Over the 2019 holiday season, online sales in the US jumped 18% over the previous year. It was a clear sign that customers increasingly prefer to click the mouse, than hop in a car, when it comes to holiday shopping.
For most retailers in-store festive shopping is still a major part of their business. But, this doesn’t mean that the online experience should be neglected. Customers love the convenience and control that shopping online provides. That same experience can still be provided, even when the actual purchase may occur at a physical store.
Online booking allows retailers to let customers book appointments via their website. This online booking lets customers know that they will have a dedicated time, with an in-store staff member who will talk to them through their buying options.
The importance of delivering superior customer experience
The modern customer demands a higher level of personalisation and experience. In a recent study it was found that 54% of customers had a higher expectation of customer experience, than when surveyed twelve months before. When looking at younger buyers in the 18 – 34 year old demographic, this number increased to 66%.
Even more importantly, customer experience is often the only way that retailers are able to truly distinguish themselves. In a globalised marketplace many businesses have access to exactly the same products. Customers know that they can often buy products more inexpensively online. That’s why a Gartner study said that 89% of businesses said they would compete on customer experience.
Provided a dedicated appointment time for customers enables businesses to deliver that customer experience. Businesses will know how many staff need to be available in order to facilitate the right level of staff. This is particularly important during the peak shopping of the holiday season.
Create a booking process for physical sales
Online booking isn’t just for services. Having an online booking process is also very useful for brick and mortar retailers as well. Using online booking prospective clients can arrange a time to view a product in store. This is particularly useful for high value items like furniture, automobiles, travel and electronics. Clients who have made a booking are more likely to purchase.
Having scheduled appointments, you can also ensure that you have adequate staff to deliver a great customer experience. This includes allowing sufficient time for customers to fully understand which product or package will best meet their needs. That means not just an increase in sales, but customers who are more happy with their purchase.
Adding a booking form to your website will customers to schedule an appointment at a time which is most convenient for them. Bookly’s appointment booking solution will ensure that a customer will only be able to schedule a booking when there’s an employee available to accommodate that spot in the schedule.
Offer experiences and classes for your customers
Online booking can also be used for facilitating customised in store experiences. One big opportunity for retailers to offer experiences or classes to supplement their product business.
An example of this is wine stores offering wine tasting classes. These introduce clients to new wines and create an opportunity to sell additional products. These classes can be offered during the evening, creating new opportunities for revenue for the wine store.
Many different types of retail businesses can benefit from offering their clientele classes or experiences. But in order to provide these it is essential to have an online booking process in place.
Reduce administration while streamlining your booking process
While it may seem like a good problem to have, the festive season can strain the resources of a business. The number of front-end staff needed during the rest of the year may prove insufficient during the holiday period. You don’t want to create bottlenecks during this period, because maximizing revenue during the festive period can be critical to the overall financial success of the business.
The secret to ensuring that you can scale up your bookings during the festive period is to automate processes where possible. This is one of the core benefits of online booking. It allows you to take on more online bookings without necessarily having to invest in more administration or front line staff.
With online booking customers don’t need to call or email in order to make a booking. This not only reduces work for staff but is also more convenient for the customer. Bookings can be made anytime of the day, not just when front of house employees are available.
Using Bookly you can choose to make online bookings set to either automatic or manual approval. During busy periods of the year like the festive season, it may make sense to set bookings to automatic. This will streamline the booking process and not require a staff member to manually approve each appointment. If you prefer to set bookings to manual approval, employees will be notified when an appointment needs to be approved. This ensures that appointment approvals occur as promptly as possible.
Prompt customers with SMS and email notifications
To maximize in-store sales it is important that customers attend their pre-arranged appointments. Customers today lead extremely busy schedules and this is particularly true during the festive season. It is easy therefore for customers to forget the time or location of an appointment that they may have made weeks beforehand.
Bookly helps you to minimise no-shows and provide customers with all of the details customers need about their appointment, by providing SMS and email notifications. These notifications can be set up to be delivered according to a predetermined schedule leading up to the appointment. All of the details that the customer requires to attend the appointment including the location and time are included. You can even include a link to enable the customer to cancel their appointment.
Bookly SMS and email notifications are completely customisable. This means that they can be designed to reflect the branding of your company. By reducing the number of no-shows you can increase the amount of demonstrations of that product, which has a direct impact on your sales.
Provide mobile friendly booking
40% of consumers have switched to a different retailers website because it offered a superior mobile experience. Customers will predominantly access your website and make bookings using a mobile phone. It’s therefore critical that the booking form is properly optimised for mobile viewing.
Customers during the holiday period will be looking at multiple different retailers websites. If they can’t make a booking easily because of poor mobile experience, they will quickly switch to one that they can.
About half of websites are still not fully optimized for mobile. What’s more, a number of booking solutions are predominantly designed for desktop. Bookly in contrast is entirely mobile friendly. It detects when a user is accessing the website through a mobile phone, and then displays the mobile optimised version for that user. By having a properly mobile optimised booking form, you will make it easy for customer to make appointments using their smartphone.
Entice customers with coupons
Holidays are the season for bargain shopping. 90% of customers use coupons. Mobile is a particularly strong category for coupons with the number of coupons set to grow by 56.5% by 2025. Using online booking makes it extremely easy to setup digital coupons to entice new customers.
Coupons are particularly popular during the holiday period because customers will often be purchasing products and services for friends, family and colleagues. Most people will be working towards a budget. As a consequence they will be looking to get the most value for their spending.
Using Bookly retailers can quickly auto generate coupon codes through the backend dashboard. Coupons can be for a fixed amount or on a percentage basis. Customers will then be able to redeem these coupons when they are checking out. The discount will be applied against the amount that is owing. This works whether you accept online payments or taking payment when you deliver the service.
The digital coupons can be allocated to particular services. One effective way to use coupons is to offer them for introductory services. When the service has been delivered, you can use a follow-up process to market related services.
Bookly also makes it easy to add in up-sells to your booking process. This means that while you may only break even on the delivery of the main service, this can be compensated for by upselling additional extras. This might include products that are used as part of the class or experience. Or it may be a good idea to offer additional time for the service. If we look at our wine tasting example again, as part of the booking process, you might want to offer some of the wines that will be tasted during the class.
Take payments during the booking process
One major benefit about adding online appointments is the ability to take payments during the booking process. Global ecommerce sales are expected to top $4 trillion in 2020. During the festive season customers will be spending big on online products. Customers enjoy the convenience of easily being able to pay for their shopping using their debit or credit card.
Despite the dominance of online shopping, when it comes to services, ecommerce is much less frequent. Customers who book a service online will frequently not be able to easily pay for those services online. In some cases, a customer will book an appointment using email and then have to call in order to pay for it.
For retailers this is a real missed opportunity. During the festive season customers will be paying for many other products online. Paying upfront for services will likewise feel more natural. Businesses benefit because by taking the payment upfront you avoid this common problem of “no-shows”. In addition, the revenue is locked in, and won’t have to be realised until the customer attends their appointment.
Bookly makes adding payments to the booking process easy. Standard Bookly PRO offers Paypal Express Checkout which will enable you to take card payments. Bookly also integrates with more than a dozen other popular payment gateways through add-ons. You can select to take payment for services either in full or in part. If you prefer to not take payment during booking for a specific service, then this step can be hidden.
Offer group bookings
The festive season is a prime opportunity for getting group bookings for many types of services, classes and experiences. Work functions means that it is a hot time for corporate bookings. Families will also be spending more time together, so again you want to ensure that it is easy for customers to book in groups. Group bookings are often more profitable because a single staff member can typically service multiple customers during the same appointment period.
Bookly’s Group Booking (Add-on) gives you a lot of flexibility over how you take group bookings. When a customer makes a group booking it will appear a single appointment inside of the Bookly dashboard. Through the admin panel you can select the minimum and maximum number of customers that can book for a particular group appointment. You can even designate how many customers can be allocated to a specific employee. This means that you can enable your more experienced employees to handle larger groups, while limiting less experienced employees to smaller groups.
The holiday season is a critical time of the year for most retailers. Maximizing online bookings can help catalyse in-store experiences and add-on purchases of experiences. In order to maximize those online bookings you need to have in place an online booking solution that is user friendly, mobile optimised and provides the flexibility needed for your business. Bookly offers a solution which will allow your business to effortlessly scale during the busy holiday period, meaning that your business won’t reach a bottleneck that puts a cap on your sales.