Online Booking Pages – Soft Launch

Two weeks ago we soft launched our new online booking pages.  Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been adding back features, tweaking the layout, fixing bugs, etc.   The new design and code represent a massive step forward as the booking process is MUCH simpler, deploys a MUCH better user interface and works spectacular on all mobile devices. We are already seeing a 20-30% increase in online bookings since the new pages launched.

The booking page is a five step process:

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The form alerts guests if any fields have been missed and also features some handy formatting components which make it super easy to enter phone numbers, credit card data, etc..

Step 4 of the current booking process displays your cancellation and deposit policies, as well as additional information about the damage protection products (if offered).    This will be replaced very soon by a mobile friendly version of your rental agreement.  Guests will easily be able to read and (for users of the digital signature module) sign the guest rental agreement BEFORE completing the booking.

In the current implementation the rental agreement is displayed after the booking is complete.  As mentioned above, soon the rental agreement will be moved within the the booking page itself.   The old digital signing process was not mobile friendly so we weren’t comfortable inserting it into the booking page.  The new process will be mobile friendly and should not impede the online booking in anyway.

Once the booking is complete, guests are taken to a post purchase page where the guest can view additional next steps instructions, as well as be given the (optional)  opportunity to purchase travel insurance.

2016-08-19_10-02-52The text at the top can be set within Lodgix at settings > online booking text.

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And finally a guest invoice number is displayed,  as well as PM contact information and offer a print friendly icon for the guest to print the booking request for their records.

Customization Options

Within settings > online booking theme, within Lodgix,  there is a new box for the more advanced users to enter CSS to customize the look and feel of the page.  While this option offers much more flexibility than our previous booking pages, we will be rolling out more options in the coming weeks which will allow the use of company logos, the choice of several premade templates, etc..

The objective is to give the user the ability to match the look and feel of their booking pages to that of their website. Previously this was not possible.

 

New Subscriber Booking Request Email is Live!

Every time an online booking request is made an email is sent to the Lodgix subscriber with information about the guest, property that was booked, etc. That email has not been updated since Lodgix originally launched in 2008. Today we replaced that email with a new design that will display much better on mobile devices. Additionally the new email contains some additional icons which will showcase the source of the reservation (VRBO, Booking.com, etc.) as well as the payment method used.

The email template is not currently editable. However we are hoping to change that in a future release!

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First Invoice Created on Quickbooks Online from a Lodgix Invoice!

It’s official, we’ve sync’d an invoice from Lodgix to Quickbooks Online!

In our development efforts to far we’ve been able to sync:

  • Guests
  • Invoice rental charges
  • Invoice fees
  • Invoice taxes
  • Invoice discounts
  • Invoice payment methods

We are now working on isolating problems in the guest sync process as it tends to take a considerable amount of time and is prone to failure, forcing it to restart again.  Those problems appear to be solvable but will require some time to sort out.

We still have interfaces and guest payments to code, as well as a lot of testing, and then we need to get the app approved within the Intuit marketplace which can take 2 to 6 weeks.  And all of this is for QuickBooks online only.

The good news is that QuickBooks desktop, in theory, should only require some relatively simple tweaks to get it to work.  Our primary concern for QuickBooks desktop is getting it to work consistently using Intuit’s tools, which are not the most stable software components.

Here is a JPG of our first official invoice sync’d to QBOE.

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WordPress Rentals Search Widget Updated with Amenities Filter!

Within WordPress, under Appearance > Widgets, you will find the Rentals Search widget. This is a simple, but powerful tool for vacation rental managers and owners with larger number of properties who want to make it easier for their website guests to search their inventory.

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One of the coolest features of this widget is that it filters in real-time to display the number of properties that match your search criteria. Too many systems force the guest to choose a series of search criteria and then click a “search” button, only to return a message, “I am sorry no results matched your search criteria, please try again!”. How frustrating is that!!!

With Lodgix we return the results on the fly.  Thus if zero results are returned you’ll know immediately which criteria caused the results to equal zero and allow you to make an adjustment.

Note: The Location field can be setup under the area manager within Lodgix.

Amenities Filter – New Feature 5/15/2013

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The rental search widget within the Lodgix.com WordPress plugin can now filter by amenities! To enable the amenities filter:

  1. Within WordPress go to Appearance > Widgets
  2. Find the Rentals Search widget and there will be a check box for “Amenities”
  3. Check the box and click the Save button.
  4. Go to Settings > Lodgix settings within WordPress and at the bottom of the page, click on the button Save and Regenerate the pages (this will force the widget to pull the chosen amenity filters from Lodgix).

How do I select which amenities the guests can select to filter their search results?

Lodgix will pull the same amenities you have setup for the internal calendar tape. Read through the support article on how to configure the calendar tape filter options and you’ll be all set!

Notes from Development

The rentals search widget uses AJAX and a REST API. Any designer with minimum jQuery knowledge can query the API and receive the same results with a URL like:

/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=p_lodgix_custom_search&area=ALL_AREAS&bedrooms=1&id=&arrival=2013-02-22&nights=1

This will return 1 Property Found, etc. With that knowledge designer can use any code to query the API and redirect to the search page.

Vacation Rental Inquiry ROI Reporting

There are two inquiries reports:

  1. The Daily Inquiries Report shows daily inquiries received by source. This report can be run to show which lead sources are generating the most inquiries over a given period of time.
  2. The Monthly Inquiries and ROI Report can only be run for a calendar year. If the current year is chosen, data will be displayed YTD. In addition to inquiries received, this report shows the number of bookings that occurred as a result of the inquiries and calculates a cost per inquiry, as well as a cost per booking.

Samples of both reports are shown below.

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Reports > Inquiries > Daily Inquiries Report

Sample Daily Inquiries Report

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  1. Choose a present or custom date range and RUN the report
  2. Export to PDF or Excel

Sample Monthly Inquiries and ROI Report

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The Monthly Inquiries and ROI Report can only be run for a calendar year. If the current year is chosen, data will be displayed YTD. In addition to inquiries received, this report shows the number of bookings that occurred as a result of the inquiries and calculates a cost per inquiry, as well as a cost per booking. A property filter can be applied to show results per property.

A monthly tally of inquiries received is displayed at the bottom of the report.

Read on to learn more about how to enter the annual cost per inquiry source.

Entering the Annual Cost per Inquiry Source

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Lodgix allows you to enter the ANNUAL cost for an inquiry source. It is up to you to provide an annualized number. For example, if your annual VRBO listing expires in May and upon renewal you discover that they raised their prices again for the upcoming year, you’ll need to prorate the costs of each listing period and enter that annualized number into Lodgix for the current year. YOU MUST ENTER COST DATA EACH YEAR to generate reports that accurately calculate vacation rental listing ROI.

Likewise if you are paying per inquiry, there is an option to enter the per inquiry fee. If your per inquiry costs go up in the middle of the year, you’ll want to compute the average per inquiry cost for that year and enter it into Lodgix.