Deliver the online booking experience that today's customers expect
A poor online booking experience can lead to cart abandonment, inconsistent brand experience and customer frustration. Having a strong technical vision and a customer-centric strategy is imperative to avoid these issues and achieve the gold standard, yet with legacy restrictions, compromises or the age-old problem of technology as a driver rather than an enabler – companies often fall short. So how do you create a booking experience that meets and exceeds the needs of today’s customers when faced with these challenges?
Customers want the right content, relevant user journeys, safety and privacy and, above all, to be understood. Delivering an exceptional customer experience that checks all these boxes is often easier said than done, particularly in a time when businesses need to adapt quickly, often moving services online rapidly.
Take, for example, the online booking conundrum, a business operates a website and an ecommerce facility but also needs to offer booking for classes, courses, events and/or conferences. This requires an online payment to be taken for the event but also a booking recording to reserve the customer’s place.
Broadly speaking, there are three routes that present themselves in order to fulfil this requirement:
- Buy a dedicated event management / booking software
- Leverage an events module within a CMS or Digital Experience Platform
- Build something bespoke
Building something bespoke can be expensive – both in the short term and longer term – and is not a common scenario.
Leveraging an events module within a CSM/DXP is a risky manoeuvre as well. These modules are typically general and simplistic. The platforms they reside within are built to provide as many features and functions as possible. Unless your booking process is overwhelmingly simple, the likelihood is that you’re facing customisation work which invites upgrade path problems and maintenance issues.
The more common route is to buy something in. There are a lot of platforms out there that offer online booking for classes, events and webinars at different scales as well as allowing you to take payments. This seems like the obvious choice and many businesses would agree. However, if you consider this as part of the broader customer experience, some problems emerge:
- Many of these third-party booking platforms offer the ability to apply your brand, although this isn’t always effective due to restrictions in their flexibility and differences in the visual identity of the end-product can raise questions by your audience. Couple that with a different URL and a different user interface and you introduce uncertainty into your audience
- Customers expect consistency from brands. They want to trust you and what you say. Your content, your tone of voice and your positioning must be consistent across channels. However, introducing a third party into the mix means multiple content stores and the risk of deviation and inconsistency increases. Strong governance can mitigate this, but it is very easy to take your eye off the ball
- A third-party system inevitably means separate user accounts, unless you build out centralised Identity and Access Management. Experience shows this is rare. A single user now has two or more accounts for their interactions with you
- What if there are associated products you wish to sell, e.g. textbooks, equipment? A third-party booking site would mean a customer conducting two separate purchases on two platforms, negatively affecting their perception of the brand
Online booking – the ideal
In this scenario (and beyond this into multi-system architectures), the foundation to excellent customer experience is making the lives of the audience as easy as possible to gain greater investment from them.
If you rule out a compromised solution from a CMS/DXP or wide-scale custom development, you are left with the separate platforms. But who is to say that they should control the experience layer? These platforms are excellent at the functional processes behind purchasing and booking but the experience layer is unique to you and your audience.
At this stage, we’re only considering the web channel. The digital maturity of your audience is constantly evolving, shaped and informed by their experiences inside and outside of your industry. The way in which they connect with you may be bound to web right now, but they will expand out into other channels, whether that be apps, IoT, voice, social selling or more. When we consider the omnichannel experience, the necessity for these platforms to work as engines becomes increasingly important.
Pushing these systems into the background and leveraging a smart orchestration layer and experience layer enables you to deliver a seamlessly integrated booking and commerce experience, setting foundations for the future to engage with your audience on their terms. This method enables you to launch new online booking services across the web and beyond rapidly, whilst maintaining a consistent purchasing experience across booking and product ecommerce and with minimal disruption to your existing systems and services. The customer has one user account for all purchase types across the site, reducing cart abandonment and ensuring your branding and tone of voice remains consistent, delivering a true, frictionless omnichannel experience.
MMT Digital and Elastic Path
To help solve challenges that clients are currently facing with ecommerce, we have recently partnered with Elastic Path, leaders in headless commerce microservices and recognised as a visionary in Gartner’s Digital Commerce Magic Quadrant. Our belief is that whatever solution you are building, the customer always comes first. Technology is an enabler rather than the star of the show. By pushing technology behind the scenes and leveraging its power, we can deliver the exceptional experiences audiences expect and a greater return on investment for our clients.
Our strategic partnership with Elastic Path means we can combine our deep technical expertise with a leading headless commerce solution, Commerce Cloud. With its Composable Commerce approach, the platform enables us to integrate with a wide range of systems, including online booking engines such as Bookeo, to deliver an integrated, high standard ecommerce and booking experience quickly and efficiently.
To find out more or talk through an online booking/ecommerce challenge you are currently facing, please drop me an email at email@example.com. See Rick's Blog on the MMT Digital website here.