Whether you run a hotel, a beauty parlor, a place where dinner is a whole experience or any other type of business where people are required to book an appointment before showing up, you need a WordPress booking plugin.
But which one to choose? The official WordPress plugin library spits out hundreds of different options, making it easy to feel lost. Since it’s been a while since we’ve last covered this topic, let me show you the best options for your 2020 business endeavors!
Why Do You Need A WordPress Booking Plugin
Online booking is taking over the world by storm. Maybe it’s because millennials are allegedly afraid of phone calls. Or perhaps it’s because it’s actually convenient and time-efficient. We’ll never know.
No matter the reasons behind it, if you want your business to look like it belongs in 2020, you should go for a booking plugin. It’ll help you address multiple target groups, significantly reduce the margin of double-booking or over-booking errors, and streamline the entire workflow. Not to mention that you don’t have to deal with your (or anyone else’s) bad handwriting anymore.
The Best WordPress Booking Plugins
Not all booking plugins are equal. With a real abundance of them available, you may wonder if going for the premium product is even worth the money. A lot of them were created with a specific business in mind, like a service booking or a hotel reservation. While it isn’t hard to find a multi-purpose booking plugin, it’s crucial to tell the difference between individual products. Before you start your search, it’s worth thinking over your preferences and benchmarks. Understanding your own needs and expectations towards a booking plugin will save you time and money.
With no further ado - let’s dive into the kingdom of WordPress booking plugins!
Available on CodeCanyon for $49, Booked is a versatile tool for multiple businesses, including paid, guest, and registered bookings. It features an easy interface for both the end-user and the admin, and it’s relatively fast to go through, requiring no more than selecting the date and the time of your appointment and filling in a contact form. It’s arguably the best choice for businesses in need of a simple, no-fuss system that users can breeze through.
While it doesn’t offer an online payment system at the start, Booked can be integrated with WooCommerce add-ons for maximum convenience. However, it comes with a library of shortcodes, allowing you to insert the calendars and forms straight into your webpages.
Booked supports multiple calendars assigned to different positions or members of your team. Each of your employees can create their personal profile visible to the customers, along with custom time slots. The appointment buffering feature prevents bookings made too close together, and the plugin makes custom time slots, holidays, and opening times possible to enter.
The biggest downfall of Booked? While the plugin is fast to implement and easy to use, it doesn’t offer many customization options. The booking process is simplified, leaving little to no wiggle room. Booked doesn’t feature admin-enabled notifications regarding the upcoming appointment, text messages, or built-in online payment option. Still, it’s a great way to introduce a booking system fast and with little effort.
2. WooCommerce Bookings
Being a part of a colossal eCommerce platform that revolutionized the online shopping experience both for business owners and customers, WooCommerce Bookings is a powerful plugin. However, it doesn’t come cheap - $249 per year requires a significantly bigger budget than most plugins available on the market. On the other hand, it comes with 12 months of updates and support and gives plenty of possibilities. WooCommerce can be easily customized to any type of business.
WooCommerce Bookings is fully coordinated with WooCommerce, so you won’t have to meddle with add-ons for online payments. It lets you set up custom time slots and buffers between appointments and block your preferred slots off (this can come in handy if you can’t/don’t want to have customers coming in at certain hours, like a lunch break or mid-day sanitizing routine).
It also gives you the option to set up confirmations, reminders and cancellations, anti-double booking feature, and many more. It’s also linked to various add-ons, like Deposits, Bookings Availability, Accommodation Bookings (for hotels), or Product Vendors for your service providers.
One of WooCommerce Bookings’ significant drawbacks is the lack of shortcode, which means you can’t embed the plugin anywhere on your website.
Designed for bigger businesses in need of a powerful online booking system, Amelia includes dozens of unique features that are hard to find in other WordPress solutions. It’s integrated with PayPal and Stripe for online payments but supports onsite fees as well.
Like many others, Amelia features both a budget-friendly, no-fee version and premium Amelia Pro for larger businesses. The paid option gives you a lifetime license and 6 months of support for $59 - you can extend it beyond this period for a small fee as well - and features advanced, detailed management of all your business locations, employees, types of services (including extras), and multiple payment options, all in one place.
On top of that, Amelia requires no add-ons for extra tools - you get a full package right from the start, including coupons management. The plugin is also synced with Google Calendar and features text notifications about the upcoming appointments.
The most significant advantage of Amelia is a possibility to manage multiple business locations at once. It’s an excellent solution for chain ventures. If you pair it with smooth, straightforward navigation, numerous services, employees & price management, custom holidays, individual availability patterns, and reporting tools, Amelia becomes a compelling product that helps you manage and monitor your business 24/7.
Bookly is a widely popular plugin and app that can be used for all types of businesses requiring booking an appointment. While a premium version requires a one-time fee of $89 (minus further customer support), a basic, free Bookly also offers a lot of great features, making it an excellent solution for small businesses with no budget for custom development.
The no-charge version of Bookly doesn’t support online payments and limits the number of staff users. Still, if your business accepts free bookings and paying at the premise, this plugin is probably the best you can get for free. It also features the most modern, sleek design with a wide range of customization options. The interface is incredibly intuitive and requires zero knowledge in coding.
Meanwhile, the premium version allows for an unlimited number of staff members. Each of them can have unique availability and individual pricing range. Bookly Pro comes with built-in WooCommerce and multiple payment gateways that can be customized to suit your needs.
5. WooCommerce Appointments
Finally, WooCommerce Appointments is another booking plugin built on top of the WooCommerce infrastructure. It’s an excellent solution for online payments, however, WooCommerce Appointments supports free reservations as well. Allowing you to use all WooCommerce features, it introduces more options than WooCommerce Bookings, including custom form fields, staff management, or no-assistance booking confirmations and reschedules.
Coming for $89 per year for a single site, #129 for up to 5 sites, and $299 for up to 25, this plugin is relatively easy and quick to install and requires no learning curve for your staff. WooCommerce Appointments is advertised as a solution for businesses that want to focus on their work and switch to an automated workflow.
Like many others, WooCommerce Appointments features custom holidays and non-operations hours. You can decide how far in time you want your customers to see available slots and how much buffer time you need between appointments. If you’re operating in multiple countries and/or time zones, the plugin makes it possible to convert currencies and timings between your venues.
How To Choose The Best WordPress Booking Plugin
There’s plenty of booking plugins to choose from, both free and premium. It’s not easy to decide which one will work best for you. Before you commit to one, consider your options, having the type of your business, your expectations, and your benchmarks in mind.
If online payments don’t make sense for your type of business, splurging on a premium plugin that supports WooCommerce will be a waste of money. But if you’re managing multiple locations and need to trust your staff with many responsibilities, a basic, no-fee solution probably won’t suffice.
Assess your needs and compare the plugins to see which one best suits your business. A lot can depend on your situation and budget, but going for a well-rounded plugin like Bookly or Amelia is never a bad idea. These products will support your current business and its future growth.
Need help setting up your new plugin? Or do you have a particular feature in mind and can’t find it in any product available? At WP Kraken, we strive to create custom solutions that exceed your expectations.