The power of the Internet enabled a lot of business processes to be automated. Moreover, manual processes such as booking were eventually made online. It opened up to easier access and more potential customer.
Businesses have begun bringing procedures online since the inception of the Internet. Today, Internet has become of staple of modern living. Everything from the most basic tools to the most complicated systems is made available on the Internet. An excellent example of such tools is booking engines.
What is a booking engine?
Online booking engines allow reservation of products, tickets, spaces, and services without having to visit a brick-and-mortar store. In the travel industry, options and filters are widely available using different engines.
Booking management helps businesses efficiently accept and manage bookings made online. Modern booking engines are known to be flexible, but powerful. There is also no need for companies to develop in-house booking engines. Ready-made systems are available in different complexities and prices.
Booking engines can trace its roots with airlines. Simple versions of automated booking systems have existed as early as late 1940’s. Complex airline reservation systems have improved during the 1950’s.
Eventually, early versions of modern computer reservation systems have improved during the 1980’s. The new systems allowed booking from multiple airlines. Eventually, features were extended and functions got better. Industries outside the airlines started using different variants of complex reservation systems. In the last decades, the rise of mobile devices brought the booking engines to phones and tablets.
Today, there are thousands of booking engines and aggregation applications online. Deals and promos are all in one place. Booking engines thrived in travel and lifestyle industry. Interestingly, other industries have only begun taking advantage of booking engines in the past few years.
As technology rapidly innovates, booking engines across different fields of businesses are catching up. New trends have affected how customers interact with products and services. Below are some of the future trends in developing booking engines.
It is safe to say that Google is everywhere. It evolved from a humble search engine to an IT juggernaut in just a couple of decades. Unsurprisingly, Google has started looking into integrating booking engines into its ecosystem.
There is still no existing standalone Google booking engine it yet. However, Google leverages the booking function of airlines and travel agencies. The growing travel and lifestyle industry is one of the driving force behind Google Flights and similar services. You can quickly search flights and deals without leaving Google. Interestingly, it is quite similar to what TripAdvisor does. The web page will only redirect outside Google when you’ve already chosen your flight and ready to pay. It will not be surprising to see Google eventually rolling out its native booking engine in its Google Trip app.
Virtual Reality and Video-360
We see another Google influence in virtual reality and video-360. While Google is not the first or only innovator in the VR and video-360 field, they helped popularized it when they released Google Cardboard. Additionally, users are beginning to experience more and more 360 videos on YouTube as well. This caught the attention of hotels and travel agencies.
People, especially Millenials, are becoming more sensitive to where they spend their money. Booking engines, especially hotels and destinations, have long adopted the rating systems. However, with VR and video-360, users can “preview” hotel rooms, accommodations, and destinations.
Hilton Hotels and Resorts is one of the early adapters of an interactive mobile video. This allows their potential visitors to view available amenities and rooms before booking them. Marriott Hotels also experimented with VR through its “teleporters.” While not yet a fully developed technology, expect to see VR and video-360 previous on booking engines in coming years.
Artificial Intelligence has continually improved throughout the years. However, its most popular application regarding consumer interaction is with chatbots and virtual assistants. Smartphones, smart home devices, and computers now integrate Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant are integrated.
The artificial brain running behind these assistants and chatbots are training to do complex things as it collects data. This includes booking services, products, and other relevant functions. In 2016, Expedia launched a Skype bot that can accept requests and bookings right in the chat box. The Dutch airline KLM also released a similar chatbot using Facebook Messenger. Kayak even built a bot on top of Slack which means you never have to leave the chat application to book trips.
This new form of booking engine is becoming more and more popular. Traditional booking engines are still the go-to application for most users. But, more types of booking engines are sure to pop up soon.
Popular Booking Engines
Booking engines’ growth in travel and lifestyle industry allowed significant development in complexity and availability. Businesses are finally considering using booking engines to reach their customers and make their products available. Below are some of the more popular and emerging booking engines around.
Vaniday is a beauty booking engine which focuses on clients looking for hairdressers, massage therapists, and nail care experts. Salons can easily list their services and products. Vaniday makes it easy for users to find the nearest salon services all in one place. It is also available as a mobile app for users on-the-go.
Mind Body Online
Mind Body Online is a product of MindBody company which focuses on the wellness industry. The company developed a full enterprise software for wellness business management. It includes Mind Body Online which allows business owners to accept bookings from their customers. It can easily integrate to a website, Facebook page, and even comes with Mind Body App for mobile.
Instagram Bookings is an upcoming function added to the popular photo-sharing social media platform. It proved to be an excellent marketing tool for businesses such as restaurants. Typically, business profiles will post a link to their website for customers to book their services. It will allow the same booking engine functions without the hassle of visiting a site outside the application. This powerful addition to Instagram makes it a valuable tool which extends beyond marketing.
Appointments+ is a simple booking engine and management system. This WordPress plugin allows businesses to open their services and have their customers set appointments with them. It lets business staff accept bookings as well. The systems allow reservations through deposits from clients.
Bookly is another booking engine which focuses on a flexible user interface. Ladela, the creator of the plugin, understands the importance of marketing in presenting services to the users. It integrates easily with WordPress. Bookly is mobile friendly due to its responsive layout. It can even notify customers using SMS.
WooCommerce has long been a favorite e-commerce WordPress plugin. Having its booking engine extension in WooCommerce Bookings is natural. It adds a bookable product to the options in WooCommerce. The WooCommerce extension focuses on time or date-based bookings. It is built on WooCommerce’s powerful features and options.
Just like WooCommerce Bookings, EDD Bookings is built on top of an existing e-commerce plugin. EDD Bookings is an extension of Easy Digital Downloads. It allows manual booking of any services on any date or time. It also has a calendar option to set-up the booking dates. EDD Bookings has responsive customer-facing and back-end management interface.
Booking X is an emerging standalone booking engine for WordPress. It is available to virtually any businesses that offer staff, product, or space rentals. It has multiple calendar views showing agenda, weekly, and monthly. You can even integrate it with Google Calendar. Addionally, it is easy to filter bookings as well. Effortless payment is built-in the system.
Booking X is developed with flexibility in mind. It is compatible with all WordPress themes. Businesses can set fixed or mobile locations as well. Developers can even create their add-ons to extend the function of Booking X.
Booking engines will evolve just like any other technologies. It is essential to keep in mind how the tool can help you build your business. Flexibility, ease-of-use, and robust features should be at the forefront to help you succeed.