What’s the ideal online booking process? 

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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What’s the ideal online booking process? 

Your customers embark on a journey before arriving at your checkout page. This journey might start with a Google search that takes them to your website. Ideally, it’ll end with a conversion.

Yet not all of your website visitors reach the finish line, do they? Many fall off the tracks, never to return to your site again.

Much of it has to do with your online booking process flow. It’s the journey guests take to get to your final checkout page — and it’s on the tour operator to get it right.

Each interaction guests have with your company will impact whether they reach for their credit card or abandon their booking. 

In this post, you’ll  learn how to build an ideal online booking flow to ensure they don’t do the latter.

What is an online booking flow? 

An online booking flow is the series of steps that customers must take to make a booking on your website. This involves several different touchpoints in the customer journey, from the first moment they become aware of your brand to the final payment. 

Optimizing your online booking flow can lead to more direct bookings and increase your website’s conversion rate.

7 steps in the online booking process

Here, we break down the online booking process into seven steps.

1. Brand awareness 

The online booking process starts when a customer becomes aware of your tour business. This can happen in several different ways:

  • Lisa might be planning a trip to Miami and is interested in Art Decor architecture, so she does a quick Google search for “architecture tours in Miami.”
  • Lisa heard from a friend that there’s a great tour company giving architecture tours in Miami, so she looked it up on Google or Instagram.
  • Lisa is targeted with a social media ad for an architecture tour in Miami.

How customers become aware of your brand will depend on your online marketing strategy. If your target audience uses Instagram to find travel inspiration, you’ll want to have a strong social media presence and target them with ads through those platforms. If they’re using Google to find the best things to do in a city, you should focus on creating valuable content — like blog posts, YouTube videos, and infographics — that’ll attract people like Lisa to your website.

2. Go to your website

After finding your company online, Lisa clicks on your website. At this point, most customers are probably learning about your company for the first time. This is your chance to make a great first impression.

3. Check out your homepage and browse through your tours

Customers who land on your website will either start at your homepage or go straight to your tour descriptions page.

Either way, you want them to understand what you offer as soon as they enter the site. Your homepage should have a captivating headline focusing on your unique value proposition (UVP), or the reason why visitors should choose you over the competition. The headline should clearly state what you do, who your audience is, and what makes you unique.

It should be paired with an eye-catching image or video. This is known as a “hero image,” and it’s meant to draw viewers in and provide additional context to what your business offers. Operators should strive to choose an image that appeals to their target audience’s emotions — for example, a hiking operator would choose a photo of a stunning red-orange sunset over the mountains.

The homepage should also have a clear call to action. This would be your “Book now” or “Learn more” button. Make sure it’s prominently placed at the center of the page and/or the navigation item.

Speaking of the navigation menu, it should make it easy for customers to find their way around your website, especially to your tour pages.

If Lisa likes what she sees on the operator’s homepage, she’ll browse over to the tour descriptions. Or she might land there in the first place after clicking on one of your social media ads.

Your tour descriptions should explain what the tour is and what guests should expect from the experience. It should include the details, itinerary, pricing, and unique highlights of the tour.

Try to give your tours a catchy title that appeals to your target customer, and include a few beautiful photos that’ll make them excited to book. Use storytelling techniques to draw them in right off the bar, such as describing the aroma of simmering tomatoes during a cooking class. And don’t forget to highlight what makes your tours unique.

4. Add to cart

Lisa loved the tour description, and the price was just right. She added the tour to her cart and is well on her way to check out. At this moment, you’re so close to gaining a new customer. What could be wrong?

5. Book the tour or experience 

Ideally, every customer hits the “Confirm my booking” button at this stage. Yet about 80% of people will still abandon a travel booking even after they’ve made it to the final checkout page.

To avoid this, operators should strive to provide customers with the easiest, friction-free checkout experience possible. Simplify the checkout process so that it can be done in just a few steps, and make sure guests can pay without having to create an account on your website. Provide several payment options for their convenience, offer chat support if something goes wrong, and make sure it’s mobile-friendly.

6. Receive a booking confirmation email and text

Lisa has booked her architecture tour and soon receives a confirmation email and text.

Make sure the confirmation email has a compelling subject line that entices your customers to open it. The email itself should summarize essential details like dates and times, billing information, meet-up locations, etc.

You might include a relevant call-to-action, such as prompting customers to follow you on Instagram or like your Facebook page.

7. Experience your tour. 

On the day of the tour, send your customers a reminder with the time and location of the experience, as well as any other relevant information that can help them prepare for their visit.

You want your customers to start having fun right off the bat. If there are any forms or waivers they need to sign to participate in the experience, make sure to send it to them before they arrive.

After they visit, follow up with them for feedback. Reach out to them via email with a link to a customer satisfaction survey as well as a link to your preferred review platform.

Why you should use online booking software to improve your booking process 

DIY booking forms can be a low-cost booking solution for new tour and attraction operators that want to learn what customers are looking for before investing in any software or automation. 

Booking software, however, simplifies the online booking process on all fronts.

  • Manual processes become automated, from the confirmation email to the updated tour availability shown on your website.
  • Seamlessly integrates with your website so that every new booking is recorded in real time.
  • Provides your customers with secure payment processing, allowing them to pay for their tours directly on your website.
  • Securely store their credit card information, making it possible to enforce cancellation or no-show fees.
  • Easily manage admin duties and other back-end tasks, including employee schedules, customer rosters, and tour guide assignments.

All of the time spent talking and emailing guests back and forth and manually managing guide schedules can now be dedicated to more important aspects of growing your business.

***

In sum, booking software provides guests with a quick and seamless online checkout that makes them feel good about your customer experience right off the bat.

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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