Online Scheduling & Diary Integration

Online scheduling is a perfect fit for growing or small and medium business, and entrepreneurs, who sell services and want to automate the service booking process. It helps to automate online appointment scheduling routine, gather leads, manage customer base, increase conversion rates and more. Integrating a seamless, automated appointment scheduling function into your website offers both your business and your customers many benefits.

What is online scheduling?

Online scheduling systems are website-based plugins that allow visitors to quickly and conveniently book appointments through any device, such as a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.

The system works by adding simple “Book Now” buttons on to pages on your website that starts an automated process that books a meeting directly into your diary. Once a service, staff member date and time etc. are selected, the system will automatically confirm the booking and instantly record it without any staff action or involvement needed.

In addition online scheduling systems also offer other beneficial features like automated e-mail and text message reminders, which the system sends out to patients and booked individuals on a specific date prior to their scheduled appointment; recording and record-keeping capabilities that make it quick and simple to access data associated with a specific appointment; and repeat reminders, which the system sends out automatically when a specified amount of time has expired between appointments

Some key benefits of online scheduling:

Self-scheduling 24x7

Scheduling appointments over the phone requires an individual to call in during office hours, which can be an inconvenience for many, as they are at work at this time. Additionally, many individuals prefer to schedule their appointments online rather than over the phone. Statistics show that 75% of Millennials prefer messaging rather than talking on the phone, so more of your visitors will appreciate the freedom that comes with an online appointment scheduling.

Studies show that approx. 35% of clients prefer scheduling appointments during non-business hours, and 40% of online bookings happen outside of ‘normal’ office hours. An online scheduling system allows for 24x7 booking.

Faster Payments

Our online booking system can be configured to require customers to prepay some (deposit) or all of the fee to book time with you. This allows you to acquire new revenue as soon as people schedule an appointment. If your business suffers from a high percentage of ‘no-shows’, this approach allows you to potentially keep some of the deposit as compensation.

Less No Shows

Every industry suffers from no-show appointments and, frustratingly, there can be customers who repeatedly no-show or cancel their appointments at the last minute. Implementing an online scheduling system offers automatic email and SMS reminders that reduce no-shows.

Online scheduling also makes it much easier for clients to reschedule their bookings with you by allowing them to change their appointment online (instead of having to call in and speak to you again). This takes all the hassle out of comparing diaries for both you and you’re clients.

Time savings.

You will spend far less time on the phone booking and managing appointments, thereby freeing up your time for more important and pressing tasks. Likewise, your clients also save time, as they no longer have to call in, remain on hold, or send multiple emails just to book a

Monetary savings.

The time savings previously mentioned can translate into monetary savings. Additionally, by reducing the number of “no-shows” who fail to make their scheduled appointments. Surveys have shown that these types of reminders can decrease this number by 50 percent.

Higher conversion levels

Embedding ‘Book Now’ buttons throughout your website and social media pages will increase your conversion rates of visitors. When you have well-written, compelling content about your business and offerings, integrating a one-click button to book an appointment will maximise the chances of receiving bookings.

By streamlining the booking process rather than introducing multiple unnecessary steps to call in to your office, or fill in enquiry forms and wait for a response, you will see an increase in appointments, especially ‘impulse’ bookings coming through your website.

Full mobile integration

With more people using mobile devices than computers to browse the internet, having a responsive, adaptable system that works across all devices is essential. Customisable booking forms that work seamlessly across both mobile devices and desktop computers offers the flexibility to arrange appointments at any time, on any device.

Some of the more popular features we can offer include:

  • A fully Customisable and responsive appointment booking form that works on any device
  • A wide range and variety of filtering options to streamline the booking process
  • Allow your clients to select from an unlimited number of services to book appointments for
  • Bookings can be requested with an endless list of staff members with individual working schedules, prices, and more
  • Appointments can be set for different lengths of time and can automatically add padding between appointments to allow for Covid-19 cleaning etc.
  • Automated SMS and Email notifications can be used to keep you and your customers updated and reminded of the appointment.
  • Various templates for quickly customising any number of Email and SMS notifications
  • Simple integration with all popular online payment methods including integrated PayPal Express Checkout option
  • Easy translation setup for multi-language support (currently 12 languages included)
  • Customisation to incorporate branding and colours with a simple, sleek UI design
  • Flexible enough to suit any business model in any industry
  • Overview of the booking and payment statistics with built-in analytical reports
  • CRM functionality with an unlimited clients list which displays payment situations and internal notes about each of your client

Additionally, there are more advanced features that can be integrated as well, depending on business requirements. Here are some of the more common features you may want to consider:

Advanced feature options:

  • Group booking capability
  • Scheduling of recurring appointments
  • Coupon discount facility
  • Custom fields for further customisation
  • Special Hours
  • Multiple appointment locations
  • Special Days
  • Chain Appointments
  • Waiting list / wish list feature
Online store FAQ

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had numerous enquiries about what is involved with setting up an online store. How quick and easy it is to move your business online? Can it work with services as well as products?

With the unusual circumstances businesses are having to operate in looking as if they could be lasting up to a year, we thought we would put together a quick FAQ guide on the options for building eCommerce sites and online stores.

How long does it take to start an online store?

Generally, not as long as you might expect! Our average customer turnaround for an online store is between 2 to 3 weeks. This does depend on a number of factors, namely; 

  • What condition your current website is in
  • What system your website is created in (WordPress/Magento etc)
  • How many products/services you offer
  • The complexity of your sales process

If your current site is a WordPress site that we can add online shopping features to, we can potentially have you up and running in 7-14 days. If a new store needs to be created from scratch, you would be looking at 14-21 days on average.

 

How much does it cost to build an online store?

We like to keep things simple here. Many sites will break down costs for hosting, eCommerce plugins, SSL certificates etc. The only recurring cost for a website (outside of payment processing costs which you would incur in any business set-up) is your hosting costs. These run at approx. £100 per year (inc SSL Certificate) for a local, fast and reliable hosting company.

Costs are predominantly driven by complexity of features and functionality as well as the number of products and services offered.

A simple online store for upto 50 products with a single payment option, basic search and filtering capabilities and click & collect / home delivery could start as little as £1,500.00

A more sophisticated online store with several hundred products, multiple product configuration options, multiple payment methods etc would be closer to £2,500 - £3,000

 

What features can an online store offer?

The options really are nearly limitless! One of the main reasons we use WooCommerce is it’s flexibility. It allows us to add lots of additional features by installing various plugins. There are literally thousands of specific plugins that can be used to extend an online shop’s functionality, offering extra features like automatic booking, subscriptions, payment and shipping platform integration, etc.

  • All of our online stores are offered with the following basic features:
  • Search and filter by all key categories
  • Shopping cart and wishlist integration
  • Order online and/or click and collect in store
  • Multiple payment and shipping options

 

What software do you use to build an online store?

We use a combination of WordPress and WooCommerce to build our online stores.

WordPress is the most popular website builder on the market. Over 35% of all websites on the internet are currently built using WordPress. WordPress allows users to build an online store or full eCommerce platform from scratch, or add shopping cart functionality to an existing website.

WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform that makes it quick and easy to start selling products and services online. Over the years, it has become the most popular eCommerce platform in the world used by millions of small and large businesses to power their online stores.

 

Can we manage our online store to save on costs?

Yes! This is one of the main benefits of the technology we use to build websites and online stores. It is easy to make changes such as pricing, product specifications, adding new products and services etc. Whilst we are always on-hand to answer questions and help in any way we can, we love seeing our customers take ownership of their sites and stores and develop them further over time.

We always include full user training on all essential functionality before the site goes live. We will guide you through the first updates you make until you are confident you’ve got the hang of it.

 

What Kind of Products I can sell with WooCommerce?

You can sell any kind of products or service through an online store, providing it is configured properly for your business. If you are supplying physical goods (products that require shipping), There are extensions that allow you to integrate dropshipping capabilities, auction site and multi-vendor marketplace features.

For services, there are plugins to use your store as a booking platform for example. One of our latest online stores is for a beauty clinic. The store allows customers to book times for treatments directly into their diary and take payment in advance. Read the Glam Skin case study here.

 

Can I integrate Dropshipping into an online store?

Yes, you can. In fact, WooCommerce is the most popular choice to build a dropshipping store. There are several excellent plugins that allow you to easily handle orders, manage vendors, and basically automate the whole process.

 

Why not use a SaaS eCommerce platform instead?

These are definitely options worth considering if you have the time and experience yourself to build your own online store. One of the key questions we ask our customers is whether the intention is to create an online store simply to get through the current unusual economic conditions or, if you are going to keep the online store going when things return to ‘normal’ – whatever that may look like.

Whilst the up-front costs can be lower using an eCommerce platform provider, you will find your monthly/annual cost significantly higher. The standard costs of the two most popular eCommerce platforms is circa £80 per month and the advanced packages are circa £250 - £299 per month. There can be other additional costs incurred through payment processing for example. If you do not wish to use the proprietary payment solution offered by Shopify, they will charge you an additional +2.0% fee on top of the 2.9% charged by the likes of PayPal and Stripe for example.

There are many other factors to consider in this scenario, but to try and keep it simple, when building your own online store, you are paying more up-front to build a site specific to your requirements that you will own outright in perpetuity. With a SaaS platform provider, you are renting space to create your store with lower up-front costs, but are tied into much higher monthly charges.