A Decade of Online Bookings and a look to the Future
Genesis (Not that one!): In the beginning
- The idea that would eventually become the thinkBooker system was born within the original development team (a number of whom still work on the product today), who had spent ten years working on booking solutions within the holiday travel industry.
2012: The First Steps into Online Booking Systems
- thinkBooker is developed as a project for sports-based learning provider, CMT Learning, delivering bespoke online booking software for selling spaces on the Manchester United Residential Soccer Schools.
- By generating a year on year increase of 100%, the system was a huge success, and the launchpad for its future development
2012 – 2013: The International Debut
- Continuing the successful work with CMT Learning, the thinkBooker system for the Manchester United residential camps was fully translated into Russian, marking its first full foray onto the international scene
- This was further enhanced with the development of a multi-lingual booking system designed and developed for UK-based residential camps, run for Italian giants Juventus by CMT Learning.
2014 -2015: Sports Booking Specialists
- On the back of the huge success with the football camps system, thinkBooker established a reputation within the sport sector for delivering course and camps booking systems that delivered exceptional time-savings through the growing admin tools in the back-end dashboard and increased uptake in online bookings.
- Launch of a new booking system for Fulham Football Club Community Trust, for school holiday football camps resulting in more than 90% of all bookings being taken online
- Launch of new booking system for England Sports Group (ESG), with the system taking more than £2m revenue via its booking system and back-end application.
2015-16: Improved Features for Greater User Experience
- Wraparound Care, a huge factor for parents who have work commitments, and an additional source of revenue for activities providers, was introduced as an extra feature
- Launch of a new booking system for members of the exclusive Aston Martin Owners Club (AMOC), allowing members to book onto social events, and enter their cars into the prestigious AMOC Concours
- Work begins on the first phase of a new staff scheduling system (Flex) with Retail Merchandising Services (RMS)
2016: Sports Bookings and Collaboration with an NFL Franchise
- Launch of a new booking system for NFL franchise, Jacksonville Jaguars, helping them to increase their UK fanbase and participation through coaching academies and tournament entries
- The success of the Jacksonville Jaguars programme led to extended features, including waiting lists for events.
2017 – New Booking Systems and Industry Recognition
- Building on the legacy of its events and sports booking systems, thinkBooker launch a new rugby camps booking system for the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), trebling return on investment in the first few weeks after Go Live
- A new booking system is developed to help improve customer experience and operational efficiency, and provide a new, effective solution for managing capacity in the executive lounge at Cardiff Airport
- The thinkBooker online booking system wins first prize in the Best Emerging Technology category at the WalesOnline Awards
2017 (Again): thinkBooker and the Retail Sector
- Working in collaboration with RMS, the Flex system is fully launched into the business, and continues to develop through a series of agile sprints.
- thinkBooker is commissioned by global luxury fashion giant, Farfetch, to deliver a booking and scheduling system for personal shopping services at iconic London boutique, Browns.
2018: More Booking Systems, More Sectors, More Awards
- Launch of a new room booking system and website for London Meeting Rooms (LMR), providing an online and multichannel booking journey that allows customers to search, book and pay for meeting rooms across central London, as well as adding extras such as catering and equipment to a single transaction. The system helped LMR achieve a 65% reduction in manual admin in the first year.
- Launch of a new website and booking system for Pro Shot Golf Club, combining a facility booking system with a new membership feature, allowing clients to book virtual golf bays as well as sign up as a club member.
- thinkBooker is appointed by the FAW Trust to develop a booking and facilities management system for football pitches and rooms at the Dragon Park training centre in South Wales.
- For the second year running, thinkBooker claims a prize at the WalesOnline Digital Awards, claiming top honours as Best Ecommerce System 2018.
- Cardiff Airport Executive Lounge is further developed to integrate with CRM solution thinkCRM, Holiday Extras and Frequent Flyer Schemes
2018 (Again): The Cloud and Compliance
- Continuing the development roadmap and feature enhancement, thinkBooker moves to Azure cloud, introducing high availability and massive scalability for business critical clients.
- thinkBooker also introduces a new GDPR tool to assist client requests for data anonymisation, portability, or erasure.
2019: Education and Innovation
- The advantages and versatility of the modern and ever-developing thinkBooker booking system lends itself naturally to the multi-faceted needs of the education sector. A new booking system and Learning Management System integration project was introduced to leading online independent school InterHigh, for their learning on demand services.
- 2019 was also the year that we took thinkBooker into the realm of Higher Education with development of an internal meeting room booking system for the staff at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
- The continued evolution of the Flex staff scheduling system with RMS continued, becoming an integral and marketing-leading software solution in retail merchandising. The system helped RMS dramatically improve resource efficiency by more than 40% and played a pivotal role in helping to retain and win contracts with major retailers. Flex was also short-listed for two prizes at the 2019 Retail Systems Awards. It also paved the way for a new, exciting chapter in the thinkBooker story.
Introducing Flex Systems
- Following the success of the Flex platform, RMS Chief Exec, Dan O’Toole, created the new company Flex Systems Ltd to acquire UpriseVSI and the thinkBooker system.
- Committing to an initial £1m investment, the foundations were laid to enable the redevelopment of thinkBooker and its underlying technology platform to enable a modern, future-proof and world-leading booking and resource management system.
2020: New Booking Systems and Growth Despite A Challenging Global Environment
- Like everyone else around the world, Flex Systems and the thinkBooker system felt the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a company that had already embraced flexible and remote working patterns and technology to support this way of working, operations were able to continue with minimal affect on the business. This meant we were in a position to not only support our existing clients but to welcome new clients onboard. This included the exciting new wedding event booking platform for US-based Happenings, as well as further establishing ourselves in Higher Education with a booking and course management system for the University of Northampton.
- In addition, and to maintain our legacy of working with leading sports and activity providers, we launched new booking websites for Active Day Camps and Premiership Rugby.
- As smaller businesses and retailers suddenly found a need to manage capacity and move to appointment-based service due to social distancing and COVID restrictions, the Flex development team launched SafeBook – a simple online booking and capacity management tool that users could sign-up to instantly.
2021: A New Booking Platform
- The latest version of the thinkBooker system is developed, applying the features and learnings of the past decade, while being built on world-leading technology. This provides the most stable, robust and future-proof environment possible and creates a platform that will continue to develop and add value to clients for many years to come.
- While in development we had the pleasure of signing new clients to become first users of the new platform, including a major training-awarding body (of which more to follow), a leading international training provider and Camp Beaumont, one of the UK’s foremost providers of children’s camps and holiday clubs.
- The first interation of the new thinkBooker platform was put live at the end of November, with a long and exciting roadmap of new developments, features and improvements scheduled throughout 2022 which will make thinkBooker the leading ecommerce booking engine for training and education organisations, and those entities looking to maximise bookings and minimise workload in the booking of people, places and things.
It’s been quite a journey over the past ten years. And while we’re proud of the legacy and the expertise we’ve accumulated over the decade, we now look ahead to new beginnings. A revamped platform designed to meet today’s challenges on a platform equipped for tomorrow’s. A system for an ecommerce savvy world, placing customer experience and operational efficiency at its core to enable our clients to work smarter and achieve long-term prosperity.
Note: this article has been updated from its original 2019 version.
From function-rich, tailor-made booking systems for courses, events, rooms or resources, to appointments, consultations or full blown staff and resource management, thinkBooker continues to evolve, working with our clients to continually provide solutions to the changing challenges faced, regardless of size or sector.
At thinkBooker, we specialise in online booking systems for training courses, classes, activities and events – optimised for efficiency, growth and ongoing client satisfaction.
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