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ZOZI Advance is the fastest growing web-based reservation, payment, and customer management platform used by thousands of activity, tour, and event merchants.

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Sabah Karimi

Managing day-to-day operations for your rentals business is no float down the lazy river—especially if you're doing it with outdated business tools like spreadsheets, paper ledgers and appointment books. It's time to stop treading water, starting with this essential life preserver: An online booking system that streamlines basic administrative tasks, delivers smooth customer service, and lets you focus more on what you really love.

But where to start? Here are some key things to look for when choosing an online booking system for your watercraft rental business:

1. Real-Time Inventory Tracking

Photo credit Kayak Annapolis

Photo credit Kayak Annapolis

This is a must-have. With real-time inventory tracking, only one staff member is responsible for logging the status of different types of equipment and gear, eliminating hours of administrative time and reducing the risk of errors. Look for an online booking system that...

  • Lets guides check in, and check out all rental units. This gives you visibility into which staff members check in and check out gear, and prevents theft and lost rental items. 

  • Automatically adjust equipment availability in real time. 

  • Makes it easy to see how many items are in storage or "repair" status 

  • Provides across-the-board visibility for all staff, thanks to one consolidated digital dashboard

2. Online Scheduling With A Secure Payment Gateway

Instead of asking for payment information over the phone or by email, make it easy and safe for guests to book online whenever they want. Look for an online booking system that's connected to a secure payment gateway, ensuring an encrypted and secure checkout process. This can reduce hesitation about sharing credit card and payment information online, as credit card security has been cited as the top reason why consumers refrain from making an online purchase.

Bonus: Online scheduling also speeds up the checkout process. It allows guests to do everything on their own, so there's no need to have a staff member follow up with a phone call or send a confirmation email, because everything is automated. Which leads us to our next must-have...

3. Automated Communication For Guests And Staffers

Photo credit Paddles By the Sea

Photo credit Paddles By the Sea

While online booking software automates plenty of tasks, we know there’s no replacement for personalized service. But “personalized” doesn’t have to mean “time consuming.” Make sure your online booking system supports the following:

  • (For guests) Customized, automated emails: Forget playing phone tag. With fully customized and automated emails (confirmation, reminder and follow-up) it's easy to provide all the essential details, answers to commonly asked questions, make expectations clear, increase overall customer satisfaction, and ask for reviews.

  • (For guests) Customized questions during the checkout flow: Capture details that help you deliver a seamless and personalized experience for your customers. Is this their first time visiting the area? Are they celebrating a special occasion? Do they have any special needs? 

  • (For staffers) Manifest reports: Customize user settings so staffers can log into the dashboard and view daily manifest reports that tell them when and where they need to be. 

If maintaining that personal connection from the get-go is important to you, perfect! With an online booking system like ZOZI Advance, you can opt to accept pending bookings online, but still require a phone call to verbally seal the deal and confirm the reservation before the credit is charged. 

4. A Calendar Designed For Rentals

Not only do you have different operating hours throughout the week, but you might have entire days blocked off for corporate events or maintenance windows. The right booking software will have a robust online calendar that...

5. Automatically Stores Customer Contact Information

Rather than updating tedious spreadsheets or cataloguing guest information manually, your online booking system should automatically store important contact information for each of your guests. Having this information digitized and readily accessible makes it quick and easy to get in touch if the need arises. It's also great for building your email lists, which is an important marketing tool. 

6. The Ability To Handle Complex Pricing Variations

Setting up a pricing structure for your watercraft rental business is no one-size-fits-all scenario. There are a number of variables that make it complex and highly specific to each outfitter, such as...

  • Seasons

  • Time of day

  • Day of the week

  • Duration

  • Equipment type

  • Group size

  • Add-ons

  • Tiered pricing based on lengths of time

If your rates fluctuate based on any of the above factors, it's important to have an online booking system that can accommodate multiple pricing configurations—without making you want to pull your hair out. To avoid investing in an online booking solution that only works for some parts, but not all of your rental business, check out our tips on simplifying rental pricing complexities. 

7. Add-On Features For Products & Services

If your watercraft rental business also offers guided tours, classes, workshops, extra gear (GoPros, rash guards, wetsuits, inner tubes) or sells items like used equipment, pre-made picnic lunches, apparel, etc., you can share all your offerings with ease—and stimulate sales—by populating the checkout page with add-ons. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends bundling items together when structuring your pricing model because customers may be willing to pay more than initially planned when presented with additional options. Use an online booking system that lets you easily set up add-on services and items with just a few clicks.

If the day-to-day of running your watercraft rental business feels like swimming against the current, it's time to go with the flow and make it easier on yourself and staff! Vet some of the options available to you, and choose the online booking system that's right for your business. After that, expect less treading and smoother sailing. 


Up next: See how this large marina in Phoenix is streamlining operations, increasing reservations, tracking inventory better and more with ZOZI Advance:


Blair Franklin

Blair is the Production Manager for ZOZI. In her past life she was a tech marketing writer, a newspaper editor, award-winning journalist, and general hooligan. She likes drinking Buffalo Trace Whiskey and snowboarding, preferably at the same time.