You invest a bunch of time and money into trying to understand the Wild Wild Web. You work hard to get more visitors to your website. You want people to find out about your business and become regular customers. But how well does your current online presence convert lookers to bookers? In this post we look at some simple things you should expect from your online appointment system that will increase the conversion of visitors to customers.
A bit of background
“What the heck do you know about all this, Mr Smarty Pants?”, I hear you saying. Well, funny story that. Actually it’s not a funny story at all. In fact it’s one of the most boring stories that I tell on a regular basis. You see… Andrew, Will and I have in fact spent the best part of ten years working to increase the online booking and buying conversion rates for many of the country’s most visited websites. So we know a thing or two about this stuff. I’d love to say we were actually the loose forward trio for the world cup winning All Blacks, or the inventors of a nifty app for sharing photos from your iPhone that was sold for a billion bucks. But alas that is not the case. We are online booking nerds and we’re making you the best appointment system you’ll ever own.
Learn the lingo
While it is fun and rhythmical to talk about converting “lookers to bookers”, the official term here is actually conversion rate. Your conversion rate is a simple formula of the number of completed appointment bookings divided by the number of visitors to your site. This gives you the percentage of your visitors that were converted into appointments – or your conversion rate.
On the topic of conversion rates we often talk about a conversion funnel. This is an analogy used to describe the path a customer takes between reaching your website and making a booking. The wide end of the funnel is the start of the process where there will be the most number of visitors – such as your home page. The narrow end of the funnel is the last stage of the process, such as the “thank you for booking” page, which you hope a good number of visitors will reach. But you want to do more than hope, and below we outline some tips to improve your funnel and increase your conversion rate for online appointment bookings.
Some broken funnels
A quick scan of some other online appointment systems and we can see a lot of rather broken funnels. We won’t name and shame them – but here’s a few culprits:
First step should get straight into selecting a service. Not a wall of text & a register button.
This is a bad first first step. It's bit like a shop on a main street having their curtains closed.
Here's a great way to put people off making a booking. A wall of fields to jump over.
This is a real put off for bookers - having to fill out the form and wait to get an email back.
Try to book with this one on your smart-phone. Painful.
How to improve online appointment booking conversion rate
- Focus on the whole funnel; Many business owners only put the effort into the top of the funnel, because that’s the part that can be understood and controlled through marketing spend and advertising. But if your website doesn’t convert visitors to customers then you are generating traffic to a brick wall. Give some focus to the middle of the funnel. This is where your online appointment system should be working its butt off to convert visitors into paying customers.
- Visitors want instant answers; Can your visitors make an online booking with you any time of day or night? A glorified contact form that is emailed to you and you reply back by email a few hours later is not a great experience for your visitors.
- The less steps the better; How many pages or steps does it take to make an online booking on your website? The less steps that it takes, the better. Keep it really simple.
- Don’t collect unnecessary information; Sure, you’d like to know everything you can about a customer for your database, but if you don’t actually need to collect a customer’s postal address to take an appointment, don’t ask for it! It’s just adding time and effort to completing the online booking and it doesn’t take much before that visitor will be reaching for the close button on their browser.
- Content is king; In most cases with an online appointment booking you’re asking someone to make a purchasing decision without being there to guide or help them. This job is then left up to the quality of your website content. Make sure you have great product descriptions, clear pricing, stunning photos and answers to your frequently asked questions all within your booking process.
- Incentive to book online; Even a small incentive for the visitor to complete their purchase online can make a big difference to your conversion rate. Remember, online shoppers are savvy and it is easy for them to compare your services to your competitors. Give a small incentive such as a % discount, or an extra service included for bookings completed online and snatch that customer before they book elsewhere.
- Support lots of devices; These days you cannot assume that your website visitors are sitting at home on a desktop computer with a cup of tea. Internet browsing behaviour is very different today than it was even this time last year.
Your website visitors are just as likely to be sitting in front of the telly with an iPad or standing on the corner of your street with their smartphone. Make sure that your booking process works really well on mobile devices.
- Measure twice, cut once; How do you know if your appointment system is converting lookers to bookers if you don’t measure? Does your current online appointment system tell you how many visitors hit your website and then converted to a booking? Can you see the trend of your conversion rate over time? If not, your head is in the sand my friend!
- Social sharing & referrals; Conversions are directly related to the quality of the visitors coming to your website. By that we don’t mean the best dressed or most handsome. Look at it this way; If you have a business providing massage treatments and someone has ended up on your website looking for a pet groomer – chances are they will not make an appointment, right? However, if you have qualified traffic, say someone looking for a Swedish Massage and that’s a service that you provide – that’s a different story and things are looking good. Simple isn’t it? One great way to achieve qualified traffic is by social sharing. Your appointment system should make it easy for people to tell their friends how great your services are. Chances are that their friends will like the same things. Check out this earlier article on social media for more on this.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Let me leave you with one thought; You might think that conversion rates… and funnels… and e-commerce… and online booking systems… are all too complicated. So you just leave it up to that polite, slightly nerdy, chap that does your website for you. If you are in the dark about how well your online appointment system works, how many people are using it, what is working well and what isn’t… then your visitors are probably finding it just as confusing. Use some of the tips above to review your own appointment booking system. It should be a beautiful funnel for your website visitors to slide down and into your front door.