Call it the “Uberization of commerce,” or just call it the next logical step in a culture were 80% percent of online adults own smartphones. Either way, online booking platforms are providing a way for independent businesses to meet a rising demand from consumers who want to schedule, confirm, and in some cases even pay for local services through their mobile devices.
The majority of independent businesses can’t afford to build their own mobile apps with integrated scheduling features—in fact, 45% still don’t even have websites — but online booking platforms offer a cost effective solution for businesses that want to cater to customer demand without spending a fortune in the process.
Here are seven examples of online booking platforms that independent businesses can try out.
1. Booker: Connect with customers through a dedicated booking application.
Independent businesses that use Booker can offer a way for their customers to schedule appointments from any device, at any time. Designed for service, class, and lesson-based businesses, Booker is a complete business management solution that just happens to include online scheduling capabilities. In addition to checking availability and booking appointments through the mobile app, customers can also view maps and directions to a business’ location. Click-to-call, social engagement features, and push notifications are also useful tools for businesses looking to turn one-time customers into loyal fans. Monthly plans for appointment-based businesses start at $45.
2. MyTime: Get discovered through a scheduling marketplace.
MyTime acts as both a scheduling solution and a marketing provider. Consumers can discover local merchants through MyTime’s marketplace, and they can book services with those providers with their mobile devices. MyTime adds scheduled appointments to the provider’s third-party calendar program and collects payments on a merchant’s behalf. Retention tools automatically remind customers when it’s time to rebook their appointments, and incentivized review requests encourage customers to share their experiences with friends online. Merchants can claim their profiles on MyTime for free. MyTime’s VIP Program costs $299 per month.
3. Full Slate: Accept appointments through websites, Facebook, and email.
Rather than encouraging customers to use an outside marketplace, Full Slate’s scheduling solution integrates with a merchant’s existing web properties, including websites, Facebook pages, and email. Advanced features allow for class scheduling, recurring appointments, and even double bookings, which means providers can fit extra clients into their downtime during long appointments. Merchants have the option to collect payments and deposits via credit card through Full Slate, and the scheduling solution syncs with QuickBooks to avoid duplicate data entry. Full Slate’s plans for unlimited appointments start at $29.95 per month.
4. Demandforce: Publish a scheduling option on all major sites and search engines.
An automated marketing and communications solution, Demandforce’s all-in-one platform includes integrated scheduling features that make it possible for customers to book appointments from anywhere they can access a merchant’s business information. Demandforce’s scheduler is embedded in its Business Profiles, and it can be embedded in a business’ existing website. The scheduling system syncs with customer management systems. Merchants can schedule email and text notifications before all client appointments, and they can automatically survey clients to solicit feedback. Merchants can contact Demandforce for specific pricing information.
5. Schedulicity: Use credit card deposits to decrease appointment no-shows.
Schedulicity claims to save businesses nearly six hours of scheduling time each week. Businesses can accept bookings with widgets on their websites and Facebook pages, along with their business listings at Schedulicity.com. Like most other scheduling providers, Schedulicity offers a way for businesses to accept appointments from clients 24/7 through desktop or mobile, and it sends automated appointment reminders. Customizable booking rules give merchants control over what types of services their clients can book. Meanwhile, the option to “hold with a credit card” helps merchants decrease instances of no-shows. Pricing for single users starts at $19.95 per month.
6. Genbook: Boost customer retention with online scheduling.
Genbook provides business owners with mobile tools to accept client appointments and promote their products or services online. Business owners can view and manage their appointment calendars with any mobile or desktop device, and they can quickly search and filter appointments by employee or date. Individual staff logins mean Genbook is an option for larger businesses with multiple employees and locations, as well as solo enterprises. Genbook’s promotional tools allow businesses to monitor, publish, and share reviews from verified customers. Genbook also offers social media marketing tools. Genbook’s pricing starts at $20 per month.
7. BookingBug: Accept reservations and take deposits with a website widget.
Independent businesses in nearly every industry can take advantage of BookingBug’s scalable scheduling platform. Businesses take bookings directly through their own online websites or Facebook pages, rather than requiring clients to use outside apps. Managers can also make bookings on behalf of clients through the back-end of the system. Customer details are saved in an integrated CRM for future marketing outreach, and optional SMS confirmations are sent out as a way to reduce no shows. Businesses can use BookingBug to manage coupons and daily deals, and they can accept both payments and deposits from customers who book services. Pricing for BookingBug starts at $19.95 per month for Solo accounts.
Know of other tools that businesses can use for online scheduling? Leave a description in the comments.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.