Do you know that in the diverse US business landscape, small businesses constitute an impressive 99%?

Yet, the harsh reality is that around 20% fail within the first year, and almost half don't survive the past five years.

It's only natural that as a small business owner, these statistics could leave you feeling apprehensive.

However, rest assured, your business's growth and survival aren't dependent on chance. Instead, they hinge on factors like profitability, sustainability, and in today's digital age - a robust online booking system.

This article uncovers practical, result-oriented strategies to boost online bookings for small businesses.

Explore our research from real-life applications, how industry leaders operate, and data-backed statistics and studies.

With it, learn how to upscale your business with the right online booking options. You can also rethink your marketing strategies and the teams behind them.

Not only can these tactics help small business owners ward off the risk of becoming a part of the unfortunate 50% statistic, but they can also propel their businesses to new heights.

Here's a quick recap of what this article will cover.

What you will learn:

  • Your website design can make a world of difference.
  • Digital tools like online booking software can save you time and allow you to focus on sales.
  • How, where, and who markets your brand matters to increase your bottom line.

These may be the basics.

But you may realize you're missing them.

After all, you don't need something elaborate to grow.

A small seed does not something fancy to grow into a big tree.

All it needs?

Yes, you're right - the right amount of sunshine, water, and carbon dioxide.

Take this basic principle of growth into your tour and activity business.

Like a big tree coming from a mere seed, you can also grow as a business - if you don't neglect the basics.

Let's start with what your customers see.

1. Optimize your online storefront

The saying "First impressions last" holds particularly true in the digital realm.

A well-designed and functional website can attract potential customers and turn them into recurring ones. In contrast, poorly designed ones can deter nearly 40% of consumers.

Who wants to stay on a poorly designed website? Not to mention, competitors are only a tap away from the screen.

Take a look at how Airbnb makes visitors stay:

Airbnb well-designed their homepage with easy navigation - it makes their visitors stay and click.

Consider Airbnb's website features:

  • Concise navigation: It sorts offerings according to user searches, making it effortless to sift through options.
  • Easily accessible search bar: Placed at the top, it enables seamless browsing with search options by location, dates, and guests.
  • Stunning visuals: Airbnb uses professional, wide-angle photos to give guests an all-encompassing view of the property.

This way, within just a few clicks, guests can find their ideal accommodation.

Thanks to intuitive search filters and captivating images!

Takeaways for small business owners:

  • Simplify navigation: Facilitate your potential customers' journey by filtering your offerings based on their preferences. This approach will help them quickly narrow down their options and find what they're looking for.
  • Feature a prominent search bar: A well-placed search bar (preferably at the top) allows users to find their desired product or service quickly.
  • Use captivating visuals: High-quality images can enhance your website's appeal and guide users as they navigate your offerings.
  • Introduce intuitive search filters: These will make the browsing and booking process more efficient and enjoyable for users.

Facilitate mobile bookings

In our increasingly mobile-dependent world, your business's growth could hinge on how well your booking process caters to smartphone users.

Data shows that a whopping 57% of internet users wouldn't recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site.

Yes, mobile optimization for bookings is necessary.

Let's learn from another example, TripAdvisor's Attractions page.

See how it's sleek, simple, and pleasing to the eye? You don't need fluff to look good, do you?


Consider how they designed it for mobile:

  • The Booking Cart and Search Button are placed on top of the screen.
  • Texts are kept to a minimum.
  • Services/products are in a carousel format so users can quickly swipe through options.

Benefits of mobile optimization:

  • Improved user experience: An optimized mobile website allows users to easily navigate, view availability, and make bookings online, making the process effortless and frustration-free.
  • Accessibility and convenience: Users can access your booking platform anytime, anywhere, with a few taps on their smartphone.
  • Increased conversion rates: Mobile-friendly websites have a higher conversion rate. By offering a smooth booking process, you can maximize your online bookings and ultimately, your revenue.

Key takeaways for small business owners:

  • Ensure a responsive design: Your website should adapt to different devices to provide a seamless user experience.
  • Simplify the booking process: Minimize the number of steps or unnecessary questions in the booking process. The more straightforward the process, the more likely users will complete their bookings online.
  • Enhance your website's speed: Users expect mobile websites to load quickly. Compress images, reduce redirects, and use browser caching to improve your site's speed.
  • Highlight your call-to-action (CTA): Use clear, eye-catching buttons that are easy to tap on mobile devices to guide users to book your service or product.

By adhering to these best practices, you can cater to the growing population of mobile users and turn potential customers into recurring ones.

2. Harness the power of booking software

Let's get straight to the point.

By streamlining your operations with online appointment scheduling software or a booking system, you can not only save time but also manage bookings and online payments more efficiently.

This extra time can be invested into improving your services, refining your offerings, and devising effective marketing strategies.

So, do online booking systems work?

A great example is Lions Water Adventure Park. At first, this water park juggles tour bookings. Not to mention the manual telephone calls for changing bookings and customer reminders.

That's a lot of time.

Thankfully, after integrating with online booking software (TicketingHub) and exploring various marketing strategies, they saw a 400% profit increase within a year!

You might ask, did TicketingHub made the money for them?

No, it's not how online booking systems are made.

Booking systems create "systems".

With it, operators or business owners can streamline, simplify, and save time. It can simplify booking management, staff organization, and customer notifications.

This is where the money comes in - from saving time.

In fact, a local press release was released for them due to high ticket sales volume. Surely, this growth caught the community's attention.

Tip: Before jumping on a product, consider how users rate it. Utilize trusted review sites like Capterra, G2, ProductHunt, and GetApp.

Building systems is saving time - and saving time is making money. | Photo by Freepik.

Key takeaways for small business owners:

#1 Assess your business's specific needs and explore digital tools that address those needs.

If you're selling tours and activities, an online booking system can be a valuable asset. For vacation rentals like Airbnb, property management software can streamline your operations.

And if you offer professional services and consultations, scheduling software can help you get more bookings and manage your calls and appointments efficiently.

#2 Consider the potential time savings these tools offer.

Remember, time saved is money earned!

Studies show that if you want to keep up with the competition, spending on productivity and digital tools is key to survival.

3. Build loyalty and enhance customer retention

You may agree, "repeat customers are the lifeblood of any successful business".

By implementing a loyalty program, you can encourage customers to return, fostering trust and engagement.

How do the big brands do this?

Starbucks' loyalty program is a perfect example.

The program rewards customers with free drinks, special deals, and more.

It has been a critical driver of the company's growth ever since, with over 28.7 million active members worldwide.

With what results?

Starbucks enjoy a 16% year-over-year growth out of this customer loyalty program.


So what can we learn from this strategy?

As a business owner, you should:

  • Offer loyalty programs: Offering incentives can entice customers to return. This includes promotional offers, special deals, and even birthday discounts.
  • Reward with vouchers and gift certificates: Gift certificates or vouchers can introduce new customers to your business and foster loyalty among existing ones.
  • Engage with your customers: Provide excellent customer service and actively engage with your customers through social media accounts, email marketing, or surveys.

4. Do the right kind of marketing

When marketing your services, both the platform and the messenger are significant in your success.

Here's what we mean.

Choose the Right Channels

When marketing your services, the platform you choose matters.

As a B2C business, social media can be highly effective at reaching your target customers.

Tip: Identify which social media platforms your audience frequents.

If you're targeting Gen Z and millennials, TikTok might be the ideal platform. For customers up to 50, Facebook can be a fruitful avenue. If your target audience is in their 20s to 30s, consider platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Take this as an example:

Witness the incredible power of TikTok marketing in boosting online bookings.

TikTok Reel by Jennifer Koss

In a TikTok reel, Jennifer Koss shares her experience of booking an Airbnb in Greece without reviews. She said they thought it would be a scam because the photos were too good to be true.

But the reel she posted justified all her doubts and has left viewers curious about this new place.

From zero reviews to a thousand views - all in one reel posted.

What can we learn from it?

  • TikTok is a great social media platform for the B2C market. With billions of active monthly users, this is surely a breeding place for growth.
  • User-generated content is powerful, even more powerful than your claims.
  • Customer satisfaction is key. When customers are happy with your service, you can't help them post about you wherever social media platform they may be in.

Leverage TikTok's reach and engaged community to skyrocket online bookings. By strategically selecting your marketing channels, you can reach the right audience and improve conversion rates.

Reach more with Influencer Marketing

While marketing your tours yourself is important, word-of-mouth marketing remains highly effective and persuasive. This is where influencers can make a significant impact.

User-generated content is often trusted more than traditional ads and claims.

Take this as another example:

I have followed Chris Burkard for a long time now, and I love how he captures his travel experiences around the world. Let's look at one of his travel posts.

Consider this reel he shared on Instagram and how it captured his followers' attention.

Reel by an influencer in instagram.

Link to reel.

The takeaway? Connecting and collaborating with influencers who have a genuine connection with your target audience can greatly enhance your brand's visibility and credibility. This can lead to increased online bookings and brand awareness.

What small business owners can learn:

  • Understand your target audience and identify the social media platforms where they are most active. Tailor your marketing efforts accordingly to ensure you reach the right audience.
  • Explore influencer partnerships to leverage their influence and credibility among your target audience. Engage with influencers who genuinely connect with your brand and can effectively promote your services.
  • Embrace the power of user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing. Encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences and reviews, and amplify their impact through social media and other online platforms.

By using customer data and combining effective marketing strategies with the right platforms and influencers, small business owners can significantly improve online bookings. This will expand their customer base, and drive business growth.

5. Leverage customer reviews

As we all know, customer reviews are critical to any online booking strategy.

84% of people trust online reviews more than personal recommendations.

Not only do reviews provide potential customers with a third-party perspective of your services, but they also improve your search engine ranking.

Consider one of the most popular VR Experience players, the Immersive Gamebox (or Electric Gamebox).

Their Google Reviews show how much their players love their immersive experiences. A venue boasts thousands of positive reviews, and more venues around the globe are doing a great job.

Electric Gamebox Google Reviews

Imagine if you were the one searching. What would you say about the place? You'll surely want to come too! People say they're great and they probably are.

So as a business owner, what can you learn?

Key takeaways for small business owners:

  • Encourage reviews: Ask your customers for reviews. Offer incentives or send out automated reminders to help increase your number of reviews.
  • Respond to reviews: Whether they're positive or negative, always respond to your customers' reviews. This can help build trust and rapport.
  • Feature reviews: Highlighting positive reviews on your website and on social media can encourage potential customers to book your services.

In Conclusion

In a nutshell, small business owners can defy the odds and boost online bookings by implementing key strategies:

  1. Optimize your website: Create a visually appealing and user-friendly online storefront like Airbnb and TripAdvisor, with intuitive navigation, convenient search features, and captivating visuals.
  2. Prioritize mobile optimization: With more users booking on their smartphones, ensure a seamless mobile experience with responsive design, simplified booking processes, and fast loading speeds.
  3. Streamline operations with digital tools: Utilize online booking software, property management systems, or scheduling tools to save time and enhance efficiency.
  4. Choose the right marketing channels: Target your audience effectively by leveraging social media platforms like TikTok or Facebook. Collaborate with influencers to generate buzz and build trust. Most of all, use customer reviews to your advantage.
  5. Use customer reviews: Encourage guests to leave you a rating. Make sure you are listed on notable review platforms like Google Reviews. This can not only raise brand awareness but can also tell Google you are worthy of ranking in the top pages.

By embracing these strategies, small business owners can overcome challenges, attract more customers, increase bookings, and achieve success in the competitive landscape of online bookings.

Start one step at a time and you will get there.

What online booking strategies do you have in mind? Mind sharing them with us? Leave us a comment below.


How do I boost online bookings?

To increase online bookings, use social media ads to reach a broader audience, optimize your website for SEO to improve visibility on search engines, and collaborate with travel influencers to promote your offerings.

How to promote a tour travel business?

Promote your tour travel business by creating engaging content that showcases your unique experiences, use social media marketing to reach potential customers, and collaborate with local attractions or hotels to cross-promote each other.

How can I increase sales in my travel business?

Boost travel business sales by offering special discounts or limited-time offers to entice customers, ensure exceptional customer service to encourage word-of-mouth referrals, and invest in targeted advertising campaigns to reach your ideal audience.

What are three ways to promote your tours for maximum sales?

Maximize tour sales by creating attractive packages that bundle popular destinations and activities, showcase positive customer reviews and testimonials to build trust, and leverage online booking platforms to reach a wider audience.

How do you attract customers to travel?

Attract travel customers by providing personalized travel experiences tailored to their preferences, using captivating travel photos/videos on your website and social media, and demonstrating your credibility through customer reviews and ratings.

How can I attract tourists to my business?

Attract tourists by implementing local SEO strategies to appear in relevant searches, offering unique and memorable travel packages, and leveraging travel review websites like TripAdvisor to showcase positive feedback from satisfied customers.

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