Choosing the right bed and breakfast reservation software is one of the most important decisions you have to make for your business. But finding one that meets your expectations and provides quality service to both your staff and your guests can be challenging.
You might think, “Why does it matter which one I choose? As long as it works and is relatively cheap, anything will do!” Here’s the thing: for the sake of your business and its long-term success, the extra effort is worth every penny for the best reservation software. Read on to find out why.
Here at Q4Launch, one of our company core values is to “invent and simplify”. That’s exactly what we want to do for you. Evaluating different software options can be a challenge. We want to take away the stress and help you navigate the confusing world of booking engines. This blog will give you a better understanding of what is really at stake with your reservation software, and will offer you the tools and information you need to make informed decisions.
Discover why great bed and breakfast reservation software is so essential for your business, why it matters, what it accomplishes, and what the difference between a good and bad booking experience can mean for your bottom line. We will also share some helpful tips for evaluating your options to ensure you make a good selection.
Why Is Bed and Breakfast Reservation Software Essential?
Looking for a great property management software solution can be a tiresome process, and it’s even more stressful when you have different vendors making bold claims about how great their products are. Many booking engines may look great, or offer low prices, but that does not mean they are necessarily the best option for your business, or your guests.
Below we have the average return on investment for Q4Launch’s customers, based on the 4 most commonly-used bed and breakfast booking engines of our customers.
Graph Design By Q4Launch
All your bed and breakfast marketing efforts could be in vain if visitors to your website don’t convert to a booking, or convert at a rate lower than with an alternative property management system.
Having a plan for how to effectively evaluate your booking engine options is the key to success.
Determine the Future of Your Business
Choosing the best reservation software is essential. It is the point at which your potential guests are converting into paying customers. If it is not user-friendly, they will be less likely to complete their reservation, and you cannot rely on them picking up the phone and calling you if the online experience is not straightforward. Settling for a bad engine can harm your business in significant ways. Luckily, a lack of bookings can often be enhanced and even doubled with a simple switch of software!
Definition: What is eCommerce tracking? By adding your Google Analytics tracking code to your booking engine, you can enable Google Analytics to track purchases made online. This allows you to see what traffic sources are leading to bookings, and which pages are effective at getting people to make a reservation. When set up properly, it will track the number of online transactions, the dollar value of these transactions, and the conversion rates for specific channels and pages.
Here is a great example of how booking revenue/eCommerce conversion rates can change when businesses switch to better booking engines. One of our customers implemented ThinkReservations, a modern, mobile-friendly reservation system in March, 2017, and has since seen a 56.67% increase in eCommerce transactions. They also saw a 40.33% increase in eCommerce revenue compared to the same period of the previous year. Investing in the best reservation software is a powerful tool for your business, and can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
When you start browsing the different booking engines available, one thing will be clear from the beginning: they all offer a wide variety of features, each catering to very specific needs. While it can be time-consuming, it is worth the investment to do your research and make sure you select the best option for your business.
Expand Your Bed and Breakfast Clientele
Technology affects the entire hospitality industry. In a time where technological advances only seem to appear faster and faster, your business needs to be able to keep up with that rhythm. This is especially true of your reservation software! An outdated engine that is slow, rigid, and not suited for mobile platforms can cut your booking potential in half.
It’s also important to keep new generations in mind. Bed and breakfasts are extremely popular among Millennials, a demographic of individuals born between 1980 and 2000. In fact, 70% say that funding travel is their primary work motivation, and paying for basic necessities comes second. They crave experiences and choose bed and breakfasts over chain hotels, therefore It’s a market pool you cannot ignore.
Whether or not they represent most of your guests today, Millennials are the ones dictating new marketing trends and influencing where the market is going. Make sure you choose reservation software that fits their needs. Focus on the devices they use! In 2016, 65% of hotel reservations were completed via smartphone. This number will only continue to grow as the years go on. Your reservation software must be mobile-friendly.
Millennials also opt for easy booking processes that are fast and secure. Your reservation engine needs to be simple to navigate as well as easy for you to manage. Your older guests will appreciate the ease of use as well!
A mobile friendly booking engine is also important for developing a marketing strategy to market to business travelers.
Tip: Keep It Simple
When it comes to booking engines, less is more. A clean, professional platform makes you trustworthy in the eyes of potential customers. Just think about Apple products; there is no fluff in their designs. It just needs to be practical, efficient, and simple. These are the three qualities you should base your search on when looking for good reservation software.
Here Is What to Look for in a Bed and Breakfast Booking Engine
Let us start by telling you what not to look for. Too many businesses make these mistakes, and we don’t want you to fall into the same trap. You are not looking for free software!
It might sound obvious, but you get what you pay for. Everybody knows there is no such thing as a free service, and when people search for “free booking engines”, they usually want something that is easy to manage and performs well for a small price. You are going to need to invest money, and before doing so, you should understand that this is one of the most important investments you will make.
So, is high-quality reservation software going to be more expensive? Yes. But if you pay more, you will get more. It may require you to adjust your budget, but the increased revenue and ROI absolutely justifies the expense.
Think about it in these terms: when you buy mattresses for your bed and breakfast, you don’t settle for cheap ones. You want mattresses that are comfortable and reliable. You know it’s a major component of your guest experience, and you want to invest in a quality product.
The same applies to your reservation software. Cheap software might solve your initial budget problems quickly, but it will require more work from you in order to compensate for the lack of results. We don’t want you to make that mistake. Think long-term and invest. This will further propel your business and give you the best chance at achieving your goals.
Here are some other components you should look for when selecting property management software:
An easy booking process
We have already established that the simpler the booking engine is, the more likely it is that people will book. It must be user-friendly on both mobile devices and traditional computers.
This setting is important because it enables you to track online bookings through Google Analytics. It also allows you to track eCommerce revenue by channel (organic, referral, email) or by page on your website. You can identify which sources are sending you good traffic and which pages on your site are converting visitors into guests. Without this information, you are just guessing about your website performance and could lose the opportunity to adapt your strategy accordingly.
Your booking engine should offer the opportunity to add features and enhancements based on your needs. This gives your business a more professional look and builds a better trust-relationship with customers. (Reminder emails are a great example of this.)
Upsell opportunities during checkout
The ability for the guest to easily add packages or add-ons to their stay, increasing their experience and your average revenue per guest.
Seamless integration with your website
The guest should feel like they’re still on your website, even if the booking engine is on a separate domain.
Almost all modern booking engines are secure, and with good reason. If people are going to put in their credit card information, they need to trust that it will be safe. This is indicated by “https:” at the beginning of the URL, rather than “http:”.
This refers to your booking engine integrating with third-party channels like Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb. If you list on these channels we recommend using a channel manager to automate this process and avoid double bookings. You can expect to pay 2-4% of the booking for this feature.
How You Can Test Your Bed and Breakfast Reservation Software
Here are a few names you are likely to encounter when searching for a reservation software: ThinkReservations, ResNexus, RezOvation, BookingCenter, and many more. Some are much better than some others, and that’s why we want to help you make qualified decisions when it comes to your sales and marketing strategy.
How to Evaluate/Test Booking Engine Options
Here are some other helpful tips for testing your reservation software.
- Check Google Analytics. An eCommerce conversion rate between 0.8-1% is a realistic goal (higher is better). Anything below that means there are some easy opportunities to review your current booking process and improve to boost conversions.
- Check Ecommerce tracking. See if online revenue is being tracked and displayed per channel (e.g. Organic, Referral, or Direct) in Google Analytics. If not, call the booking engine’s support number.
- Test it out yourself. Before you pull the trigger on new reservation software, test out its efficiency and user experience! Even if you’re not looking at a new booking engine, consider going through your own. Explore your booking experience (on mobile and desktop) like you’re planning a trip yourself. You may be surprised by what you find! If any step is hard for you, it will also be hard for prospective guests.
- Look at other websites. Ask to see several websites of current customers who use the software you’re considering (ideally, properties of a similar size or with similar features/packages/options to your own business). Then, go through the booking process up to the point of entering your credit card info. Pay close attention to things that are not intuitive, easy to use, or missing (such as package options during checkout). Go through this entire process on both a regular computer and on your smartphone.
Tip: Reach out to other innkeepers and ask about their experience. What do they like and dislike about certain software? Are their business needs similar to your own? You can even ask for a demo of the backend/management side of the software. Is it easy to use? Does it have all the features and options you need?
If you have a marketing or website partner, ask them about the options you’re considering as well as their thoughts on your current booking engine. Ask them if they see any potential concerns or if they have other customers who have already tried the system. Companies that work with multiple hospitality businesses will have experience with a range of booking engine options and can offer a broad perspective on which ones they would recommend (or avoid).
How Q4Launch Can Help You
Do you need a trusted marketing partner who can help you with important decisions like selecting a booking engine? Q4Launch frequently helps our customers with choices that affect online conversions in addition to our website and marketing services. Contact us today to learn how we can help your business grow.
Caroline Durand | Content Creator
Keegan Robbins | Senior Customer Experience Manager