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 min read
May 23, 2017

How Calendar Sync Can Take Online Marketplaces to the Next Level

More and more businesses are giving their users and customers the ability to book appointments online. Many studies have already showed that online booking is good for business because clients want this option available to them.

More and more businesses are giving their users and customers the ability to book appointments online. Many studies have already showed that online booking is good for business because clients want this option available to them.

This is especially true of the younger generation – the fabled millennials – who are tech-savvy and are used to accessing information at the touch of a fingertip. The old booking system of picking up the phone during work hours is outdated.

The future is here for online booking

According to fitsmallbusiness 25% of millennials will only book appointments online and 35% of clients want to schedule appointments during non-business hours.

The logical step in this trend has been the emergence of countless online marketplaces. Some of these – such as Airbnb – are really peer to peer and part of the ‘sharing economy’ but many aim to put professionals in touch with potential customers with a need for their services.

Segment-specific marketplaces come in all shapes and forms. Some allow you find a hairdresser in your area, others put you in touch with a lawyer or photographer. Several of these websites have an entirely virtual offering, like online classes or mentoring.

The benefits for both parties are obvious. Professionals – many of whom are self-employed – build up their profile and portfolio to promote their services and reach a new audience. Consumers can consult other users’ recommendations and pick the professionals best suited to answer their need.

How online marketplaces work

The business model of these online marketplaces rests entirely on the ability to book online. Customers can usually either post a job and let professionals bid for it or book a professional directly.

Clients can filter down the list of professionals listed on the website directory. Filters are based on location, price, user rating or skills. Once the user has narrowed down their research to a specific profile they have to contact the service provider in order to discuss the job specifics, and agreed deadlines and payment. That’s if that professional is free at the required dates.

But that system takes time. If the professional isn’t paying attention to their emails or if the booking request is sent on the weekend, the delays can vary from a few hours to a day or more. According to figures released by several booking software providers, between 30% and 45% of bookings happen between 6pm and 8am.

And what do you do if need to book a photographer at the last minute because the one you usually employ is ill? The traditional way of booking won’t work.

For online marketplaces, losing bookings means losing money. Increasing the volume of jobs professionals can accept will help the business grow and improve the user experience.

If users can’t access the availability of professionals on an online marketplace how can they be assured that their booking request will be accepted? And what about last-minute jobs that need to be done urgently?

Online bookings made easy with calendar sync

A more complete solution would display the real-time availability of professionals listed on the website.

This is where real-time calendar sync can help take businesses relying on online booking to the next level. By syncing the professionals’ calendars to the booking platform, the marketplace will be able to display their real-time availability to potential clients.

Clients can book immediately based on their deadline and don’t have to wait for a confirmation. Events can automatically be added to the professionals’ calendars.

For example, PeopleGrove, an innovative online mentorship platform, has leveraged the Cronofy Calendar API to build a slick booking process for mentors and students alike. Instead of simply contacting a mentor and requesting a time and date, students can access the real-time availability of these mentors, see which days are open in their calendars, and then select a time slot. The event will immediately be added to the mentor’s calendar. This reactive process replaces the usual exchanges of emails – 3 on average – and mentors don’t have to juggle with answering several invitations.

Optimize the booking process

Calendar sync helps transform the booking process. Calendars updating in real-time also prevent double-booking and scheduling conflicts. When an event is added, this time slot will be booked and other users won’t be able to book it.

If you run an online marketplace the benefits are significant. Not only are you improving the user experience and generating more business by enabling last-minute bookings, you are also making the life of professionals easier. There’s nothing like getting up in the morning and finding that you have several more jobs lined up for the day!

But the benefits of calendar sync don’t stop after the event is booked. The beauty of it is that you can do many things with calendar events. You can add information and create rich events, as well as set appointment reminders.

Cronofy’s geolocation feature also allows businesses to leverage the existing smartphone infrastructure and include geolocation details. That can come in handy when a hairdresser must cross town to get to a client’s house.

If your business model relies on putting people in touch and knowing when services can be delivered then you should consider calendar sync as an important feature to include in your service. If you want to see Cronofy in action, don’t hesitate to book your demo. Otherwise take a look at our case studies.

Jeremy is the Head of Marketing at Cronofy with over a decade of experience in the tech industry.

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