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24 April 2018 / by gareth hill

Off-the-Shelf or Bespoke Booking System – Can’t I have a bit of both?

Generally speaking, when looking for a new online booking system, organisations will typically be left with an option of choosing ‘off-the-shelf’ or bespoke software. The question usually being: which one is best for us?

While there are reasons for choosing either option, the reality is that, often, neither route is wholly ideal from the client perspective.

So, is there another way?

Well, yes as a matter of fact there is.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at the off-the-shelf and bespoke booking solutions, and the ways in which they can both be a benefit and a drawback to your ideal booking system.

The bespoke booking system we designed for Cardiff Airport.

The Off-the-Shelf Offering

When we refer to off-the-shelf (otherwise referred to as ‘out-of-the-box’ or packaged software), we are essentially talking about software that has been productised and sold as a one-size-fits-all solution on a mass scale.

There are certainly plenty of booking systems on the market that fit into this category, many of which will offer good features that can be used effectively by a business. Not to mention the fact that they will be quick to get installed and up and running.

Furthermore, an off-the-shelf solution provides you with a degree of assurance that you are getting a system that is tried, tested, and developed (probably through a number iterations) to meet general market needs.

However, these systems can often have limitations when implemented:  

  1. Inflexible – With an off-the-shelf solution, what you see is what you get. The functions are baked into the system with little to no scope to amend in accordance with personal business needs.
  2. Not built for your business – Now, there are many off-the-shelf booking systems that have been built for specific industry sectors. As a result, they will meet the typical requirements of that industry. Nevertheless, the system was not built personally for your business, meaning that it may not have the capability to manage particular nuances that you have.
  3. Universal Changes – Businesses evolve and the needs of a booking system, or any other software, for that matter, can change. With a fully off-the-shelf system you’re more than likely going to have limits to the amount of changes you can make, if at all, without investing in a different and more expensive version. The classic: pay for the basic, but upgrade to Pro version, scenario.

Unlike off-the-shelf software, a bespoke booking system will be tailored-made, built to your exact specification.

A Bespoke Booking System

Of course, going down the bespoke route means you are starting with a blank canvas.

This means that you have the opportunity to scope out all the needs and requirements that you want from the system so that it’s designed in a uniquely personalised way for you.

The obvious benefit to this option is that you are building a booking system entirely designed to work for your business, and your business alone. Which can potentially give you the edge over the competition.

Note the word: potentially.

As with the off-the-shelf offering, a bespoke booking system can have its limitations as well.

  1. Cost – If you are designing a bespoke booking system from scratch, then be prepared for a costly project. And, given that this is a new concept, who knows what developmental hurdles you might have to face; with each delay, round of testing and issue resolutions adding to the costs
  2. Time – A new system designed from the bottom up is going to take time. There will be an amount of time spent researching and learning about the system, its requirements and the experience it will need to deliver for both client and staff. In addition, when starting on a bespoke development from scratch, there are often a number of unknowns which can slow and delay the project, making the end ‘Go Live’ date hard to call. Worst-case scenario? That the project lingers on and on until everyone has lost the will to see it through.
  3. Lack of industry knowledge – A bespoke booking system needs to tick very particular boxes, given that it will be a system that has paramount importance in the business. While your developer will likely possess the technical skills, do they have the industry know-how, based on past case studies and experience, to create a booking journey that’s seamless for the client and provides the business tools for your back-office efficiency?

The Best of Both Worlds

While there’s clearly pros and cons to both options, the reality is that many businesses have requirements that fall between both.

Businesses, quite understandably, want a system that offers the best fit for their operations, and their budget.

They also want to work with a provider who understands booking systems, has a track record in delivering them, proven solutions (in the form of case studies), and someone who is not starting the process from scratch.

The thinkBooker solution, for instance, offers a best of both worlds hybrid of bespoke and off-the-shelf booking software.

An established booking solution, thinkBooker has a wide and ever-expanding core range of functionality within its code base, based on the development of different solutions for different business needs over the years.

However, unlike full ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions, each new project is built upon its own code-base, a copy of the original. This provides us the ability to then tailor the system to meet the requirements of that specific organisation.

An off-the-shelf set of functions, built by booking system experts, providing the platform to deliver bespoke solutions, perfectly attuned to the business needs of your organisation, without having to go back to the drawing board each and every time.

At thinkBooker, we specialise in online booking systems for training courses, classes, activities and events - optimised for efficiency, growth and ongoing client satisfaction.

Browse the site to learn more about course booking systems, sports booking systems, event booking systems and more, or get in touch directly to find out how we can help you.

Read more insight into recommended features for your booking system here:

Introducing Flex Systems and New Investment for thinkBooker
How to Create an Online Booking System for Your Business
The thinkBooker Guide to Choosing Your Next Booking System
7 Things Online Booking System Should Offer

5 Steps to a Better Booking System

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