Home made vs. a third-party booking system

Published on September 26th 2017

The choice between buying a booking software or building your own system

You are well aware of the benefits of having a booking system on your company website. No more need to sit by the phone and your computer to manage booking enquiries, and no more risk of overbooking because your team is no longer using spreadsheets.

Once you make the decision to professionalise your booking process through a booking system there is a new choice to make; will you have your own booking platform built or do you make use of a third-party software license for a ready-to-implement booking system? There are many reasons to choose one over the other, for example, the ability to customise, the investment in time and money, the knowledge of a specialised service for your products and the way the booking system can be managed. We’re going to discuss how the options differ looking at these aspects.

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Knowledge of your product

To put the technical part aside for now, when you are thinking about your new booking system, one of the first things you think about is what it should look like. Assuming you currently have a booking page containing a short form for the customer to fill out, and potentially the addition of an email address and phone number he or she can use, you want to convert this into an easy booking page for your customers that shows a calendar, a drop down menu bar to select the type of product your customer enquires and an option to select the number of people they are coming with. Unless you have a background in web design, designing such a page is not as easy as it looks.

When it comes to your booking page, this is where you will have to guide your prospects in the decision making process. Your homepage and other web pages on your website already make the prospect consider your product, but your booking page is where it all happens. There are web design and web development agencies who know how to build a booking system, even for the travel and leisure industry.

It could be that your typical customer has a completely different way of buying travel and activities than the people who buy on Expedia or Booking or any other website related to your activities. This also changes the way your booking system should look and work in practice. A third-party booking software provider who operates solely within your industry most likely has more experience with your activities and your customers. Having insights into the buying process of your specific type of customer is very relevant in the process of building a booking system.

Time and money

It is probably needless to say that to license a software is less time consuming and less expensive than to build a booking system of your own. Are you better off in the long-term building your own booking system? Maybe, yes, but is it worth investing valuable time now to save that money ten years from now? That is the question you have to ask yourself.

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The moment you consider using a booking system rather than an email form or phone is probably the moment when you just realised things are getting out of control. In a good way, as you probably see your number of bookings increasing. Managing your bookings covers a bigger part of your day. The downside is that you spend a lot more time behind your computer these days to manage all enquiries coming in through email and phone and to organise your spreadsheets in such a way that no booking errors, such as overbookings, are made. The time you could spend on other business activities, or on activities of your own.

To have your own booking system built consumes time, and more importantly, while you are at it, bookings keep coming in. This gives you an extra affair to manage. With a booking software license, this time investment is much smaller, although you might have to compromise on some specific features.

As said, to build your own booking system asks for quite an investment. Without mentioning specific numbers, to have an agency build a complete custom made booking system, including a front office (the components of a booking system that customers interact with ) and back office (your management and administration components ) is more costly than to license a software, at least for the first 7-10 years. The question then arises if licensing a booking software truly enables you to offer a high-quality product to your customers, and, does it ultimately increase revenue? That is when you can decide on the value for money aspect.

Service and customisation

Whether you license a booking software from a provider or have a development agency build a system for you, you often get 24/7 support in case something goes wrong. Especially in case of the latter, you want someone to help you whenever you push live a number of changes yourself to the systems’ front office or on your website.

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The main difference between the two options here is that any additional features you may request in the future will cost you extra to the expense you initially paid when you hired a web developer. This makes sense, as it is the same with any customized features of your product during the creation of the system. When you use a license, new features will be released every once in a while as the license provider wants to maintain its licensees. It is a trade-off. With your own booking system, you directly get to implement any custom features through your developer, as a licensee you are more dependent on what new features will be implemented by the license provider. If you are looking for very specific features that you need in order to create bookings, then a system of your own could be a better choice.

At Bookinglayer, we continuously improve our booking software system based on the feedback of our customers. Our community board offers our licensees the possibility to request new product features and the requests are subsequently voted on by our community. New and improved product features are implemented on a monthly basis, and product features we work on are listed on our roadmap.

Conclusion

The choice between a license or a custom built booking system depends on different factors. Time and money are two important ones, and they are generally the ones which define our decision making. Needless to say, other aspects can be of great significance as well, it all depends on what you feel is important to your product and your business. If you need more help with the decision making process, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@bookinglayer.com for a friendly chat.

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