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Online booking system vs. rental software: what are the differences?

5 min read

The purpose of software is to solve problems and support people in their everyday tasks. Thus, software should act as a tool simplifying life - not making it more complicated. For example, rental software aims to streamline the process of renting out equipment while enabling growth possibilities by providing seamless online sales capabilities. 

But as you might have noticed, the world is full of different software and digital solutions, promising to do everything with the sky being the limit, and coming in different price ranges. How should you know which solution would be enough or the most beneficial one for your rental shop?

Ultimately, the goal should be to serve the needs of your rental shop and work as a solution to any occurring problem. What might be perfect for one shop, might be a waste of money for another. To know that, you need to understand the differences between solutions often used by rental shops - online booking systems and complete rental software

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Online Booking System

Online booking systems are especially popular and oftentimes designed for service businesses that sell appointments or other time-bound services. In the travel and hospitality industry, companies selling tours are likely users of some sort of online booking system.

While being efficient in helping simplify and automate the booking process itself (getting customer details, updating booking information, and accepting payments), they often work as a solution for scheduling. An online booking platform may be a suitable solution in a lot of cases, however, it doesn’t necessarily apply well with, for example, an equipment rental business. This is mainly because these solutions and platforms aren't created with the rental industry in mind, and typically lack the other functionalities needed in the back office, particularly better support for inventory management of the rental equipment.

From the customer’s perspective, placing an order does not significantly differ between a booking solution and rental software. The only exception is that with rental software a shop might be able to offer a more detailed selection of equipment for the customer to choose from, as well as no additional need for inventory management software which is usually one of the features within the product.

Example: Ski Set vs. Ski set with Fischer RC4 Worldcup SC skis. See what we mean?

Booking solutions rarely have inventory management integrated, which leads to a lot of manual work related to scheduling online bookings and managing inventory. Because booking solutions are not connected with the in-store activities and resources, it creates a risk for double bookings and overall complicates the rental processes for the staff. 

Is an online booking system right for you?

Since online booking systems serve a surface-based purpose to a rental shop, it is easier to integrate into the business and easier to replace with another system if need be. A simple booking solution is often cheaper than comprehensive rental software.

For smaller shops with only a few items in the inventory, a booking solution might be sufficient. However, especially during high demand and rush hours, it leads to a bigger risk of having double bookings, leading to a poor customer experience.

For rental businesses, who use some sort of online booking system but don't need the features of comprehensive rental software, we have built Rentle Free. It is a free online rental store that has real-time inventory management features and online payment processing built into it. It is easy to implement to support your current operation and gets your products bookable online in minutes.

Rental Software

Rental software, on the other hand, works on a larger scale and serves multiple functions of a rental business. Let’s put it this way - rental software works from the core, having a booking system as one of the features, among others.

Because of the number of functions rental software has, the price tends to be higher compared to a more simple online booking system. Due to its complex nature, it also takes more effort (compared to an online booking system) to get integrated into the business. However, it's the software provider's job to ensure easy implementation

Rental software has features from which shops with bigger inventories especially benefit. Having the software integrated into the business, starting from the back-office and inventory, allows shops to have sales across all of their used channels tracked and scheduled automatically based on real-time stock availability. This helps out, especially during rush hours, and reduces the staff’s workload. Not to mention that the overall customer experience becomes more streamlined with the help of features like QR codes and so on.

Is rental software the right pick for your rental business?

The hardware has a more significant role with rental software. For example, to get the full advantage of barcode support or an integrated POS system, a shop needs to invest in barcode scanners and receipt printers. It is important to acknowledge the size of the required additional investments when making a purchase decision on software.

On the other hand, with a lot of software providers, including Twice, there's an option to process all online payments and deposits without having to worry about third-party payment gateways. Not only does it make your life easier, but it also offers all needed data and performance analytics all within one rental management platform.

While the rental software is more expensive and takes a longer time to pay back the price difference, usually the return on investment is bigger in the long-term with the achieved benefits. Apart from the technical benefits, it brings to a rental shop, the biggest effect it has is on the customers. However, based on our experiences, the benefits achieved with rental software are so major that the time it takes for the software to pay back the investment can be counted in months. 

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Takeaway: Which solution is better?

To be honest, we can't really answer that. Both solutions definitely have their pros and cons depending on the shop’s needs, budget, and so on. An online booking system takes care of one aspect of a rental business; it doesn’t bring any added value to other processes and customer service but is a cheaper and simpler solution. Meanwhile, rental software takes care of multiple functions on a more core level, making rental processes more efficient. 

All of the different functions help to create a more coherent customer experience by streamlining the back-office processes. This helps to avoid possible risks that come with e.g. rush hours and makes the rental experience more personalized - ultimately leading to an overall smoother customer experience. 

To sum this up, if you're planning to invest in software, make sure you're getting more than the actual product. It's never about how advanced the technology is, but rather how effortlessly problems are getting solved.

Other articles that might interest you: 

→ How to start and manage an online rental business.

Find out the most important inventory metrics every rental business should follow.

Our top 9 Zaps that help you automate your rental inventory management.


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    Article written by Eliisa L.

    The storyteller that spends her time in the studio, outdoors, or creating the best, most relevant content for rental shops.