Typically online booking platforms are of two types—business-specific booking platforms and centralized booking channels. The business-specific booking platforms receive reservations for only a particular business/product/service.
The centralized booking channels, on the other hand, are very different things—they are an industry of their own. These online booking channels are portals through which users can reach multiple businesses of a particular product/service/asset type. These booking channels themselves act as intermediary services that connect customers/users with product/service/asset providers.
14 features that make a good booking platform
1. Real-time booking
Real-time booking is much faster and convenient for a customer; and a mandatory feature for an online booking platform. In real-time booking, your customers can directly access the data of the concerned business through your portal.
There is no need to fill a contact form, send a query, and wait for a response. Using the online booking form interface, customers can check availability in real-time.
2. Multilingual and Multiple currencies
These might not be mandatory features but they largely impact the scalability of your business. If you want your business to grow overseas, you will need your content to be multilingual and support multiple currencies. In the case of business domains related to travel, tourism, and vacation, the need to support multiple languages and currencies is very severe.
3. Social media and marketing platform integrations
Integration with Social media platforms and marketing platforms will increase your credibility and reliability. Marketing platforms like product review websites are effective in driving traffic to your booking platform. TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are examples of travel and tourism-related booking platforms. While building the integrations do not miss embedding a “book now” booking button in different social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, marketing platforms like Google business.
4. API and third-party integrations.
API and third-party integrations have almost become a necessity to centralize the workflow. These facilities are provided by all top booking platforms. Although You want the platform to be able to integrate with different third-party services like WordPress, Wix, Joomla, Zapier, MS Teams, Zoom, Mail Chimp, Google Analytics, and Such. These integrations will generate many business management functionalities, that help you directly as a business owner. For, example manage your booking platform staff with MS Teams integrations; send marketing emails for your platform with Mailchimp; Analyze the performance of your platform and user behavior on your platform with Google analytics and such.
5. Online booking form
The online form for booking will be the primary interface through which your customers will initiate their booking process. A flaw in this form can lead to a negative customer experience. To properly manage and process your customer's bookings, ensure that your form is able to collect product/service details, booking details, customer personal details, and customer contact, at the least.
6. Fast and secure payment system
This singular feature will be the result of multiple smart payment decisions while designing your booking portal. Firstly you must offer your customer a variety in selecting a payment gateway; the best online booking platforms go up to providing over 50+ payment gateways.
The gateway selection will depend on the domain of your business as well. If your business calls for frequent global transactions, it’s a must to include globally accredited gateways like AmazonPay, PayPal, Skrill, Payza Stripe, and such. It will also be a bonus if you can integrate with payment Apps like, Paytm, Google Pay, AliPay, and Such.
Certain financial institutions, work faster with certain financial gateways. Further, certain financial institutions have secured more trust among certain audiences. Thus you will have to properly identify your audience and their preferred financial institutions—accordingly integrate with relevant financial payment gateways. Integrating with the right financial partners proves elemental in providing a fast and secure payment experience to the customers. Lastly, for secure payment, the booking system must have the reputation for providing robust network security features.
7. Generate discount offers, coupons, and vouchers
Price discounts are no new strategies for pulling traffic; it’s a win-win situation. Almost all businesses provide occasional price discounts, especially during holiday seasons to encourage the customers. As a booking platform service, it’s your job to create vouchers and coupons for your customers to avail such discounts.
Financial institutions provide frequent offers as well on credit and debit shopping, you can capitalize on these offers and generate discount vouchers. Finally, you can also generate promotional discount codes for your booking platform to add value to your service.
8. Free cancellations, whenever possible
Customers feel a lot comfortable making a transaction online when there is an option to cancel a booking without a cancellation charge. However, booking certain products and services comes with a non-refundable deposit charge. But if the product/service allows cancellation without a penalty, avail it to your customers.
9. User accounts
User accounts have become yet another must-have feature for an online booking platform. Customers should be able to register with the booking platform and sign in to check booking history and booking summary, track booking status, and such. Your customer should also be able to save his/her personal and contact details for auto-fetching while filling the online booking form.
10. Cart facility
Cart facility is a feature online customers have grown used to, with the growth of e-commerce. Cart facility ensures that customers can conduct the steps of browsing and payment separately at different times. Cart facility is a time saver for your customers.
11. Email notifications
You will have your customer contact details, including their email and phone number. So it must be put to good use. Set up your platform to send your customer email notifications and SMS alerts on all crucial issues. Notify them of their booking confirmation, booking summary, link to track booking status, discounts offers, and vouchers.
12. Organized product listings
Appropriately organizing your products improves their visibility. A good online booking platform will make User-friendly categorization of your products and showcase them with relevant descriptions. A user-friendly categorization makes your product listing more relatable to your customers, and easier to browse.
A thorough product description will reflect the appropriate product value, as well as, add value to your service. Let the description contain all necessary details including, price, discounts, location, status, special features, limitations, user ratings, and such. Also, ensure high-quality, compelling images to reflect the true quality of the product/service. To provide this efficient cataloging, organizing, and managing of your products, the booking system must employ a robust Content Management System.
13. User ratings
Build the feature to rate your website. Customers should be able to rate your service and leave comments. Display these comments and ratings to develop trust among new users. It’s a common thing for new users on a booking platform to search for old customer ratings and reviews.
14. Customer service
Booking a yacht is not as simple as booking a taxi or bus. Booking certain products/services will be simple, whilst booking a few other products/services will be complex. Be ready to provide 24x7 customer service to your customers, especially if your portal deals in a booking domain with complex queries. AI-based chatbots are proving to be very effective at customer service (the timely response of chatbots never leaves a customer query unanswered,) so try to include it in your customer service plan.
How to build the above features?
Firstly, you need to understand that there are different ways of implementing the above features. For instance, multiple payments of gateways can be provided but determining the right mix of combinations depends a lot on the location of your business and your target audience. Similarly, when building third-party integrations your business domain will define the integration needs.
Secondly, it’s not always that you will need all the features—especially if you are tight on budget. So identifying the important and relevant features is yet another thing to remember. Thirdly, you can imagine that there is no one software or system that churns out your perfect booking platform--with all the features you need, in the way you want. To have a booking platform that is well-tailored to your business needs, you will need custom development that provides a lot of flexibility in designing the features.
Inkoop in development of Online Booking Platforms
Inkoop is a software, mobile, and website application development company that can build scalable products for your ideas. Inkoop has significant experience developing products for a diverse range of business domains, including online booking platforms like SupremeGolf and Washroom. Washroom, a leading laundromat booking platform. And SupremeGolf, one of the world’s largest booking platforms for making Golf Tee timer reservations.
Inkoop can make your entire booking platform from scratch, develop new features for your existing platform, and work on your 3rd party API and integrations. You can custom-develop your booking platform with Inkoop to flexibly design the most relevant combination of features for your platform. Inkoop will power your platform with the latest technology for optimized speed and performance.
Why Choose Inkoop?
- Consistent speed and performance, irrespective of traffic load.
- Tailor-made booking features for your platform.
- Premium code quality and code testing for bug-free performance.
- On-time delivery of your platform.
- Round-the-clock tech support and maintenance for bug fixes.
- Optimized and Scalable booking platform.
There is a lingering notion that custom development is an expensive process. This is an incomplete notion. Custom Development might be costlier than the cheap online booking software available, but it's far more cost-effective.
The online software available is rigid in setting up your features, they will limit you with only a certain mix-and-match of features. But with custom development, your imagination is your limit. Additionally, when you custom-develop, you can reduce your cost by minimizing the number of features. But you can select the combination of features such, that the utility of your booking platform is maximized.
The only possible limitation of custom platform development is that it can be time-consuming as compared to the online booking software. It will also include the hassle of going through the entire development cycle. However, the benefits far outweigh the limitations.