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Pet Care Booking Software: Is your booking software helping you earn and retain clients?

by
Kerry Falk

Nearly all business services are now accessible via a web browser, pet care services included. Ensuring your presence meets expectations of a modern consumer is essential to running a healthy business, but improving it can mean the difference between moderate growth and exponential growth. What factors need to be considered to get an understanding for what is good, and what is not? What booking conversion rates should you shoot for, and what could be affecting low rates?

Pet Care Booking Software: Is your booking software helping you earn and retain clients?

Consumer business today, like pet care services, is vastly different from ten years ago thanks to advances in industry knowledge, regulation and technology. The pet care industry grew rapidly pre-pandemic, the segment of service providers that includes training, grooming, boarding, daycare sitting and walking shot into overdrive when it began as people brought home dogs while locked in their houses. As much as we’d like market analysis to be a hard science, the reality is that outside of data driven markets it’s a bit more art than science using a combination of proxies and some primary market research which should land us in a “directionally correct” zone.

Pet Care Services Industry Market Size

Globally non-veterinary pet care services (boarding, training, grooming, rehabilitation, etc.) of the industry represents 8% of the total pet industry market size (the largest segment, Pet Food & Treats, represents nearly 60%) according to the American Pet Products Association. In 2021 it was valued at US$9.5B, an increase of 14.6% from the year prior. For the foreseeable future, this segment is expected to grow at a compounding annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 5 and 9%. CAGRs of that level are not normally seen in industries of this size, usually seen in much smaller industries. Growth at this level of an industry this large will attract many new entrants into the space and possibly your local market.

That’s great, but what does it have to do with your business? You’re probably not competing globally but whether you run a dog training facility, an in-home trainer, a local dog daycare serving your community, a groomer pampering our furry friends, or a large franchise or enterprise with multiple locations, all must compete to earn and retain clients. There is no single metric that can be used to determine if you’re ultimately competitive and doing as well as you could be, but there are components which together provide insight into your overall performance. 

To borrow a term from internet business sales and marketing, Front-of-Funnel refers to the activities that you perform or interactions the client or prospect has with your business before they’re a lead or client. In a pet care service business, this can be thought of as pre-sales activities. Pre-sales activities in pet care may include conversations between you, your staff, and the client, but a large part of the decision making process on the client’s behalf is done before they make the call. In many cases, decisions are made entirely without contact. Therefore for your front-of-funnel or pre-sales process the two areas in which you have control and have the largest effect on your sales: your website and booking software.

These are the two components which your existing and prospective clients interact with before and during the sale. You may be the best trainer, the best daycare, or the best groomer in your city, even your country, but that will fail to be sustainable if your clients cannot easily access your services.

What effect is your booking software having on your sales? If you’ve spent the time and effort to have a website which reflects your business and brand, are your clients being stopped during the booking process by software that isn’t at the same standard? How would you know? The best way to measure how your booking software is contributing to, or harming, your business is your booking conversion rate.

What is a booking conversion rate?

Put simply, a booking conversion rate is the rate at which clients complete the booking process.   

Regardless of how the booking process begins or ends, in a given period if 100 prospective clients began the process and 10 clients finished, your booking conversion rate would be 10% for that period.

Why is this important for pet care businesses?

Most pet care businesses that we interact with are service based: dog training, dog daycare, dog grooming, dog walking, pet rehabilitation, etc. Modern consumers can self-register for almost any professional service and do so daily. Doctor and vet appointments, haircuts, massages, yoga classes, dinner with friends, even appointments to get passport photos taken. The reality is that the world has gone digital and all services are available via an online booking process.

Pet care software has not kept pace with advances in technology or the pace of growth in the industry. This affects the service providers negatively as it not only lowers conversion rates and sales, but also damages brand perception: if your client is able to easily book a yoga class, or a hotel stay, why can they not do the same for their furry companions? Clients will switch providers to one who offers a more convenient process.

What affects your conversion rate?

Assessing the quality of your conversion rate is not as straightforward as measuring your rate and determining if your rate is higher or lower than an expected rate. Ie. If the industry average is 30% and you’re at 50% you’re good to go! 

Not quite. Because there can be different ingress paths for clients into your booking software the intent and path of the prospective client must be considered. For example, you can expect different conversion rates if your portal is exposed to all clients and prospects and used exclusively as a sales tool (to purchase a package, or book an initial exploration call), or if your booking portal is exclusively behind a registration wall like a client portal. You can expect much lower rates for the former than the latter - this doesn’t mean that the latter process is better because of higher rates but the ingress path must be considered when attempting to compare the rates between software platforms. 

In the above example the higher conversion rates of a booking process locked behind a login is not better as it ignores the conversion rates of clients signing up to the portal itself. It would be important to use a combined rate of portal registrations and booking conversion rates to determine an overall conversion rate. Most statistics on registration walls are not applicable to pet care business as they’re mostly used within the publishing industry. So we’re unable to properly assess just how damaging a registration wall may be to your sales. With that said, let’s explore areas to consider which will affect your success.

  • Ingress Path: How is the client arriving at the first step in the booking path? Did they arrive from a marketing page on your website? A direct booking link via email? Or after logging into a client portal? Every additional step to accessing the booking process will drop clients resulting in artificially higher conversion rates.
  • Clarity / Number of Options: Experienced retail marketers know that reducing purchase options actually increases total sales. This is because consumers experience a type of anxiety due to too much cognitive overhead to decide what they want. This results in clients abandoning the decision and seeking a simpler option. 
  • Number of Steps: A step within a booking process would be each page that the client must progress through to complete the booking. These steps may include: Selecting a time, adding client information, adding pet information, selecting a trainer or location, selecting a payment method, registering for a client portal, etc. Each step causes clients to drop off and reduces overall conversion rates, some steps can cause a 20-50% drop. 
  • Too Many Inputs: Most pet care services require that the client provide information about their pet before they can be accepted within your facility. Keep in mind that every additional piece of information you require when a client creates a booking reduces their completion rates. In some cases a full 80% of clients will drop on the intake form if they see too many fields. This scale does not appear to be linear, it does appear to be tied to either specific information requests or increases exponentially with each additional field.
  • Payments: Requesting payment reduces conversion rates, and this may be the only positive reduction on this list. Requesting payment up front tends to increase client retention and sales. With clear selling prices listed, the reduction as a result of requesting payment is minimal.

What rates can be expected in pet care?

Now we have a good understanding for what booking conversion rates are, how they’re calculated, and what factors affect them, but what’s the average conversion rate for the industry and how can you tell if your booking software is performing?

Unfortunately our competitors don’t publish their average conversion rates. In its place, we’ll have to use a reasonable proxy to come up with an average that may be usable.  

eCommerce conversion rates are a well studied area of modern digital marketing and provide a reasonable proxy for other conversion rates (like purchasing a service). Conversion rates with industry segmentation are also available, according to UK based market analysts IRP Commerce the pet care industry has a peak conversion rate of about 1.47% in 2022. We have additional data from Dynamic Yield suggesting that conversion rates for Veterinary services land around 3.35%. We’ll split the difference and use an average conversion rate of 2.51% (weighted slightly towards veterinary services).

With all of this information we can estimate the average booking conversion rate in the pet care services industry using the following assumptions:

  1. The booking portal is publicly accessible to a prospective client and not locked behind a registration wall
  2. The percentage of clients that make their way from your landing page to the start of the booking process is 15%

The following formula will get us what we want to know:

(Overall Conversion Rate / % Entered Booking Process) * 100 = Booking Conversion Rate

2.51% / 15% = 16.73%

We can estimate these rates with different ingress rates to see what effect that may have as well:

2.51% / 20% = 12.73%

2.51% / 10% = 25.1%

It would not be unreasonable to expect that 15% of the visitors to a service provider will click through to view the services on offer and search available times. With that in mind, we’ll use 16.73% as the industry’s average booking conversion rate. 

We can use this to compare a dedicated pet care booking platform, like BusyPaws, to determine if our platform is performing for our clients. Across all BusyPaws clients with at least 100 invoices on record the average booking conversion rate is 28%. The lowest rate is 6%, the highest is 78%, the median is 20%. Therefore the majority of our clients are performing better than average.

How to improve your booking flow to convert more clients to paying customers.

Even if you’re presently at capacity, focusing on conversion rates can improve your business by reducing churn and increasing client retention (convenience is important for service providers). We have some suggestions for areas to focus on to improve this process for your clients, and your business:

  1. Remove registration walls from your booking process. In some cases these may be necessary (like daycare bookings where you cannot accept an unknown dog), but wherever possible, remove the need for the client to register an account before registering for a service. For daycares, this can be a meet-and-greet service that is not locked behind a registration wall.
  2. Reduce the number of options for your clients to select from - this is a case where less is more. We’d suggest keeping the options to less than 10. Also be concise with the service descriptions, it’s important for a client who is self-registering to be able to quickly parse the information to determine what is right for them.
  3. Collect information only vital to complete the booking process during the booking process - additional forms and information can be collected after the registration is complete.
  4. Reduce the number of steps and page turns required to complete the process. It might not be possible to achieve a 1 step/click registration for most services, but try to get as close as possible.
  5. Ensure that your overall process and user interface/experience is at modern standards. Most internet users are well versed in what a good user experience feels like - you may not directly compete with large software companies for business, but those experiences are now in the consumer’s consciousness and affect their perceptions of all other brands.

We see a bright future for pet care service businesses and we’re lending our hand in what we do best, building software for fellow humans, so that you can focus on what you do best, taking care of our furry friends. Use the tips above to take some of the mystery out of software and increase your booking conversion rates.

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