Whether you’re starting out or feel your existing booking system isn’t working for you, this guide picks out the key criteria and helps you choose the right one!
There’s no one system that is best for everyone – it’s a bit like choosing a car. While a cheap small car might be great if you just want to pop to the shops, it will struggle with long journeys. But if you spend your time driving in muddy fields, the long distance car might not be the best choice for you!
There are three main types of things that you might like to offer to your customers; classes, appointments and events.
- Classes – Groups of customers, usually with repeated classes, with a leader or teacher, at a fixed time. Also small classes (e.g. 1-1 classes) at fixed time with a teacher.
- Appointments – Think hairdressing, beauty or financial advice. An open calendar and a customer can choose when they want to turn up.
- Events – Maybe a fun run. Generally one-off events.
Like the car example, you could use an appointment system to manage classes, but it will not be as comfortable managing multiple people and passes. Event systems will likely be expensive when used for class bookings as they need to earn their income from a small number of bookings.
Class vs appointments tools
When choosing a platform, it’s best to go with the type that is most suited to your style of business.
Mature class booking platforms are Mindbody, Glofox, Teamup and Makesweat. These are designed for group sessions and can also handle 1-1. They have all been around several years; this is important as booking is complicated and new platforms can be somewhat naive about the complexity involved.
Class tools typically feature…
- Proper visibility of enrollments to a class plus their PARQ answers,
- Multi-passes managed by the system (with expiry rules),
- Proper waitlisting (where waitlisted clients are automatically booked into a class in order of queue rather than simply being alerted that space has become available.),
- A ‘CRM’ capability to manage the lifecycle of clients,
- automatic reminders and prompts,
- and automatic pass renewals to support memberships.
Appointment (hair, beauty, financial advice, etc.) booking tools are Acuity, Bookwhen, with niche tools such as the Wix booking system. Because appointment booking is easier (and appointment booking is a bigger market segment than class booking) these platforms are all optimised for solo booking.
Appointment tools attempt to add class booking but as it’s not their core purposes they aren’t as suitable for running a full class-based business. They typically involve a secondary spreadsheet that you have to maintain to keep track of class credits; this is something we’ve seen several times with Acuity customers. Bookwhen has never implemented automatic renewals, for example, because it’s not so relevant for appointment booking.
If you’re a small business looking to remain small and really only do 1-1s, and are focused mainly on cost, appointment booking systems can seem a good low-cost option – just make sure you’re not going to get stuck in the future when your business grows.
Quality of integration
One of Makesweat’s key strength is the quality of the integration into existing sites. This is a recent Yoga teacher’s site that we think looks particularly good (https://www.cocoayoga.co.uk/book). Because of the way we’ve created the integration, it fills the whole page (rather than a box) and uses the host site font & colours.
Makesweat also has a separate ‘My Account’ widget to put on another page on your website, so clients can see their upcoming bookings and the history of their passes. It turns your website into a useful tool for a client.
Integrations using an iframe can cause a poor booking experience and suffer on mobile (where more than half bookings are made); it’s really only Makesweat’s widgets and Mindbody’s Healcode widget system that allow for a proper booking experience on desktop and mobile.
Fair price comparison
Platforms can be difficult to compare on price, as they’ll all have their own way of charging. Introductory discounts seem attractive but should not be the basis for making a decision; most platforms with give you a month or two to get going before they charge you.
- Makesweat has a zero recurring fee model for teachers getting started, charging only 3% of payments. When you’re starting up or want to offer just a few classes a week, this is likely the lowest cost way to get started. Our free website offer alone is worth at least £15 compared to a Wix site. Makesweat’s maximum cost is £49 per month and is a good choice once your business has reached a good scale (as it’s cheaper than paying 3%).
- Teamup is a similar price at £49 per month, but you have to pay this every month even if you’re not teaching. Teamup goes up to £69 per month once you have over 51 active clients – which most teachers will hit almost immediately as an active client is any within your client list on the system.
- Glofox aren’t very forthcoming about pricing but are known to be a minimum of $100 per month. Mindbody starts at £109 per month but once you get going you’ll end up having to pay more.
- Acuity is a basic appointment tool so can’t really be compared with the feature available in a class system; it costs £23 for the features you’d actually need for minimum class management.
- Bookwhen is also an appointment tool and goes up in pricing once you start scaling; if you’re a mid-sized business running classes you’ll likely have more than 800 enrollments per month and maybe more than 5 teachers – so will be onto the £39 + VAT (£47) pricing level.
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