Chargebacks are a safeguard for shoppers, and from that perspective they are good for eCommerce. They reassure shoppers that when they give their credit card details to a merchant or payment processor, their money will be returned if they aren’t satisfied. But chargebacks put strain on eCommerce retailers, who have occasionally been driven out of business by excessive chargebacks.
A chargeback is the forced return of money from the retailer’s account to the shopper. They can be initiated by the retailer to make a refund, but it is shopper-initiated chargebacks that are problematic for retailers. Many chargebacks are fraudulent, but I want to focus on reducing “genuine” chargebacks. Shoppers initiate chargebacks for several reasons:
They didn’t receive the goods they ordered.
They received the goods but they were defective or otherwise unsatisfactory.
Buyers remorse — they changed their mind about the purchase.
So-called “friendly fraud”, in which the shopper agreed to make a payment, but has forgotten about it or didn’t understand what they were agreeing to.
The immediate impact of a chargeback is the loss of a sale, and possibly of the goods that have been delivered. But that isn’t the most onerous impact of chargebacks: retailers have to pay a fee for every chargeback they didn’t initiate, so in addition to losing a sale, retailers lose revenue from other sales too.
The credit card industry expects chargeback rates to be less than one percent of total transactions. If an eCommerce business even approaches a one percent chargeback rate, the credit card providers may decline to accept payments, which can be devastating to the business.
It is in the interest of all eCommerce businesses to keep chargeback rates low.
Make it easy for customers to request a refund.
A chargeback should be the option of last resort. Customers are often happy to deal with the retailer directly if the process of requesting a refund is obvious and not too onerous — don’t make people wait on hold for hours, for example.
No one likes to lose a sale, but the shopper has the power here, and it is better to lose the sale and make a refund than to risk a chargeback.
Have a customer-friendly return policy.
Free returns are a financial drain on an eCommerce business too, but that may be a better option than suffering a chargeback. A customer who knows they will have to pay a large shipping fee to return an item may be tempted to use a chargeback instead.
Make sure shoppers can get in touch with you.
Provide a channel by which customers can get in touch and don’t make them wait for support. It is often possible to work out a satisfactory resolution to a dispute.
Describe goods accurately.
Chargebacks often occur because the goods the shopper receives are not what they expected. It is not possible to force customers to read copy and think about what they are buying, but clear product descriptions with images and video help to get the message across.
Make charges with a name customers recognize
One of the most common causes of chargebacks is shoppers failing to recognize the transaction on their credit card bill. This might be because the retailer makes the charge under a different name than the brand the shopper is familiar with, or that the shopper has forgotten making the purchase.
To reduce the likelihood of this type of friendly fraud chargeback, use a familiar brand name for charges or make it clear to the customer that the name will be different on their bill.
Chargebacks are an irritation to eCommerce retailers, and sometimes a disaster, but it is possible to keep chargebacks under control by giving shoppers clear alternatives and a way to get in touch.
Today’s buyer has access to an incredible amount of information. They are able to create a clear picture of the product they are looking to purchase by leveraging information from search engines, social media, and word of mouth.
This changing information landscape means that merchants now have to work harder than ever to make products and their attributes as accessible as possible to buyers.
Worried you’re not doing it right? Follow our four tips for optimizing a buyer’s journey and help guide your site visitors towards making a purchase and not clicking away.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
Before delving any deeper, it’s important to define what a Buyer’s Journey actually looks like.
A simple and commonly used representation of the buyer’s journey is the sales funnel. It’s useful as it embodies the three primary stages a buyer goes through.
Awareness – Aware of a need for something new
Consideration – Analyzing the different options available to them
Decision – Final purchasing decision (a conversion)
As buyer’s progress down the funnel, they get closer to making a purchase. Awareness of where a buyer is at, lends you the ability to target them with more relevant content. Gone are the days of blanket content marketing.
There are several ways to target those in your sales funnel effectively. We’ve collected four of the most effective.
1. Create Awesome Content
Great content does better in almost every single way. Not only will it rank better organically by being a ‘cut above the rest’, it will also attract more shares and reads. If done right, great content can also turn you into an authority or thought leader — capable of a greater degree of influence over customers’ buying decisions.
Conversely, publishing not-so-awesome content can have the opposite effect. 49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company decreased after reading poor quality content. Something you definitely want to avoid!
Where to Put Great Content?
Great content belongs in your blog
Great content tends to exist on your internal blog. Blogs are a great resource for improving search visibility and providing your customers with useful information. Many eCommerce stories use their blog to post company updates, but they have much greater potential when aligned with content marketing efforts.
There are a number of ways to present your blog but, at a minimum, creating several relevant categories to aid in navigation is important. Visitors need to be able to find your awesome content.
Guest posting can also be an incredibly effective method for increasing the number of customers that visit your site. Depending on the websites you are able to guest post on, this can help you to both rank authoritatively in search engine results and expand your influence.
2. Create an Awesome Experience
There are eCommerce stores that make the buyer’s journey confusing and difficult. Either the buyer can’t find the item they are looking for, or the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision is missing.
You don’t enter a shopping mall or supermarket and find a new set of obstacles every time you turn the corner. Stores and aisles are appropriately labeled and relevant merchandise is either placed at the storefront or along the aisle. Buying online should be no different. Buyers should be able to easily find a product by following the right signs.
Creating a great user experience undoubtedly deserves an article of its own, but for the purpose for brevity, three areas you should be paying attention to at all times are:
Optimize your eCommerce store for speed and performance easily. Learn how.
3. Help Buyer’s Find You
While creating awesome content, you should be targeting words and phrases surrounding that content. These are what are known as keywords. Keywords come in both long tail and short tail form. Short tail keywords target large, general terms. Long tail keywords target specific search phrases.
As an example, think of a buyer looking for a pair of men’s tennis shoes. A short tail keyword would be “Men’s tennis shoes”: it’s direct and to the point. A long tail keyword would be “best tennis shoes for men” or “best tennis shoes for men on astroturf”. Long tail keywords form the basis for content that draws customers towards your store while in the consideration stage of the funnel.
Finding Long Tails
An example Google Trends result
So where can you find long tail keywords? Google Trends is a great resource for getting started. Simply searching for products you are selling can reveal a list of terms buyers are searching for.
Once you’ve discovered trends, you can also try using SEO tools like MOZ or SEMRush. Inputting the trend phrases you identified previously will give you a list of specific keywords with information on difficulty, search volume, and more.
With this information, you can map out your content to match the different stages of your buyer’s journey and start to create a great content map.
Product (what are you selling)
Intent (What does the buyer want?)
Actionable (Will they buy?)
where to buy a bowler hat
men’s bowler hat
4. Reach Out Personally
Reaching out to consumers directly is a great way to increase conversions… if done right.
This year (2018), 89% of marketers said that email was their primary channel for lead generation, despite many feeling that their email marketing could do with improvement. The issue? Less than perfect open rates.
As a result, 54% of email marketers work to improve open rates, not reach. They do this by A/B testing content, finding what works, and removing what doesn’t. The results are not surprising. General, forceful emails are a good way to encourage unsubscribes or have customers report you as spam. Needless to say, they’re not so great for making sales.
Emails were thought to have more inherent value when they acknowledged the customer directly. 63% of Millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers were more likely to click through and share personal information with companies when the email mentioned them by name.
We’ve got four quick tips to help you get started with email personalization.
Mention the recipient directly:
Whether it’s in the subject of the email, the header, the body, or a mix of all three, mentioning the recipient by name is a surefire way to get started with personalization: “Dear John” always sounds better than “Dear Customer”.
Personalize email content:
Are all of your customers the same? If your answer is yes, you may need to engage in some persona research. Your audience should not be a single, homogenous body, but a series of smaller groups defined by mutual lifestyles and demographics.
Refer to their buyer’s journey:
Take this to the next level and send your customers emails that include products they added to their shopping cart and abandoned. More than 40% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 50% of which are clicked on. Of these, 50% make a purchase. That’s 10% of customers you send a cart abandonment email to that will make a purchase.
Use location and time:
Don’t send emails to international customers at 1 am. Use segmented lists to send emails when they’re most likely to be opened. This may take a little work to perfect, but finding the golden hour for email opens can make a big difference.
Host your email and website with the same provider. Find out more.
Optimizing the buyer’s journey is a tricky process because of how personal it can be. It’s highly unlikely your buyers are all the same, and it’s important to target each appropriately.
The tips above provide an easy way to identify those differences and the types of content that works best for each group. Don’t forget that it’s important to run A/B tests on each of the elements you enlist in your campaigns to find which works best and continue improving.
The biggest user-facing difference between WordPress’s current editor – the classic editor – and the new Gutenberg editor is the block interface. Gutenberg is a block-based editor. But what is a block? How are blocks different to the classic editor’s familiar editing interface? Why were blocks chosen instead of some other content editing abstraction?
WordPress users don’t often interact directly with a post’s HTML. It is possible to write content in HTML, wrapping it in the required tags, but it’s inconvenient for everyone and challenging for users who don’t know HTML. The classic editor is an abstraction from the HTML that makes it easier to write and publish content.
The user writes their post, adds images, and applies formatting. WordPress takes care of translating the representation the user sees into the HTML that it and browsers can work with, and back again for further editing. It’s surprisingly difficult to get this right — the organizations that build web browsers spend millions of dollars to hire the smartest developers to work on HTML parsing. There are many ways to cause issues when transitioning between representations.
That’s one of the reasons the text in the editor doesn’t always behave as you might expect it to. Occasionally, users are forced to edit the HTML directly because of formatting glitches, incorrect addition of white spacing, and other difficulties.
The classic editor is a leaky abstraction. Its job is to abstract away the complexities of the underlying HTML, but those complexities are not hidden as well as they might be. The editing experience is affected and constrained by the HTML representation.
The leakiness of the abstraction becomes even more apparent where shortcodes are concerned. Shortcodes are snippets of code that add functionality or content to the page, but they bear little relation to an ideal editing experience. They provide no clue about what they do. There is no obvious visual representation of their functionality.
Blocks Are a More Watertight Abstraction
The classic editor gives users the abstraction of a post, which has an occasionally uncertain relationship with the HTML that WordPress relies on. In Gutenberg, we have the block instead.
A block is a unit of content that provides an intuitive user experience. What the users see in the interface is everything that they should need to know about a block. There is no HTML lurking behind it to cause problems. Blocks encapsulate their functionality and its presentation, allowing users to focus on the content while WordPress takes care of the hidden complexity.
“The main point is to let the machines work at what they are good at, and optimize for the user and the document.”
In Gutenberg, everything is a block that lives in the framework of the post or page. There are simple rules for adding new blocks, moving blocks around in relation to each other, and configuring their behavior.
But that point isn’t while the user is interacting with them. While they are being edited, posts with blocks are kept in memory as a complex tree-like data structure containing content and configurations. When stored to disk, the data is serialized as the HTML that WordPress and plugins expect. There is a back-and-forth translation between the block data structure and HTML, but it is not something the WordPress user needs to think about.
There are trade-offs in any significant change, and some WordPress users regret that Gutenberg’s editing interface is several steps removed from the final HTML output, but for most WordPress users, Gutenberg is a long-awaited improvement.
Towards the end of last month, WooCommerce 3.5 was released with new features for users and developers. As a minor release, WooCommerce 3.5 is compatible with sites running WooCommerce 3.0 or greater. There should be no plugin or theme incompatibility problems, but it’s always better to test before upgrading your live site. Hostdedi Cloud users can take advantage of our dev site creation tool to instantly and securely deploy a testing site.
REST API v3
The WooCommerce REST API provides a powerful programmatic interface for controlling a WooCommerce site and accessing its data. The third iteration of the API is the major new feature of WooCommerce 3.5. It includes a host of new endpoints and expands the features of some existing endpoints. Among the new endpoints are those for creating, listing, and updating product reviews; refunding line items; and new report endpoints for getting order, product, customer, and review counts.
Minor Tweaks For Retailers
As usual, the WooCommerce team has provided a handful of improvements to the store owner experience. One of the most interesting is the addition of a low-stock threshold for individual products. It’s now possible to trigger a low-stock notification when stock levels go below a configurable threshold. Low-stock notifications were already possible with extensions, but it’s useful to have such an important feature built into WooCommerce itself.
WooCommerce’s transactional emails have been modernized. These emails are sent when users complete an action on a store, such as placing an order, or for other notifications. The copy was getting a little stale and has been brought up-to-date. Other improvements include the ability to export products by category using the CSV exporter.
Good News For Developers and WooCommerce Professionals
In a welcome move, WooCommerce has integrated the Action Scheduler library into WooCommerce core. As the name suggests, the library is used to schedule actions, such as subscription renewals, by many popular WooCommerce extensions. By including the library in WooCommerce, all developers can access a “robust, scalable background processing solution.”
The Custom Product Tables feature plugin is focused on improving database performance by using database tables that are specifically designed for eCommerce stores. The results are promising, with a 30% speed boost on page loads in testing. Once again, the feature plugin is being developed and should not be run on a production store.
It should be stressed that feature plugins are not ready for use on a production store. They are in the early stages of active development. But if you are interested in what developers are considering for the future of WooCommerce, it’s worth taking a look.
WordPress 5.0 has been released, and for many site owners, the question of whether it’s worth upgrading is towards the top of their list.
While we’re not going to force you to make a decision – our hosting solutions give you the option of when you want to upgrade your CMS – we are going to present you with some of the new features that come with WordPress 5.0.
WordPress 5.0 Is Gutenberg
WordPress releases often introduce significant changes and new features, but WordPress 5.0 outdoes past major version bumps in scope and impact. WordPress 5.0 is the Gutenberg release.
The Gutenberg editor has consumed the attention of the WordPress community since it was first mooted in 2016. It has been available as a feature plugin for almost two years. With the forthcoming release of WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg will be the default editor. When you update, your WordPress site’s editor will be very different, although you can go back to the classic editor if you choose.
Gutenberg is the focus of WordPress 5.0, but there are other noteworthy changes, including a new theme with Gutenberg support and the usual mix of small fixes and security patches.
What Does the New Gutenberg Editor Mean?
Gutenberg is a block-based editor. Blocks contain content such as paragraphs and images, and they replace shortcodes. Think of blocks as standalone units of content that can be moved around the page to create custom layouts. Writing in Gutenberg is nothing like writing in the classic editor: it’s more powerful, more flexible, and more intuitive. But it does take some getting used to.
Gutenberg is more than an evolution of the user interface. It has a profound impact on all areas of WordPress, particularly themes and plugins, which may need to be edited for compatibility. Many theme and plugin developers have made the necessary changes, but some have not. Before upgrading a production WordPress site or WooCommerce store to WordPress 5.0, run tests on a dev or staging site. Testing will bring to light theme and plugin compatibility problems and other regressions.
See how Hostdedi Dev Sites help you to quickly create development and staging environments for testing.
Gutenberg is the default editor in WordPress 5.0, but you are not required to use it. The Classic Editor replaces Gutenberg with the familiar editing experience.
You should plan to update even if you don’t want to use Gutenberg. It’s not necessary to update immediately. WordPress 4.9 will be supported for some time to come, but Gutenberg is here to stay and declining to update to avoid Gutenberg is not a viable long-term strategy. If you don’t want to use Gutenberg, it is best to update and then install the Classic Editor plugin.
If you want to download Twenty Nineteen for implementing changes on a local environment, you can grab a development version for testing from the project’s GitHub repository.
What Else Is New?
In addition to Gutenberg, WordPress 5.0 will come packed with several other new features. Here are some highlights.
Improvements to the WordPress Rest API. The rest API is designed to make a developers life easier by optimizing the ability to send and pull data from a WordPress site. 5.0 will make this even easier.
Custom Theme Development. In addition to the Twenty Nineteen theme, there will be a huge number of other themes available, and the ability for developers to make new ones will become even easier. Blocks will make theme development much more intuitive and not require a development background.
Improved Responsive Design. Yes, it’s been a concern for many for a long time, but WordPress 5.0 and the Gutenberg editor’s row and column feature will make responsive design better.
Start a high-performance, high-reliability WordPress site with Hostdedi. Now with 75% OFF.
Will WordPress 5.0 Affect My Current Site?
There have been reports of WordPress 5.0 installs breaking some websites. This is either due to an incompatibility with themes or plugins.
Several developers have been hard at work trying to update their themes and plugins, and the coming months with continue to see an increase in compatibility. Thanks to Automattic releasing 5.0 in advance, many of the most popular plugins and themes are already compatible with the new iteration.
If you’re unsure if your website will be compatible, we highly recommend spinning up a dev environment and testing the new version before going live.
The Future of Gutenberg
At this year’s WordCamp US – the largest meeting of the WordPress Community – Matt Mullenweg talked about the future of WordPress and where it would be going. This includes 4 stages. Stage 1 was the release of 5.0.
Stage 2 – Focus on theme and plugin customization.
Stage 3 – Focus on creating a collaboration workspace.
Stage 4 – Focus on official support for multilingual sites.
In addition to these phases, the team behind WordPress have also talked about aiming for two updates every month. This should mean a series of minor updates along the way to add functionality and improve any issues users find.
Are You Ready for WordPress 5.0?
Despite worry from the community, 5.0 expands on the functionality of WordPress and helps to bring a lot of advanced features to more people. We’re looking forward to seeing WordPress continue to develop.
If you would like to get started with WordPress Gutenberg, you can follow our guide to Gutenberg to learn about the new block editorand how to create content experiences your audience will love.
Storing Git’s repository directory – the .git directory – in a publicly accessible area of a website may expose sensitive information that bad actors can use to steal data or compromise the site.
Git is a version control system and a major part of many development workflows. WordPress and Magento developers use Git to version control code and to collaborate on its development. Git itself is secure, but developers can cause security issues if they aren’t careful where version controlled code is stored.
In a recent survey of many millions of domains, security researcher Vladimír Smitka shows just how prevalent this misuse of Git is. After scanning more than 230 million domains, Smitka discovered 40,000 WordPress sites, 4,000 WooCommerce sites, and 2,000 with exposed .git directories.
Why Are Exposed Git Directories Bad For Security?
The .git folder contains records of every change made to a site’s code. That information is useful to bad actors looking for clues about vulnerabilities in the site. Information about how code is structured, which libraries are used and their versions, API endpoints, and other details about the site can be used by bad actors to develop a plan of attack. Ordinarily, this information is difficult to find, but an exposed .git repo makes life much easier for bad actors.
This situation is made worse if developers version control sensitive information such as database passwords and API keys. Sensitive data should never be stored in version control systems that are accessible to the public – in fact, they should not be stored in version control at all. Unfortunately, many developers do store sensitive information in Git repositories. If they also have .git in their web server’s public directory, the whole world can access them.
Does Your Site Serve A Git Repository To Visitors?
As Smitka points out, the straightforward method for finding a .git repository often doesn’t work. If a developer tries to visit https://example.com/.git they may receive a 403 error even if there is an exposed repository. The error is caused by a missing index.html file and configuration that denies directory listing.
However, a bad actor could visit https://example.com/.git/HEAD and, with a little trouble, access the sensitive information they want.
Mitigating The Problem
The best solution is the simplest. Don’t put sensitive data in Git repositories. Don’t keep .git in directories that are served by your web server. If you have decided that you need to keep version control information in a directory that would by default be publicly accessible, you can block access with a rule in the site’s .htaccess file.
There are various ways to block access to the .git directory, but Smitka has created a simple .htaccess rule that works well for Apache 2.4:
<Directory ~ "/.(?!well-known/)">Require all denied</Directory>
If you have followed the advice outlined in the previous articles in this series on cloud migration, you are well-prepared to migrate your site to cloud hosting. The information you need has been gathered and is easily accessible. You have informed those who will be affected by the migration. You have chosen a cloud platform and selected an appropriate cloud instance. Now it’s time to put your cloud migration plan into action.
Preparing for the Migration
In the days before the site is to be migrated, it is a good idea to establish a performance and functionality baseline that can be used as a point of comparison after the migration.
Use a web crawling tool to check for broken links (404 errors) and other crawl issues on your site. You could use an application-specific tool such as WordPress’ Broken Link Checker or a specialist tool such as Screaming Frog. It’s a good idea to fix crawl and link issues before migrating so you can tell if the migration itself caused any problems.
Gather a list of redirects implemented on the current site via its .htaccess file or within the application itself. These may need to be checked after migration.
Stepping Through a Cloud Migration
The migration process may be slightly different, depending on the application that is being migrated, but the basic process looks like this:
Create an appropriate cloud hosting instance on the new platform.
Install the application on the cloud hosting account. You can choose to have the application installed as part of the set-up process on the Hostdedi Cloud.
Copy the site’s files and database from the current site to the application running on the cloud platform.
Edit DNS records so that they point to the IP address of the cloud platform.
Hostdedi Cloud instances capable of supporting up to 75 concurrent users can be deployed in minutes. Larger dedicated cloud instances will take up to three hours to deploy, so you may want to set-up your cloud instance in advance of migration day.
Test The New Site Before Changing DNS Records
You should ensure that the cloud migration is successful before changing DNS records or the site’s authoritative domain name servers. Carry out the same performance, crawl, and redirection testing as before. There should be no significant regressions.
You may notice worse performance on the new site during initial testing because its caches have not been warmed. This is nothing to worry about, and performance will improve as the caches are filled. On a live site, much of the data is served from caches or a CDN. The newly installed site is generating pages from scratch.
After Migration to the Cloud
Once the cloud migration is complete, you may have to wait up to 24 hours before visitors are reliably directed to the site running on the new platform.
DNS records take time to propagate through the global DNS system. It is likely to take less than 24 hours, but it is best to wait a few hours at least for propagation to complete before concluding that there is a problem.
Once DNS records have propagated, the new site is live. Over the next several days keep a close eye on performance, search traffic referrals, and other site metrics. Once you are confident that the cloud migration was successful, you are safe to delete the site from its original hosting platform and close your account with the provider.
In the next and final article, we summarize the information from this series into a handy cloud migration checklist that you can use to track migration planning, implementation, and testing.
Partners have long been a staple in the Hostdedi ecosystem, and a crucial player in our mission to bring the promise of hosting technology to online businesses. But until recently, something was missing.
Today, we’re introducing a new partner level designed to bridge the space between our existing levels of Agency and Affiliate. We’re calling this the Referral Partner.
The Referral Partner level offers $200.00 for every cloud hosting referral and an initial deposit of $100.00 just for signing up.
Introducing the Referral Partner
Every year, we strive to provide a better hosting solution to as many online businesses as possible.
We realized that a middle-tier partner level was an important addition when multiple agencies and freelancers inquired about partnering at events but didn’t feel our current partner programs were the right fit for them.
We immediately set to work creating a competitive mid-level tier for those that felt left out. We settled on a program that featured a mix of value, features, and simplicity.
Spearheading the partner initiative was Jerry Eadeh, who stated that:
“We analyzed various affiliate and partner programs belonging to many service providers similar to Hostdedi. We found many of the programs fell short of developing a simple program that didn’t include complex stipulations and exclusionary circumstances.
It was important to us to develop a competitive program that both rewards agencies for their referral activity and focuses on creating great relationships. We’re seeking agencies invested in building a collaborative partnership for us to align our efforts from support through to site maintenance and live launch deployment.”
A Renewed Commitment to Startup Agencies
Hosting is an essential foundation for any new website, but it’s often the last item to be discussed with a client.
The Referral Partner level comes with a renewed commitment to supporting startup agencies and freelancers looking to provide clients with a better hosting solution.
Joining the Hostdedi partner program means more than just earning a commision. We make conversations regarding hosting simple, with optimized environments, secure infrastructure, and 24/7/365 U.S. based support being only some of the benefits our partners and their clients enjoy.
How Can You Become a Referral Partner?
Becoming a Referral Partner is simple. You can contact our staff for more information about the Referral Partner program by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s time for our monthly roundup! If you’re looking for the same great articles the rest of the year, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Enjoy and let us know if we missed anything important in the comment section. WordPress and WooCommerce WordPress SEO: A Practical (and EASY) Guide – Even if you’re a…
Managing appointments is one of the biggest overheads for service-oriented small businesses. Businesses that handle appointments manually often hire one or more employees to book appointments, schedule staff, make reminder calls, and a host of other administrative tasks that go along with scheduling a busy office.
The personal touch is important, but managing appointments the old-fashioned way is expensive and inefficient. It’s also prone to errors, with double-bookings and missed sessions a common occurrence for many businesses. Forward-looking businesses automate the appointment booking process, reducing costs and errors.
The ideal appointment booking service is almost entirely automated. A client decides to make an appointment and visits the business’s website. They’re presented with a calendar that includes available appointment slots. They choose the slot that is most appropriate for them, and perhaps enter payment details. The system adds the appointment to the professional’s calendar, sends a confirmation to the client, and also sends one or more reminders on the day of the appointment.
WordPress is capable of doing all of this, in addition to being an excellent content management system on which to build a small-business lead generation site.
The Ideal Appointment Booking System
There is a basic set a functionality that all customer-facing scheduling systems should provide.
An intuitive calendar interface that clients can use to choose an appointment date and time. It should be easy to use and not expect too much technical ability from clients.
Multiple calendars for managing appointments for several professionals and for different appointment types.
Integration with other calendaring services: professionals may prefer to use their mobile device’s native calendar or a cloud calendar such as Google Calendar.
Because WordPress is such a popular business content management system, there are many appointment scheduling plugins to choose from. We’ll have a look at two of the most popular: BirchPress Scheduler and Appointment Calendar.
BirchPress Scheduler is a premium appointment booking plugin that ticks all the boxes. It provides an easy-to-use customizable booking form that can be embedded in any WordPress post or page, and configurable email notifications and reminders. BirchPress can also be used to take credit card payments with PayPal or other payment gateways via WooCommerce integrations.
For newer businesses without the budget to pay for BirchPress, Appointment Calendar is a viable alternative with a free option that would suit most small businesses. Appointment Calendar provides a mobile-friendly booking calendar with email notifications. The premium version of the plugin adds many more features, including unlimited staff and services, Google Calendar sync, email reminders, and payment gateway integration.
Neither of the plugins we have looked at includes native SMS integration, but if you would like to send SMS notifications to clients, the WP Twilio Core plugin provides text messaging functionality via the popular Twilio platform.