For many retailers, offering appointments to their customer base is rather new and can be considered quite innovative.
For others, especially for luxury retailers, an appointment scheduling strategy is common practice and has been done for several years now.
In fact, it is luxury retailers that pioneered the idea of using appointments to improve their customer experience and offer a personalized experience to each client.
However, although some retailers have been using the idea of appointments for years, we have noticed that the majority are not leveraging appointment scheduling to its full potential. Indeed, like we have illustrated in our past article on the benefits of appointment scheduling, this type of experiential strategy yields fantastic results such as boosting customer acquisition, loyalty, and their lifetime value by increasing purchase frequency and basket size.
Hence, how can retailers who are already offering appointments improve their way of functioning to obtain even greater results ?
There are really two main items to consider: properly planning out a thoughtful appointment scheduling strategy and, secondly, using the right tool to book and manage the appointments.
This article will focus on the latter point. We will explore the key differences between a dedicated e-booking software and a simple form that many retailers have integrated into their website.
Let’s start with forms and set the foundation of what a booking form really is. A simple way to capture interest, a booking form is really just as the name implies, a static form on the website where customers can input their name, email and select their prefered date (and sometimes time) for their appointment.
Once completed and submitted, the brand receives an email with the information. They then need to check their calendars to make sure they are available on the requested date (and time) and reply to the customer to confirm the appointment or propose a new date.
Quite simple, right ? Indeed, this is very intuitive and straightforward, but it has some major drawbacks. Although this solution works perfectly for low volumes of appointments and for solo-entrepreneurs, a booking form is less than decent for any serious retailer.
Why ? Well, first and foremost, it’s a very manual process and a clunky experience for the customer as well as for the associate that needs to execute the appointment. Needless to say that a booking form is not scalable at all and errors can occur frequently.
Let’s explore what advantages a dedicated appointment scheduling software can offer to retailers.
The first major advantage of a dedicated tool to schedule and manage appointments is the fact that they offer real-time availability on your website at the moment of the booking.
Customers have come to expect this user experience when booking an appointment on a retailers website, given that they are already accustomed to booking their appointment to reserve a table at the restaurant or book their next haircut. Real-time availability enables customers to look at their calendars when booking the appointment and select the exact date and time that works best for them based on the availability displayed on the Booking Widget.
The second advantage of using an appointment scheduling software is that they automatically send an ICS such that the customer has the appointment in their calendar right away with all relevant information. On top of that, reminders by SMS or email can be pre-configured and sent out automatically such that the customer never forgets.
Finally, the third advantage for your customers is that they can easily reschedule or cancel their appointment. A dedicated Booking Page gives them the option to modify their appointment autonomously and have access to current availability.
All in all, with a dedicated e-booking solution, customers book more appointments because there is less friction, and no-show rates decline because they book a time that suits them, it’s in their calendar and they get sent automated reminders.
If offering a great experience to your customers is not enough to convince you to start using an appointment scheduling software, let’s discuss the additional benefits for the brands that use them compared to retailers that use a simple web form.
With an e-booking solution, a dedicated calendar is automatically populated with the appointments as they are booked. This calendar can be filtered by associates to see who has a clear view of who has which appointments coming up and can directly input new appointments if the customer would like to schedule their appointment while in store.
Compare that to booking forms where associates need to manually confirm each appointment by email and you can quickly see the benefit that this has at even a minor scale.
Further than that, some dedicated booking solutions even have their own mobile application to give associates easy access to their calendars while on-the-go, easily reschedule an appointment if needed, and overall be able to better manage in-store operations.
Given that dedicated solutions can safely store first-party customer data, this can be sent to your CRM to better understand your customers' omnichannel journey. This is a game changer compared to booking forms where that precious data is siloed and scattered throughout emails.
Finally, given that data from associates and customers is all centralized in one location, we can measure the performance of a brand’s appointment scheduling strategy. From having an accurate idea of occupation rate, no-show rates, conversion rate following an appointment, how basket size is influenced, and much more, an appointment scheduling software can give you insights that would otherwise not be possible.
In fact, such a tool is one of the best ways to measure omnichannel performance as it can act as the bridge between your online store and physical ones.
Obviously, the result is a much more seamless experience for the customer and associates, more bookings are made on the website, no-show rates decrease and conversion rate and basket size increase.
At the end of the day, you can see it two ways: are you happy with a solution that is good enough to let you take appointments, or are you looking for a best-in-class solution that lets you stand out from the competition ? The choice is yours.
If you would like a demo of Booxi’s appointment scheduling software, you can do so here.