Online booking platforms have always been about more than just replacing paper appointment books. Most send automated appointment reminders to clients via text or email, and many integrate with third-party loyalty programs and email marketing apps in order to take full advantage of the data that clients are supplying with they book services online. A growing number of digital scheduling vendors are also integrating location-based technology into their platforms, and they’re coming up with innovative ways to put that technology to use.
Booking vendors use location technology to personalize and streamline the online scheduling experience for consumers. This, in turn, benefits the businesses that use these platforms because it makes their clients more likely to schedule more frequent appointments.
Here are seven examples of ways that online booking platforms can use location-based technology.
1. Enabling booking through third-party apps. “The phenomenal change that’s occurred over the last few years is that online bookings can happen from many different sites. It used to be that customers had to visit the merchant’s own website to book, but now “Book Online” buttons are appearing on third-party sites and apps. For instance, if a woman was in a new city and wanted a manicure, she could search for nearby manicures using Google, Bing, Facebook or Superpages and get a list of nearby nail salons with availability. Companies like MyTime form integrations with these larger players so that potential customers can book them directly from apps that collectively get hundreds of millions of visitors per month.” (Ethan Anderson, MyTime)
2. Managing local bookings for national businesses. “Most scheduling platforms rely on the fact that the client already knows which business they would like to work with, making location technologies not as much of a priority, but this changes when the business is large and it spans across multiple locations. Consulting, tutoring and doctors are great examples, but we also see other nationwide franchises, from insurance to house cleaning. In these cases, the customer knows they would like to contract with the brand, but they’re not sure where the nearest location is. Scheduling services can assist and select the most relevant location, taking into consideration the service needed, the staff availability, and the distance from the client’s location.” (Itzik Levy, vCita)
3. Tracking staff in the field. “Handlr uses location tracking technology so that small business owners in the personal, home and pet service industries can GPS track their staff out in the field. It keeps everyone accountable and gives business owners and customers peace of mind that the service provider is where they are supposed to be. This is especially important with trust-based businesses who are providing services in people’s homes when they are away.” (Britt Alwerud, Handlr)
4. Automatically detecting time zones. “vCita currently applies use of location technology to determine the client time zone. Allowing clients to schedule time with business staff is a key part of the business day-to-day. Automatically detecting the client and the business time zone is key to ensure hassle-free scheduling, and reminders later on.” (Itzik Levy, vCita)
5. Creating a network effect for local SMBs. “Location technology for scheduling vendors is all about allowing businesses to be found and booked by local consumers. We believe that location tech should allow consumers to book all the services they consume within their community from one platform. This allows for discovery, convenience, and a network effect that has benefits for all.” (Michael Wilson, Schedulicity)
6. Powering real-time solutions for customer acquisition. “Looking into the not-too-distant future, it’s going to become all about the on-demand economy and real-time availability of services. It’s critical for booking platforms to think in terms of real-time availability now, as well as bookable availability at a later date and time. Imagine you’re a retailer and Tuesday afternoon and it’s quiet. You could message customers on your database within a one mile radius with a special offer for a personal shopping session that afternoon. It could be a great way to bring customers into store who may have otherwise walked by.” (Kate Hyslop, BookingBug)
7. Matching customers with available providers. “When a client wishes to schedule a service for a specific date, and is rather agnostic to whom will perform it, [location technology can help]. Home services is a great example. How many times have you needed a technician and had to call five or six providers in your area until you found one who could fit your schedule? Online scheduling providers who have enough businesses and provide an availability-based search for end users can help facilitate that, and match the available business based on the customer location.” (Itzik Levy, vCita)
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.