Nine Simple Tips to Increase Your Online Bookings

September 23, 2014, Mia Steinberg

If your business is not gaining traction on the web, or you’re new to building an online presence, here are six nine easy steps to begin globalizing your reach.

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Having an online booking system is a no-brainer; it increases your business by putting customers in the driver’s seat, allowing them to purchase your services at any time and from anywhere in the world. By putting self-serve bookings in place on your website, you decrease your overall administration duties and have more time to focus on giving customers the very best.

Consider some of these statistics culled from our Checkfront users:

38% of bookings made on Checkfront happen outside of normal business hours

37% of bookings on Checkfront are made by customers shopping on their own

58% of visitors to your site have come there to check your prices and availability, with the aim of booking

According to comScore.com, business-to-customer e-commerce sales in the United States reached $322 billion in 2013; eMarketer estimates that there will be over 215 million digital shoppers in the US by 2018. Customers are shopping online more than they ever have; it’s easy to compare prices, view different options, and pay in advance. We’ve seen what Checkfront can do for a rental, accommodation, or tour business, but signing up with us is just the first step; new customers won’t just pour through your doors instantly (we wish!). Luckily, you don’t have to pull teeth to get more business; you just need to spread the word a little. So with that in mind, here are six simple steps you can take to increase your online bookings—and therefore your revenue.

1: Make Your Call-to-Action the Central Feature of Your Website

The percentage of online bookings now far exceeds bookings made in person. Think about what people are looking to accomplish when they visit your website, does it cater to this process?

The very first thing that a visitor to your website should see is a big CTA button that says Book Now or Check Availability, meaning that a number of clicks it will take for somebody to begin engaging with your product is 0. This also makes your objective clear immediately – a best practice in any social situation, really.

Craig Robertson, Checkfront user for Lapland Wilderness Tours, states that “We have redesigned our landing page with a big bold CTA button and this we find has helped reduce drop-offs by around 15-20% and directs them to our tour page which then integrates into Checkfront.”

Robertson goes on to say that integrating with Checkfront has assisted in “reducing the amount of direct email correspondence. Now as our season at Lapland Wilderness Tours begins here in Lapland it is a great help in organizing our tours from one central efficient point.”

2: Reach out to Past Customers

Make sure to let your existing customer base know that you’re now accepting bookings online; don’t just assume they’ll find it next time they visit your website. Announce the change on your blog, and update Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media sites you maintain—it’s the quickest way to directly access the people who already enjoy your services. If you have a mailing list, don’t bury the announcement in your regular newsletter; send out a dedicated email campaign to let everyone know about this exciting new change. You can even give existing customers a reason to try the new system by offering coupon codes exclusively to your email subscribers, rewarding their loyalty and inviting them to celebrate this new change with you:

Hi Leah,
Thanks for your past business with us. We are pleased to now offer the ability to check availability, pricing and book online directly from our website!
If you book online with us in the next 30 days, use the coupon code NOWONLINE and receive a 10% discount.

Book Online Today at: http://www.example.com/reserve/?discount=NOWONLINE

3: Change Your Voicemail

If you get a lot of off-hours calls or have a hold queue for your reservation number, make sure to change your voicemail/welcome message to mention that customers can now book online. You’ll be surprised how much your phone queue will shrink; most people prefer to view, compare, and buy online, and they’ll be thrilled at how much easier it is.

“Thanks for calling MyBusiness; we are currently on another call or out of the office. Did you know you now can check availability and make bookings from our website? Book online now at http://www.example.com/reserve.”

4: Reward Self-Service

It’s expensive to take bookings by email, phone, and fax; it uses up time that could go elsewhere, and can be frustrating for customers. Consider rewarding those customers who book online with a small discount or other freebee incentive, especially if they use the system instead of one of your old methods. Coupon codes are a fantastic way to track the source of a booking. For instance, mention a specific code on your voicemail, and another one in your emails; customers can type those in when they book online, and you’ll be able to see just how many people have converted over—and how much time and money you’re saving in the process.

5: Update Email Signatures, Flyers, and Business Cards

You will continue to get requests for pricing, availability, or general inquiries via email; some customers like to stick to what they know. Put your booking page URL in your email signature, so customers know where to go once their questions have been answered. Wherever you’ve listed your email address and/or phone number, add a direct link to your booking page too—and make the URL easy to remember and type out, so customers can just go to www.example.com/reservations instead of www.example.com/id=5992. Make sure to update any other media you circulate, including advertisements and business cards. Raising awareness is the name of the game!

6: Keep Your Online Information Up to Date

Make sure your location, hours of operation, and other details are correct, clear, and updated. Neglecting these critical details can be what breaks a sale.

7: Have Your Customers Rate You on Google Reviews

If you’re vacationing or visiting family in an unknown city, the chances of your using google to scope out the activities you want to do are pretty high.

While TripAdvisor is globally recognized and plays a key role in your online success, having a few Google Reviews for your business will actually boost its ranking on the Google page. Alternate between which place you ask your customers to review!

Note: If you haven’t already started accepting reviews on TripAdvisor, then that is step 1.

Reply to your customer reviews to build trust and show you care about your customer’s experience.

8. Consider Possible Partnerships

If you know of somebody who would be a good advocate for your business, inquire about having them feature some of your products on their website.

By using Partner Accounts, you can grant as much or as little access to your Checkfront account as is necessary. Offering commission to resellers is also easy to do within Checkfront.

9. Maintain Your Customer Relationships

After the booking takes place, be sure to follow up with an email. This is the perfect time to ask for that review on TripAdvisor or Google, but it’s a lot more valuable than you may realize.

Add a simple thank-you, a discount voucher for the next time they book with you, a recommendation for a different service you offer, some valuable local information they could benefit from, or anything else you can think of!

There are many processes that have become casualties of our fast-paced world. What hasn’t diminished is the importance of follow-up. This can be easily overlooked, causing missed opportunities. Going the extra mile is more valuable than ever in a time when standing out among competitors is one of the biggest challenges faced by business owners.

Check out the Notifications feature in your Checkfront account to easily automate this process.

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Related Articles: 8 Ways Using Google Analytics Helps Your Tour Business | 6 Ways to Engage your Guests During the Holidays | A Tour Operator's Guide to Influencer Marketing | 4 Local Listings Your Tour Business Should Claim | How to Automate OTA Channel Management for Tour Operators | Why Excel Spreadsheets Can't Compete with an Online Booking System |

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