If you run a service business and you’re looking to grow, accepting appointments online is a must. This enables you to offer a more convenient user experience, and encourage more bookings. All you need are the right tools to add this feature to your website.
For WordPress users, this means selecting plugin solutions that are easy to use, yet offer all the functionality you’ll require. A perfect place to start with with a quality e-commerce plugin such as Easy Digital Downloads. Then, you can supplement its feature set via the EDD Bookings plugin.
In this post, we’ll talk about why you might want to accept appointment bookings online. Then we’ll walk you through how to get started, using the plugins mentioned above. Let’s jump right in!
Why It’s Smart to Accept Online Appointment Bookings
No matter what type of service business you manage, chances are there is a lot of competition. If you want to encourage people to opt for your services, you need to make their experience as easy as possible.
That includes letting customers book their appointments online. This is beneficial because:
- It simplifies the booking process, removing potential barriers to conversion.
- Customers can make appointments no matter where they are, right from their mobile devices.
- You’ll save time, since an online booking system can be largely automated.
There’s really no downside to offering your customers this option. It’s simple, inexpensive, and easy to set up – as long as you have the right tools.
Choosing Your Online Booking Solution
In nearly all cases, the best place to offer appointment bookings is on your business’ website. If that website is built using WordPress, you have lots of options for expanding its functionality.
The best base for your online booking system is a solid e-commence plugin. This is a tool that enables you to sell products and services online. There are plenty to choose from, but for this purpose we’d recommend Easy Digital Downloads (EDD):
Unlike more general-purpose e-commerce plugins, this one has a specific focus. It helps you sell non-physical items online. This can include digital products like music and ebooks – but it can also be perfect for services. EDD is an easy-to-use plugin that cuts out unnecessary ‘fluff’, and makes it simple to add e-commerce functionality to your business site.
This third-party plugin integrates with EDD, and helps you quickly set up a full-featured booking system. It includes a customizable booking form, key management features (such as a calendar view of all your appointments), the ability to define session lengths and prices, and more.
With the combination of EDD and EDD Bookings, you’ll have everything you need to accept appointments through your website. Let’s take a closer look at how to set these tools up.
How to Set Up Bookable Services with Easy Digital Downloads (In 4 Steps)
Now that we’ve covered the preliminaries, it’s time to get down to work. Over the next few steps, we’ll show you how to create your own online appointment booking system, using EDD and EDD Bookings. Then, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can extend your system’s functionality even further!
Step 1: Install EDD and EDD Bookings
First up, you’ll need to install and activate the Easy Digital Downloads plugin. It comes in both free and premium versions, and either will work for our purposes here. The simplest option is to pick up EDD via the WordPress Plugin Directory.
Step 2: Create a Service
After setting up both plugins, you’re ready to add your first service. To do so, head to Bookings > Services and select Create Service:
Here, you can add all the necessary information about the service customers will be signing up for. This includes a name, description, and image, as well as an identifying color.
Under Sessions, you can determine how long each appointment will last, and how much it will cost:
The next tab, Availability, lets you configure exactly when visitors to your site can make bookings:
Once you’re done making selections here, click on Publish Service. You’ll see it listed on your Services page now:
You can use the toggle here to activate or deactivate the service as needed. You can also add as many additional services as you need.
Step 3: Add a Booking Form to Your Site
Once you’ve set up at least one service, you can start accepting bookings. However, you still need to make sure that visitors to your site can see your services and make appointments.
To add a booking form to your site, all you need to do is use the [eddbk] shortcode. You can paste it into a page or post, in a sidebar or footer, and so on. Wherever you place it, your booking form will appear on the front end:
Alternately, you can use the [eddbk service="id"] shortcode to display a specific service only. Either way, visitors can now book appointments on your site! You can easily view all the bookings that have been created in your dashboard, under the Bookings tab.
Remember that this booking form is also customizable. Through EDD Bookings’ settings you can change every single label in every step. Be it the “Book an Appointment” text or even the “Next” button, you can change these to be similar to your service’s terminology.
Step 4: Consider Adding Extensions to Your Site
At this point, you have a fully-functioning booking system. However, it’s worth considering what additional features you may want to add to your site. The EDD developers offer a number of handy extensions for their plugin, which expand its functionality. Some of these are particularly useful for those selling bookable services online.
For instance, you might want to add extra payment gateways to your site. This gives customers more ways to pay. The Stripe Payment Gateway extension is a good place to start:
This helps you easily create and send invoices to your customers – which is particularly useful if you offer piecemeal or ongoing services.
Setting up an online appointment system is a win-win strategy. It saves you time and encourages more bookings – and it offers a better experience to your customers. Fortunately, adding this feature to your website couldn’t be simpler.
- Install EDD and EDD Bookings.
- Create a service.
- Add a booking form to your site.
- Consider adding extensions to your site.
Do you have any questions about how to set up bookable services using these plugins? Let us know in the comments section below!