Go back to the late 90’s and ask business owners to create a website and market their businesses, they would likely call you crazy. Why? Because till then, outdoor advertising was how you got customers. Nowadays, if a company does not have an online presence, it simply does not exist.
WordPress has eased this process and now owning your global share of the internet is a piece of cake. Sites are no longer the same which they once used to be. These are more multi-purpose, more engaging. People build sites with the aim to provide various services to their customers like online support, documentation, booking, and video tutorials. It has all become a norm.
One way to increase your leads into potential conversions is to let your visitors book appointments online. Whether you are a lawyer, a doctor or a marketing consultant — online bookings are ideal for customer service. Not only this, but it also shows professionalism and lets you reach a lot more people than you could do with a traditional booking setup.
The WordPress community is overwhelmed with many such businesses which generate a major share of their annual revenue through online bookings. Rentals, restaurants, travel agents, hotels, etc. are the primary beneficiaries of this system. In this post, you will learn about why you need to offer online bookings service on your site and several WordPress plugins to do the job.
Why to Offer an Online Booking Service?
The way of doing business may have changed a lot between the era of no internet and internet everywhere, but one thing remains constant i.e.
People want great customer service.
They always want professionals to handle their matters and issues. Regardless of your line of work, giving your prospective customers a way to book appointments online is a pretty intuitive. This will not only improve your chances of getting more customers, but it also adds a systematic approach to your work — a better workflow.
Here are a few more reasons to justify why you need to offer online booking mechanism:
- Customer Service: With online bookings service, your customers can quickly make reservations from the comfort of their couch.
- Professionalism: Online bookings are a way of the future. The traditional setup through phone calls is outdated. If you are not providing online bookings, you are lagging behind.
- More Customers: People are more likely to hit a few keystrokes and book appointment with you than they are to talk or meet you in person. Online bookings make an easy and efficient setup. Since it is easy, you get more leads and eventually more customers.
- Organization: When people book appointments, accommodations, or rentals online, they do so by entering data. This data remains safe and sound in your database. No papers, no losing of documents and hence, a better organization.
- Less Hassle: Online booking solutions often possess many useful features like email reminders, automatic invoices, and payments. This automation leads to a better scaling of your business. They remind concerned parties of imminent meetings, hence leading to less stress and upkeep of tracking customers.
That is just a tip of the iceberg. WordPress booking plugins have grown smarter, faster and intuitive. These plugins offer plenty other features, which when combined will save you a lot of time, effort, and money. If you do public speakings, offer consultation or services of any kind and need to meet people personally or otherwise, an online booking solution has a lot to offer.
Essentials of a Good Booking Plugin?
There are more than a dozen of good WordPress booking plugins. Some are free; others are premium. Each one of them has their features to boast of. Some provide a beautiful user experience; others do not. The big question is how do you choose an ultimate booking solution for your WordPress site? What are the characteristics of a great booking plugin?
Here is what you should look:
- User Experience: This is the most important point. A good booking plugin integrates with the WordPress site seamlessly and beautifully. Both frontend and backend should be well-woven, well-organized and easy to use.
- Email Reminders: A good booking solution sends automatic email reminders for imminent appointments to both admin and the user. You should also be able to send reminders whenever you want. If the emails are customizable, then it is certainly a bonus point.
- Payments: The plugin should let users accept payments. More correctly, it should integrate with PayPal because that's how most people pay. Automatically generated reports for the received payments must be offered. The more statistics, the better. More payment methods should be supported.
- Invoices: Receipts play a significant role in business. If you opt in selling products or services, there should be written data of product sold, for how much and basic details of the recipient. Invoices should be automatic.
- Calendar: Users should be able to access the calendar from the frontend. The calendar should be customizable, easy to understand and should accurately show business availability. Most people underestimate the role of calendars. The user interface of calendar defines whether the appointment is successfully booked or not.
- Export: Booking records, reservations made and invoices should all be exportable. No booking solution is 100% reliable. It might have bugs and breakdowns. It's best in your best interest to make sure that you can export the data and migrate anytime you want.
If a plugin has all the features mentioned above, great! If it goes beyond these features, that is good too.
WordPress Booking Plugins
There is a good deal of WordPress booking plugins. Here are a few notable ones.
Bookly Booking Plugin
Bookly Booking Plugin is possibly the most visually impressive plugin on this list. It has all the features expected from a booking plugin. Few are listed here:
- Easy to Customize: Bookly's customizable options for visual aspects stands it out of the crowd. It enables your customers to book appointments in a friendly manner.
- WooCommerce Integration: Good news for eCommerce fans, Bookly is perfectly compatible with WooCommerce.
- Group Booking: One of its distinguishing features is that it allows group bookings. That way, you can book an appointment for your friends or family within the same period of time. Bookly is also equipped with a robust form builder, and you can add custom fields too.
- Timely Alerts: Bookly sends customizable SMS and emails to users about appointments. To learn more about its features, check its demo.
- Responsive: To offer a great user interface, the plugin is fully responsive.
Appointments+ comes from the popular WordPress professionals at WPMU Dev. Appointments+ enables you to accept bookings online. The plugin claims to book an appointment in less than three clicks. The plugin comes armored with a good range of useful features like:
- PayPal Integration: It integrates well with PayPal so that you can accept payments directly through your website. You can also manage all your customer data efficiently.
- Google Calendar Integration: Set your working days and blackout days, so you don't book slots for off days. Are you in love with Google Calendar? Don't worry; Appointments+ can sync with that app and keep both your calendars up to date. If you want, you can create appointments for clients through the backend.
- Multiple Bookings: When you have more than one service providers, and you want to enable customers to book appointments with any of these service providers. Appointments+ lets you do it. That way, both parties know exactly what's appointed at what time. Different service providers can have different rates and duration. You can export the appointments too.
Checkfront WordPress Booking Plugin
Checkfront is a premium booking solution for WordPress. It is one of the most comprehensive plugins, and it makes managing online bookings a lot easier by putting all customer data in one place. Checkfront is focused on 3 areas of booking domain i.e.
- Tours or Events
The plugin is rich with features like:
- Booking Forms: It lets you embed booking forms on any post or page with its shortcodes.
- Fully Responsive Interface: One of its selling points is the ability to render booking interface on all devices beautifully. It is completely responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop. It offers a beautiful and user-friendly user interface.
- Payment Gateways: If you charge for appointments, Checkfront allows you to accept payments securely. There are several payment gateway integrations. Users can purchase slots on tours. With Checkfront, you can send automatic invoices, create coupons, integrate with 50+ apps to better utilize the bookings and do much more.
BirchPress Scheduler is another effective booking system for WordPress. It allows users to book appointments and pay for them with a Credit Card or PayPal account. BirchPress has a user-friendly interface. Its prominent features are:
- Multiple Sync: BirchPress synchronizes perfectly with Google Calendar, iCal, Android Calendar as well as Outlook. You can post the booking forms anywhere on your website with shortcodes.
- Fully Customizable: With this plugin, the availability of business can easily be checked too. The booking form is customizable; add, modify or delete any fields as per your needs.
- Clients' Organization: Customers can define the service they need and the service provider they prefer. To manage clients info, there's an entire section dedicated to matters related to it.
While Credit Card and PayPal come as the default payment gateways with the plugin, but it requires WooCommerce.
There is a free version of the plugin available too. However, it offers only limited options. You can download the free version here.
Major limitations of the free plugin are:
- No PayPal integration
- No WooCommerce integration
- No rescheduling or cancellation of appointments by customers
The Events Calendar
The Events Calendar has a free as well premium version of the plugin. It is one of the best booking systems for WordPress. As its name suggests, it is more focused on the booking and management of events. Whether you run city-wide meetups, hosting website or a university with thousands of students; The Events Calendar has got what you need. There is a wide array of features that come packaged with the plugin like:
- Plugin Setup: It is a plug-n-play solution and needs no placing of shortcode or anything. Just activate it, and it will be running within 5 minutes.
- Paid Add-Ons: Additionally, there are premium add-ons like Event Tickets Plus and Facebook Events, which extend the specific functionality you need.
Major universities and many Fortune 100 Companies rely on The Events Calendar to run their events. That speaks volumes for the usability of the plugin.
Simple Calendar - Google Calendar
Simple Calendar - Google Calendar does one thing and does it well i.e. it takes Google Calendar and integrates well into your WordPress site. All the events you had in Google Calendar comes with the integration. This can be absolutely useful for people in love with Google Calendar and carry their day to day activities with the app in question. The plugin showcase several intuitive features like:
- Stylish Design and Interface: The plugin comes with stunning designs that do well with your theme. The calendar is completely responsive, so all users regardless of their device take advantage of it.
- Easy to Manage: To add events and manage this calendar, you just have to edit the Google Calendar attached with the plugin. You can display events from any publicly available Google Calendar.
- Pro Version: To get more features, you can get its premium add-ons.
When it comes to the oldest free WordPress booking plugins, Booking Calendar stands as a powerful name. It is intuitive and flexible, making it useful for a wide range of businesses.
- Plugin Setup: Just activate the plugin, insert the shortcode into any post or page, and you are ready to receive bookings. Since most settings and options are predefined, you need to manually edit descriptions you don't like. You can also send email notifications to customers about specific booking actions.
- Intuitive Calendar: It has a user-friendly calendar to check booking availability. Select an available date for reservation, fill the form and submit it.
A few more prominent features are:
- Both frontend and backend designs are responsive
- View which bookings are on which days via the calendar
- Sort listing of bookings via sorting options on the backend
This plugin is one of a kind and probably the best one in the category of free booking solutions.
WP Simple Booking
WP Simple Booking is another free WordPress booking plugin. It is pretty straightforward in its operations. If you were looking for a simple plugin to get by, WP Simple Booking should do the job.
- Plugin Setup: Activate it, create a calendar then integrate the calendar to any page via shortcodes.
- Pro Version: The free version of the plugin only lets you create one calendar. Get its premium version to create unlimited calendars, display multiple months and number of other useful features.
One significant disadvantage of the plugin is its inability to book reservations per time slots. Rather it only allows users to make reservations for entire days.
Installing a WordPress booking plugin makes the process of communicating with customers a lot easier. It saves you time, stress and includes you having a systematic approach. Any booking solution that opposes any one of the said qualities is not worth the effort. It's a hassle.
So, if you run any such business where you can offer online reservations do it now with one of the booking plugins listed. I'm sure you'll enjoy many far-reaching effects.
Which plugin you liked the most? Are you currently using any of these plugins? Let's have a discussion in the comments!
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