Whether you’re a tour operator, a fitness trainer or a lifestyle coach, the primary goal of your website is to get you noticed by your ideal audience and help you convert them into actual, paying clients.
One of the best ways to convert visitors into actual clients is to add online booking functionality to your website. There are two ways to do this: through a WordPress plugin or by using an online booking service.
In today’s post, we’ll explain the differences between the two, take a look at pros and cons of each method, and help you decide which one should you use.
The Difference Between a Booking Plugin and a Booking Service
On the surface, booking plugins and booking services do the same thing: they allow your clients to make an appointment with you online.
In both cases, you and your clients will be able to instantly see the appointment on your calendars and in most cases, clients can even pay you before the appointment takes place.
However, there is one big difference between the two that you need to know before you decide which one is the right solution for you.
Booking plugins will work only with WordPress sites, which means you cannot use them if your site is built on a different platform.
By contrast, online booking services are hosted solutions that give you an online scheduling page that you can use and link to regardless of what platform your website uses.
Now that we’ve covered the difference between a booking plugin and a service, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of booking plugins.
Pros of Booking Plugins
There are several booking plugins available for WordPress and they all come with several advantages that make them an attractive solution.
1. Easy Integration With Your WordPress Site
Booking plugins are easy to integrate with your WordPress site, considering they were built for WordPress. In most cases, they will work with any theme so all you have to do is find the right one, install it, and activate it to start booking clients from your website.
2. Easy to Customize
Booking plugins will also offer customization options so you can ensure that the booking form blends in with your brand and website perfectly. On top of that, once you use the form on your site, visitors will see your website’s URL in their address bar which means there is no risk of confusion because you’re using a third-party URL.
3. You Own Your Data
Another benefit of a booking plugin is the fact that you own the information shared by your clients which includes their personal and billing data. You can export all that data at any point in time and take it with you, not to mention, you or your team are the only people who have access to it.
4. Booking Plugin Is Cost-Effective
Lastly, a booking plugin is a cost-effective solution, considering most of them require a one-time payment or a yearly subscription.
Disadvantages of Booking Plugins
With the pros out of the way, let’s discuss cons of using booking plugins.
1. Requires Additional Maintenance
A booking plugin requires you to stay vigilant about plugin updates and apply them on a regular basis. This protects your site against vulnerabilities but it also means you have yet another plugin to update.
2. If Your Site Goes Down, Your Booking Form is Down Too
Since a booking plugin relies on your site to be available, you run the risk of the booking functionality being unavailable if your site goes down. If your site is down that means you can’t book new clients which can result in a loss of revenue.
Advantages of Booking Services
1. Easy to use
Booking services don’t require you to install or learn how to use additional plugins on your site. The most basic options allow you to sign up for a service, authorize your calendar, and give you a link to an online calendar that you can use to book appointments.
2. No maintenance required
Since booking services are hosted solutions, that means the company behind the service is responsible for all updates and maintenance. This allows you to focus on marketing your business and serving more clients rather than spend your time on applying updates.
3. Higher Availability
The last advantage of booking services is the fact that they can handle a large volume of users and high amounts of traffic since they were built with thousands of users in mind and are hosted on powerful servers.
Disadvantages of Booking Services
As attractive as booking services appear, they also come with certain disadvantages that you need to consider.
1. Risk of Losing Data If the Service Goes Out of Business
When it comes to disadvantages, keep in mind that if the particular service goes out of business, you run the risk of losing not only your data but also your client’s data as well.
2. Fewer Customization Options
With fewer customization options available with a booking service, your booking form and page will look different than the rest of your site which can damage your brand. Furthermore, a change in the URL may confuse some of your clients and result in them not following through with the booking process.
3. Ongoing Subscription Fee
Lastly, no matter which booking service you choose, it will require an ongoing monthly fee to keep your booking page active. This ongoing subscription adds up over time and comes out as more expensive than a booking plugin.
Which One Is Right For You?
When it comes to online booking, both plugins and services have their own set of pros that warrant their use.
An online booking service requires no additional maintenance on your part, offers the same functionality as booking plugins, and offers higher availability.
Keep in mind though, that with an online service, you’re putting yours and your customer’s data into third-party hands which means you might lose access to it if the service ever goes out of business.
A booking plugin, on the other hand, integrates perfectly with your WordPress website, is easy to blend in with your existing branding, and more importantly, keeps your important data in your hands.
If you want a peace of mind in knowing that no one else has access to your client’s information and the benefits of easy integration with your WordPress website, then a booking plugin is a far superior choice.
Before making your final decision, consider the functionality you will need from your booking system, weigh the pros and cons of each method, and use the tips in this article to help you decide whether to use a booking plugin or a booking service.