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Considering an online booking system for your attraction?

Here's my experience of Checkfront...


I was asked to build a website for a new indoor e-bike motocross park called E-Trax NI.


Not a problem.


I’m a huge fan of the Wix platform which gives me the flexibility to combine an intuitive editor with my limited ability to code, to create slick, high-performing and SEO-friendly websites. 

This was followed by a request for a customisable online booking system that integrates with the website, takes payment and allows automated customer communication. And, if it could do online consent forms that would be great.


Right. I’d never implemented a system like this, but there was no time like the present to get stuck in. 


As with most tech, there were a lot of options to choose from, which in itself can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully I’d worked with the client to get a full and detailed understanding of their exact needs so I was able to narrow the choices down pretty quickly.


For E-Trax, the most appropriate option was a platform called Checkfront. It integrated with Wix and their existing payment gateway system, plus gave a vast amount of customisation options that suited the complex time slot and bike inventory that they needed to manage. It wasn’t the cheapest option on the market, but after weighing up the options, we decided it was the best fit. 


The initial setup with all the key company information and the integrations with the website and payment gateway were quite straightforward. Checkfront has a really great support centre and step by step instructions for almost everything. 


Then it came to setting up the actual booking process for the different bikes and experiences. This was the most time consuming and complex part of the whole process. Here are my top tips for making it as smooth as possible:

  1. Spend some time understanding the lingo of the booking platform you choose. In E-Trax and Checkfront’s case, ‘inventory’ was e-bikes and ‘items’ meant visitor sessions. This may sound like simple advice, but when you are in the throws of building up the elements that make the booking system work, you’d be surprised how even the most tech-savvy can be thrown off course without clear understanding of how each part of the system relates to their business elements.

  2. Make sure you know exactly how you want your bookings to run, and how you want them to be presented online to your visitors. For example, how many you have available, at what start-finish times, for how many people, is there down time in between? If your business is already established this might be quite easy. If it’s new, be sure to have all this on a nice spreadsheet before you start, it will save you oodles of time. 

  3. Have all your content ready. Images, copy, videos, price points, anything you want to show website visitors to aid the booking process. That way you’re not wasting time fishing out information as you go along. 


Is it worth it?


So, there’s lots of upfront work, a substantial monthly fee for the use of the platform and an ongoing need to manage and maintain it. Is it really worth it? Well I guess that depends. 


For E-Trax, they are a new business with only the owners and a few part-time members of staff. With up to 80 people visiting the attraction on any given Saturday (pre-covid), there was no way they could manage the business and look after telephone bookings, payments and the waivers/ T’s & C’s associated with each visitor, at the same time. Having this system in place means their visitors can pick appropriate time slots that suit them, they can complete the necessary paperwork digitally, ahead of time, and they get reminders about their booking and advice on what to bring/expect, all without the E-Trax owners needing to get involved. 


Even in the current situation, where online bookings have been temporarily halted to ensure social distancing and other safety measures can be carried out, the system can still take online/phone payments, generate the customer communication and relevant digital paperwork.


This results in a speedy, contact-free experience at the reception desk, keeping it a paper-free zone, and massively reducing the number of touch-points for visitors and staff.


Even with the cost associated with outsourcing the website build, Checkfront setup and on-going management, E-Trax are certain it’s been the right choice for them,


“Having the booking system has been a life-saver for us. Without it there’s no way we could have managed our visitor bookings effectively. It’s given our customers an easy way to book and allowed us to get on with other parts of running the business. It’s definitely helping us bring more visitors through the door, and saving a huge amount of time in the process. I'm not technically minded in the slightest but Lisa has guided us through this process and has even managed to train a technophobe like me on how to use Checkfront, and that can't have been easy!” Kyle, Co-Founder E-Trax NI


E-Trax have been running Checkfront on their website for close to two years now. As the person responsible for it's on-going management, I can confidently say it's been a dream platform to work on. No glitches or problems to note, changes to diary management and inventory have been easy. Customer records are easily accessible and the reporting elements are more than adequate for their needs. I would definitely recommend it.


If you’re considering investing in a booking platform, or upgrading an existing one, feel free to get in touch at lisa@ellegmarketing.com for advice, training or assistance in implementing / managing an online booking system.

Are you an activity provider or a visitor attraction / experience that's considering taking your booking system online?


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