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Consumers expect businesses to provide omnichannel experiences in order to interact via web, mobile, and social media channels. This may include booking appointments, which has migrated away from traditional phone-based systems, particularly among younger consumers.
In the personal care industry, one in four consumers indicated they would avoid a business that did not offer online appointment booking, per the Square Future of Beauty report.
“Omnichannel booking was a rising trend before the pandemic and is now table stakes,” the report states.
Business operators in the personal care, health an wellness, and other segments might also benefit from digital appointment booking, especially if the platform they choose offers intuitive features and an easy integration with other applications.
The Square report found that 49% of personal care business leaders say managing appointments has been a significant challenge for their businesses. Here are some of the features that 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 that it reflects your company’s brand. You should be able to select the colors, 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.
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.
According to the Square Future of Beauty report, 96% of beauty businesses say they sell retail products, and 41% of beauty businesses say 26 to 50% of revenue comes from online and social media sales. Additionally, 20% say half or more of their business comes from online and social media sales.
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 4.2 hours per day on their mobile devices in 2021 compared to 3.3 hours per day in 2019, according to a recent data.ai report.
“With smartphones providing unparalleled reach and access to billions of consumers worldwide, every industry is a mobile-focused industry,” the report concluded.
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.
Customers want the option to book through social media, according to the Square Future of Beauty report.
“Beauty and personal care businesses were early adopters of social media, and now that move is paying off,” the report concluded. “Not only are clients discovering and engaging with their favorite salons and stylists, but they are also making purchases and booking appointments directly from social media — this is particularly true for younger consumers.”
The report found that 19% of customers booked appointments through social media, and among millennial and Gen Z clients, that figure jumps to 38%. 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.
The Square Future of Beauty report found that 98% of beauty businesses agree that integrated tools allow staff to focus on more important tasks, such as the creative work they’re passionate about.
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. Integrations with payment and other business systems, meanwhile, facilitate automation and increase efficiencies.