If you're me, you book campsites online, right before summer rolls around. Others scurry to get their concert tickets on Ticketmaster, while a large number of families check prices on AirBnB and Kayak, all to make sure they get the good deals for that upcoming family vacation.
You might say that the booking industry is a big one, considering it actually spans over multiple markets such as concerts, sporting events, flights, hotels and even couches for those broke college travelers.
But what about small businesses in need of simple, effective booking tools?
I'm talking about the hair salon down the street and the car mechanic your dad always tells you to go to for an oil change.
Bookings are just as important to dentists as they are to worldwide hotel companies. That's why we wanted to check out a WordPress plugin named Bookly, since it offers a wide range of features for appointment booking and scheduling.
Bookly has both Lite and Premium versions available. Let's see which one is right for your business.
You can click here to find the Lite Version of Bookly. After installing the plugin you'll notice a handful of great features:
- A responsive design for customers to make appointments and bookings on mobile devices.
- A clean admin area for managing the bookings that come in.
- Translations - Maybe your business is in an area with lots of Spanish or Polish-speaking residents.
- A calendar with monthly, weekly and daily views.
- Settings for adjusting the colors for your booking module.
- Customer profiles so they can see all of their upcoming appointments.
- Variable time slots.
- Customizable holidays, days off and an unlimited number of breaks.
- Importing and exporting for customers and bookings.
- Custom fields.
- Notifications and reminders through text messaging.
That's a surprising set of features for the average small business, so I figure many companies will end up not needing the paid version. However, it's not all that expensive for some pretty cool tools like calendar syncing, payments and more:
Paid Version Features
- Tons of Bookly add-ons to choose from. (For example)
- Integration with Google Calendar.
- Integration with WooCommerce, PayPal, Authorize.net and Stripe.
- A built-in shopping cart.
- Reports to check on all of your past payments.
- Email and text reminders with more advanced editing tools.
- Coupons for customers to use through the booking system.
So, the premium version of Bookly opens up options for getting paid directly through the booking system. Also, customers get email reminders in addition to the text messages. Based on the feature-list, I would immediately recommend the premium version to companies that want their money at the time of booking. Oh, and for those who would like to save time with the Google Calendar syncing.
The Bookly Plugin in Action
Now that we've explored the features you can expect from Bookly, I'll walk you through some screenshots on the front and backend. This way you can visualize what the features do and understand if they're easy enough for your business bookings.
What the Bookly Plugin Looks Like to Customers
The booking module is as clean as they come, with a handful of steps for customers to walk through and fields for choosing things like categories, services and employees. The example below is for a dentistry office, so the user can specify when they're available along with the exact dates and times.
All of this gets managed on the backend where you adjust the appearance. For example, you can brand your Payment tab to show the types of payment forms you accept.
The Calendar and Employee Schedules
One of the main reasons Bookly integrates so well is because of the Google Calendar support. Your dashboard shows a full calendar of all appointments and you can filter down to schedules for each of your workers. Not only that, but the schedule syncs to each individual worker's Google Calendar.
Seeing as how some employees have different schedules, it's important to give each person their own little dashboard. Bookly has a profile for each employee, where they fill in their personal details, services offered, schedule and which days they would like to take off.
I enjoy how the plugin separates each employee, because one worker might want to go in and print out there daily appointments without seeing appointments from other people in the business.
Coupons and Notifications
Your customers punch a coupon code into the payment area whenever one is available. The merchant goes to the Coupons tab to create and manage them. It's pretty darn simple, seeing as how you just generate a code, select a discount, specify how many times it can be used and which service it can be used for.
Finally, a huge part of any booking system involves the notifications. The free Bookly plugin has SMS text notifications and the premium version has both SMS and email. A few default emails are provided, but the editor allows for full editing along with tags for pulling items like customer names, phone numbers and websites.
Bookly Pricing and Support
The version in the WordPress directory goes for a grand total of $0.
The premium version of Bookly, which is sold through CodeCanyon, goes for $59.
This gives you access to future updates and six months of support. Buying 12 more months of support will cost you $20.63.
As for support, the free version provides the standard forum where you can state your problems and browse through questions from other users. The premium version has impressive support pages, like a full Help Center, FAQs and video tutorials. The dedicated website also lets you send in your own support request.
Who Should Consider Bookly?
I like Bookly for companies that aren't keen on spending thousands of dollars on a customized booking or appointment system. This generally means small to mid-sized businesses such as hair salons, law firms, restaurants, personal trainers, medical professionals, consultants, hotels and event planners.
I would argue that the $59 premium version should be considered for all of these companies, since you gain access to eCommerce functionality, Google Calendar syncing, reports, coupons and email reminders for your customers.
However, the free version serves as a nice test, and some smaller companies might be just fine with the tools.
If you have any questions about this Bookly plugin review, or if you've used the plugin in the past, share your thoughts in the comments section below.