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The question on everyone’s minds: what makes a good booking engine?

So, you’ve done the marketing, people know about your brand and have intentionally searched for your website. You would assume that’s it and the hard work is done – they are going to book the holiday and rave about your company to their friends.

Whilst some consumers do abandon bookings due to research and prices, according to results from a recent survey, 13% of people feel the process is too long, 9% experience technical issues and 7% have unanswered questions throughout the process.

I don’t know about you but once I start looking for a holiday, I want to get one booked there and then. If we can therefore reduce these issues and leave the customer with no reason not to book… then not only is the customer happy, but the agent too! With that in mind, we wanted to give you a few pointers about what makes a lucrative booking engine.

User-friendly for the customer

Have you ever heard that expression, simplicity is key. We get that sometimes you want an all-singing-all-dancing product, but this isn’t that time. A customer wants to enjoy the excitement of researching and booking a holiday, they don’t want to be frustrated because they can’t find out where to put their preferred dates or destinations at the first hurdle.

You want to be unique in what you are offering your customers yes, but not at the expense of someone being unable to understand what information you’re actually asking for.

The same applies with how the information is presented back to the customer. You don’t want the booking engine results to display in a format that makes your customer think ???

We live in a fast-paced world in which people know they can get information at the drop of a hat. They don’t want to have to interpret results, they want to know that the price will include ‘this flight’ and ‘that hotel’ with the option to throw in car hire. Easy.

User-friendly for the agent

So, the booking engine is all set up and it looks amazing on your website. The next Olympic destination has been just announced and every agent has decided to throw in offers for flights and hotels. But wait, how do you update the system again? You need to log in and then change the agreement and link it with code to *that* website…

No. You want something simple, say with a behind the scenes system making updates instant updates to your site. It means that not only can you react quickly to an ever-changing economy, but you can also make simple changes as and when required.

The agents who get the most use out of their booking engine aren’t the ones who just log in once to set the booking engine up, but those who utilise all the features on a regular basis.

Smooth interface

How frustrating is it when you are on a website and it feels like it’s taking f…o…r…e…v…e…r to load? As mentioned earlier, people are not patient for information anymore. If your booking engine isn’t loading, they will take their business to one of the thousands (maybe millions) of others and complete their search there.

Unfortunately, online travel consumers don’t tend to stay local unless you give them a reason to and if they think your site is slow before they’ve even made a booking, it doesn’t give the best first impression.

It also needs to fit in well with your existing website. You want to know that your booking engine is not just a standard engine that’s sold to every customer, and that it can be personalised to fit in with your brand and sit on your site as if it has been made to measure.

It needs to work 24-7

The rise of the internet and smart phones means that we have access to information at all times. When you can’t sleep at 2AM, you find yourself searching for the most random things. When you have a 10-minute break at work, you spend that time looking at links your friends have sent you on WhatsApp. People want to be able to book a holiday at a time that’s convenient for them as the customer, not for you as the agent.

If they have booked a flight at 10PM at night, they don’t care about ticketing deadlines, they’re just thinking of how long they have to do their holiday shopping. This is why you need a system that you can set up to work the way you want it to when you’re not there, to ensure your booking engine is maximised to its full potential so that your customers get the very best experience.

Anyone who has worked for a travel agency (like myself) will know that one of the biggest perks of the job is hearing customers rave about their trip on their return. Yes, you could argue that those who have made online bookings don’t count, but these customers will still associate their holiday with the agency they booked it through.

I booked my first ‘girls’ holiday online (Magaluf 2017 – don’t judge me!) but I can still tell you where I was sat, who I was with and who it was booked with. Booking it online was just as exciting as booking it with a high street travel agency.

Holidays are a general part of life now for most people, but you still want them to leave your site as happy and well-informed as they would have been had they made the booking in person. Your website and booking engine are an extension of your brand and you need this to be reflected.

What makes a good booking engine? Tell us what you think by tweeting @billianIT or join the conversation using the hashtag #tech4travel.