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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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Most of your customers expect to be able to book online these days, and the thought of adding online payment options to your website may seem overwhelming. But streamlining the process for your customers can create more revenue and let you focus on other things - and it can be one of the best things you do for your business. It's also a lot easier than you may think.

The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently released their first quarter estimates from U.S. e-commerce retail sales, which showed significant increase over the previous year's numbers. For the first quarter alone, buyers spent roughly $80.2 billion on online purchases – an estimated 14.5 percent increase from the same quarter in 2014.

See Also: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Booking Systems

Consumers are more confident with buying online and they enjoy the convenience of booking from their computers and mobile devices. If you're not offering online booking options to your potential customers, you could be missing out on a lot of potential sales.

Top 7 Concerns and What to Do About Them

Here are some common concerns activity rental business owners have about accepting bookings online, along with the benefits of pushing past the roadblocks and taking action.

1.    What I want to offer online is too complex. Simplify your offerings. Too many choices leads to indecision in consumers, so providing too many products could be working against you. Whether you're building a new site or starting fresh, use this as an opportunity to simplify and package your tours and activities for more profit. While changes require some upfront work, keep your eye on the long-term benefits. Tools that allow customers to book online can help manage your business more efficiently, which can lead to more business opportunities and revenue.

2.   I've always done things by hand – it's what I'm used to. Doing things by hand can give you a false sense of control. If everything is mostly stored inside your head, that means you're the only one who can "do it right." This makes hiring painful and training difficult because there are no repeatable processes or systems in place to ensure consistency. If you're planning on selling the business one day, remember that it's not a business unless it runs when you're not there. Who would buy the business if you are the business?

3.   I have an online contact form so that counts – right? An online form is a step in the right direction, but if you're accepting payments and bookings online, it can help with managing time, providing a consistent customer experience, and automating processes to help you be more productive in less time with less staff.

4.   We rely on a lot of walk-ins and phone calls for business, so doing business online isn't really necessary. Opening your rental activity business for online bookings doesn't mean you're going to neglect walk-ins and phone reservations. But it does mean that these customers will have the option to book online and free up more of your time. The right online tools can also allow you to schedule calls and walk-ins with less confusion and more accurate visibility. You can also scoop up additional customers who prefer to transact online and not over the phone.

5.    I'm worried about the costs. The right activity rental booking and management platform can pay for itself many times over by allowing you to generate more business and minimize mistakes. It may cost more upfront, but it could save - and generate - more revenue in the long run.

6.   I'm worried about the credit card processing fees. Transaction processing fees are a very low percentage overall, but they can add up if you're not careful. If you haven't reviewed your prices lately, it might be a good time to consider adjusting for the costs of doing business online. Accepting credit cards has additional costs, but the benefits of a faster cash flow and a quicker booking process for your customers usually outweigh the fees.

7.   Our competition doesn't do it, so we don't need to bother. This is all the more reason for you to accept online booking and payments. If your competition isn't doing it and you are, that means you'll have all the online buyers, and they’ll only have traditional methods to rely on. Take it as an opportunity to beat the competition.

Picking the Right Online Booking System

There are three key ingredients to a successful system for your business.

1.    Make sure the platform you choose is industry-specific. Generic solutions usually have to be customized and can have large gaps in functionality that’s specific to your industry. This missing functionality can force you to change the way you do business and negatively impact the customer experience.

2.   Pick a technology partner that has lots of know-how. This will help you grow and avoid costly mistakes because your technology partner will have the experience from many different implementations and can provide lessons already learned - with the software and in your business.

3.   Choose a solution that addresses many challenges. The software you choose shouldn't just accept bookings online. It should also make your job easier by communicating with clients more efficiently, managing your activity schedule, and tracking analytics that will help you see where your customers are coming from. This way you'll learn what’s working and what isn't.

Doing business online is a lot easier than you think these days, and well worth the trouble. You can benefit greatly from investing in technology and new processes that increase your revenue and customer base. But even if you don’t completely overhaul your website, you should strongly consider implementing booking and payment options online.