needed to be more user-friendly but provide an experience similar to what the old one did.
Besides, the online bus booking market isn’t new to the world which means that the app had to follow the existing patterns that users are used to, yet bring uniqueness to the industry.
The final product turned out to be a cross-platform app that’s consistent with the CheckMyBus website. Eventually, the overall rating reached 4.6 stars.
If you’d like to get more insights on this project, you could visit this Case Study on our website:
⚙️ Top Features of an Online Appointment Scheduling Tool
In this section, we’ll provide you with a list of features to build user-friendly booking functionality.
However, we’d like to point out once again that “online booking” can be used for many types of businesses, which may & most likely will impact the functionality you’ll need.
We tried to keep the features universal, so they match most business types.
# 1: Booking & Calendar 📅
Technically, this feature is what this is all about. It can consist of several parts:
- A bar to choose a service (in case, it wasn’t chosen earlier).
- Service description.
- Date & time.
- “Book”/“Schedule” button.
- A window to leave comments in.
- A chat with a support specialist.
Many booking tools add built-in calendars as well. Some use them to increase users’ engagement. So, instead of using external apps, users could plan their visits in the calendars.
Others do it to provide a better user experience in terms of scheduling the reservation — it can be easier to book if the dates are visualized.
# 2: Feedback & Ratings 💬
It’s of high importance to show your customers that you care about what they think of your business & the service you provide them.
So, when implementing a booking system, think about adding a feedback feature & letting customers rate your services.
Besides, you can use feedback as a tool to determine & work off the negative impression. So, when a customer remains unsatisfied enough with the service, you could smooth it out with a discount or let them know that their opinion is taken into account and “everything possible will be done to prevent it the next time.”
You can also ask users to explain the reason for canceling the reservation when they do so. This way, you’ll be able to gather valuable info on how to improve your services.
# 3: Payment Gateway 💲
If you want to offer to pay in advance via the booking software, you’ll need a secure & reliable Payment Gateway.
For a great user experience, it should:
- Be consistent with various OS options.
- Allow using popular payment methods like credit card, Apple & Google Pay, PayPal, etc.
- Work fast with no delays.
- Strongly protect users’ personal data.
If it’s possible for your type of business, think about allowing each client to opt for payment in cash.
# 4: Push- & Desktop Notifications 📲
This feature is possible in two cases:
- You have or will have a mobile app — push-notifications.
- You have or will have a web application — desktop notifications.
If you have a PWA, it’s not possible to use notifications.
Implementing push- or desktop notifications can be helpful in several ways. You could use them to:
- Increase sales by sending personalized offers.
- Retarget customers.
- Remind clients of their reservations to reduce the amount of no-shows.
Don’t forget to ask users for permission before turning notifications on.
# 5: Customer Support 🤖
So that the user experience isn’t spoiled by easy-to-solve troubles, you should provide a great support service.
Perfect customer support should provide:
- A chatbot that’s able to solve simple troubles & transfer users to real specialists if needed.
- A live chat with support specialists.
- A couple of FAQs with a wide range of questions.
- A 24/7 phone support for emergencies.
- A list of contacts with phone numbers for different operators, an email address, Social Media links, links to messengers like WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.
📊 Admin Panel for an Online Booking App
To manage the booking software itself, you’ll need an admin panel.
Through the software, the workflow members could manage it or access any needed information.
Staff Management 😀
Initially, online booking was created to reduce the workload of staff members. So naturally, the software can include several features for managing workers to achieve the initial goal of regulating the workload.
To begin with, businesses in such industries as beauty, home services, taxi & transportation, etc., that have multiple service providers, need to be able to delete, add, and edit the list of service providers.
Staff member profile description:
- Full name.
- Contact information.
- Position & others.
Some businesses add more features by integrating with an HCM (Human Capital Management) System — a set of tools to manage all HR-related processes.
It has a bunch of features like payroll, recruitment & onboarding, performance management, but in terms of integrating an online booking software, the most useful one is workforce planning.
It implies distributing bookings & workload in general among workers, as well as tracking sick leaves and vacations to be able to reassign workers on time.
Additionally, many businesses use various levels of access. For instance:
- Administrator — has full access to all features & settings.
- Manager — allowed to manage service provider lists, cancel or change reservations, etc.
- Employees — have access only to their own bookings.
Even though we named this section “Staff Management,” a feature that will manage lists of not only staff but whatever it is you offer to your clients will be needed.
Appointment Management 📆
For better workflow control, you can add various features for appointment management.
One of the most useful features in terms of managing appointments is an in-built calendar.
There, all booking can be shown & automatically sorted by these categories:
- Completed & others.
Within this tool, you can also track employees’ workflow, see when they’re available, and manage it.
What’s important is to allow managers to manually add new appointments to the software, since having the option of online booking doesn’t guarantee that no one will use phone reservation anymore.
Besides, malfunctions can still happen and lead to bookings with the wrong time/date/name, etc. So, to fix such consequences, managers might need to do some manual work.
✈️ Tech Stack for Online Booking
To modify your custom booking system with more tools, you can consider adding multiple integrations and APIs.
- To integrate a calendar, you can use Google Calendar, Nylas, Zoho, etc.
- For payments integration, take a look at Braintree or Stripe. Actually, we have a whole article dedicated to integrating payment systems if you’d like to learn more about it.
- You can integrate an HCM system by using Oracle Cloud HCM, Workday, etc.
- For collection feedback, you could use Twilio, Lumoa, and others.
- Push-notification can be enabled by using such APIs as OneSignal, Pusher, etc.
- For desktop notifications, you could use Sendpulse, iZooto, etc. Some of these 4 notification APIs enable mobile as well as web (desktop) notifications.
If you want to get some visual information on how an API works, you can watch this explanatory video:
👨💻 Our Expertise: Yangol
Recently, we integrated a complex booking functionality into Yangol — a product that helps companies digitize their onboarding processes.
The main goal was to enable booking of onboarding meetings for new employees & their managers.
Besides, Yangol needed to empower booking other onboarding-related events of relative companies.
Our goal was complexified by the need of sending calendar-invitations to all meeting participants with the option of being able to accept them within a month.
To successfully implement this series of actions, we integrated the rrule.js library.
This integration helped us make the format of a sequence of exact dates out of specific “recurring events” (for instance, “every week on Mondays”).
This is a great example of quite a complicated case of booking appointments functionality integration into an existing product.
If you’d like to learn more about this case, you could visit our website & read this case study:
As we can see, online booking is something rather necessary to stay competitive on the market since many clients would choose a provider who has online booking opportunities.
Besides, the benefits that you can get from implementing it outweigh the costs.
Why don’t when briefly summarize what steps you should take to implement booking tools into your app or website:
- Choose whether you’ll use a mobile or web platform for integrating a scheduling tool in case you have both.
- Decide on what features you’ll add to the software.
- Structure your future admin panel functionality.
- Review some APIs to decide whether you need additional integrations or not.
- Find a Tech Partner and start the development.
If you need any help with the development or have some questions on how to create an online booking system left, or want to clarify any details, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll find a way to help you!