A new experience gives someone a new reason to visit your winery. As more people become interested in a visit, you’ll want a way for them to book easily. Sure, they can call or email, but that only creates more work for yourself and team.
So allow visitors to book directly from your website with online booking. Not only will it be a quick and easy process for them, but it will also free up time on the business side.
This is because an online booking system is so much more than it’s customer-facing capabilities — it’s a way to manage your inventory, reservations and customer communications.
To understand this a little better, I’ve outlined the top benefits of an online booking system:
Booking system benefits for wineries
1. Increase bookings
A visitor will explore your website to learn more about your winery. Booking a private tour and tasting might not even cross their mind. But with a booking option on your homepage, they’ll have this idea from the get-go.
When they decide to go ahead and book, they won’t have to search for your contact information to do so. Online booking is immediate. It’s easy. It’s a solution for anyone with telephone phobia.
What’s more, you can accept bookings around the clock.
If your goal is to target more travelers — time difference can be a deterrent for someone booking in advance. They’ll either call an hour too late and reach voicemail or send an email and wait a day or two for a reply.
Online booking allows the visitor to book when it’s convenient for them. When bookings are accepted at all hours, there’s nothing in the way preventing them from following through.
2. Save time with automation
The booking process used to involve manual effort — sending confirmation emails, adding a booking to the calendar, writing up individual invoices.
More bookings shouldn’t result in more work. You’ve got a winery to run and great tasting wine to make.
Now, an online booking system does these tasks for you. With automation, everything from emails to invoicing is taken care of in the background.
It might take a little time to set-up, become familiar with and train your staff on, but once that’s complete, you’ll be amazed by all the time given back to you.
3. Receive valuable insight
With any business strategy, it’s essential to track and analyze performance. In the case of bookable tours and tastings, you’ll want to see reports on activity.
An online booking system provides these necessary reports. Whether you want to check out the monthly number of bookings or see a snapshot of revenue over a period— there’s a report for that.
These numbers give valuable insight into the overall success of your tours and tastings. You’ll be able to see what tour packages are doing well, and what ones require a bit of tweaking.
As well, when a customer fills out a booking form, the system will store the details entered. And with a customizable booking system, you can choose what fields are required for the customer. That way, you can hone in on your target audience based on the information you collect.
4. Improve efficiency
In a world of instant gratification, it’s important for your winery business to run smoothly and efficiently.
Any little delay will affect the visitor’s experience. Even if it’s waiting an extra five minutes for the tour to start, they might be inclined to write a bad review.
There’s too much room for human error when things are done the manual way. For instance, your concierge can get caught up on a call and forget to notify the guide of the next tour’s arrival.
Online booking covers these menial tasks, so your winery can continue to focus on in-person customer service. Your team won’t miss a beat using staff notifications, instant payment and check-in, and automated follow-up messages.
Without running around — and your visitors waiting around — the entire experience will be better for everyone.
Choosing an online booking system
Now that you know the benefits of an online booking system, and are interested in putting one into action. How do you go about finding the right one for your winery?
It may feel impossible to find a perfect match, but with research and trial periods, you will find one best suited for your specific needs.
Here are some things to consider in your search:
1. Basic Features
Every online booking system offers something different from the next. You’ll want to compare those features across the board.
Before you do this, make a list of everything you’d like an online booking system to do for you.
Place the non-negotiable items at the top. That way, you won’t struggle with indecision because you can cross off candidates that don’t offer what you need.
At the very least, your online booking system should have these basic features:
- Easily integrates with your website
- Takes online and offline reservations
- Mobile friendly
- Processes payment through a payment gateway
- Sends automatic communications
- Channel Management — ability to update inventory across all OTAs
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- Available mobile management app
2. Reliable support
Without a doubt, there’s a learning curve when implementing any new software. Since it takes more time to figure something out on your own, it’s best to have professional help on hand.
Whether it’s an onboarding session in the beginning, or a 24/7 support team ready for any call, email or message, you’ll want a partner who can work through anything with you.
Look at what the online booking system offers for assistance. Is the support free? Is it available at all hours? Is it given by email, call or chat? Are there other educational resources available — such as videos, blogs and webinars? Do they offer additional coaching?
Don’t take these questions lightly. There will be a time when you’ll have questions, and you’ll want a partner who’ll be there to answer them.
3. Competitive pricing
An online booking system is an investment. Price is probably the first thing on your mind because you want to stay within budget.
There are three common pricing structures for this type of software. Keep in mind that you’ll want one you can scale up with.
- Monthly payments – A flat rate can easily be integrated into your budget plan — because the price doesn’t change month to month. At first, the fee will be a big expenditure, but as more bookings roll in, it’ll be an affordable solution.
- Commission based – This model only charges you when reservations are made. Revenue from each booking is shared with the software provider and rates can range from 1 to 25%. This may seem ideal in the beginning, but not when bookings increase. Eventually, your payments will surpass that of the monthly payment plan.
- User fees – The software fee is added to the total price of the booking and charged to the customer. You won’t spend a dime, but this extra fee doesn’t look good for your winery, and the customer may abandon booking when they see it.
4. Flexible & Customizable
When it comes to online booking systems, there isn’t a one size fits all. However, there should be wiggle room.
You may not find exactly what you are looking for, but with customization, you can get closer to what you want. As long as the booking system is flexible, you can make it work.
With all that said, choosing an online booking system is completely up to you. It’s a worthwhile investment, but only if you’re ready for it to be.
Take your time, look around and try them out. Once you find your ideal partner, you’ll be saying, “you had me at merlot.”
P.S. I’ve heard it through the grapevine that Checkfront has what you’re looking for.
Previous Chapter: Create a Wine Tour and Tasting Worth Booking