Consumers expect businesses to provide omnichannel experiences to interact via web, mobile, and social — virtually any way a customer wants to reach their favourite brands should be an option. Truly adopting an omnichannel strategy requires an entirely integrated ecosystem that embraces eCommerce integration. Every way a customer or client might want to reach out, shop, read content, make a payment, or even make an appointment should be straightforward, seamless, and easily accessible from whatever device the customer chooses — especially for booking appointments.
Younger consumers and some older demographics have migrated away from the traditional call-in system where you check to see if there is an appointment available, wait for the person on the other end of the line to read through the calendar and relay back which days are open. It’s a clunky process. Some consumers don’t enjoy having to speak on the phone at all.
The beauty industry is coming back to life after a few years of people staying at home; the industry took a pretty hard hit from 2020 to 2021. Overall, the beauty industry generated CAD$2.2 billion in 2020, a tumble of 17% compared with just one year prior. While the industry is bouncing back, it’s a great time to make sure you’re meeting your customers where they are. Online sales, on the other hand, in lock-step with the trend of being home-bound, rose over 55% in 2020. Of all beauty industries, skincare was the only one that saw such minimal impact, only dropping by a percent.
When it comes to the beauty business, 23% of consumers would use online appointment booking if a business offered it, and 25% will avoid a business that doesn’t offer it. If your salon or beauty business hasn’t embraced automation, now’s the time.
Business operators in the personal care, health and wellness, and other segments might also benefit from digital appointment booking, especially if the platform they choose offers intuitive features and easy integration with other applications.
What to Look for in an Online Booking System
Automating your appointment setting not only reaches a greater customer base but it frees up your time for other aspects of your business. Here are some of the features business owners should look for in an online booking service:
1. Website customization
The appointment booking platform you choose should allow you to customize the appearance of your appointment website, so it reflects your company’s brand. You should be able to select the colours, layout, font style, and other elements that optimize the site’s appearance and create a strong first impression for customers.
Whether you’re looking to create a booking landing page for clients coming from social media and email referrals or you need a booking system added to an existing site, Square Appointments provides solutions across different business sizes and verticals — including features such as third-party calendar syncing, booking widgets that are compatible across hosting platforms, SEO tools, and analytics on website and business performance.
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2. eCommerce and retail capabilities
As many personal care businesses have launched new revenue streams during the pandemic, such as retail product sales, an online booking platform should offer businesses the ability to conduct eCommerce right alongside their appointment-booking services.
3. Mobile compatibility
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of mobile technology as consumers embraced the ability to stay connected anytime, anywhere. Mobile users in the United States spent an average of 4.4 hours per day on their mobile devices in 2021 compared to 3.9 hours per day in 2019, according to a recent report.
These trends highlight the need for online booking services that are not only mobile-friendly but also have app versions available for iOS and Android phone systems.
4. Social media integration
Much of the time consumers spend online and on their mobile devices is spent on social media, which has evolved as not only a space for people to share photos, videos, and other information but also as a platform for commerce. Square Appointments includes integrations with platforms such as Instagram, letting you and your staff take appointments through social media that sync directly with your schedule and POS.
5. User-friendly functionalities
Customers may need to book multiple appointments with different members of your staff in a single visit, so look for an online booking platform that offers this functionality.
With Square Appointments, each staff member staff will see the services they have been assigned on their calendar. In addition, the platform automatically allocates tips among the staff members.
Additionally, look for a platform that allows customers to book recurring appointments while conveniently storing their payment information to expedite the scheduling and checkout processes.
For health and wellness businesses, look for an online booking platform that offers important features, such as the ability to attach client files.
6. Automated reminders
Reducing no-shows is critical for businesses of all types that book appointments. Business operators should ensure that their online booking platform helps to achieve this goal. Look for a booking platform that has the ability to generate automated email and text reminders, such as Square Assistant.
This provides the added benefit of providing instant responses to your customers’ emails and text messages 24/7, thus enhancing your level of service.
7. Integration with other systems
The ability for business owners to integrate online booking systems with other back-end technologies offers tremendous advantages. Business owners and managers should look to ensure that their booking systems are compatible with other tools they use, such as payment/POS, inventory, customer history, and any internal business calendars or scheduling systems.
Today’s consumers expect omnichannel experiences. Business operators need an online booking system that makes life easier for both the customer and the business owner, with extensive functionality for both. Meanwhile, integration with payment and other business systems facilitates automation and increases efficiencies.