The yoga industry is booming. The Yoga Journal reports that about 38 million people in America practice yoga. This is almost double from the 20 million people in the USA who practiced in 2012. The yoga industry is now worth $16 billion in the U.S. and over $80 billion worldwide.
Eventbrite says that the average yoga participant will spend over $62,000 during their lifetime on accessories, classes, and yoga workshops. Most spend about $90 per month and practice often, at least two to three times per week. Many are willing to spend $40 to $100 on a single, memorable yoga experience with a popular teacher.
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What is the Acuity Scheduling software?
Acuity Scheduling software is a software as a service SaaS monthly subscription offering that is free for a very basic version that works for a solo practitioner, $15 per month for one yoga studio location and one teacher, $25 per month for up to six calendars (teaching staff or locations), and $50 per month for up to 36 calendars for staff/locations.
This software organizes the business schedule, controls each practitioner’s availability, lets clients book appointments online, uses an online intake form to gather all the client information needed from a new customer, and accepts payments by bank cards via Stripe, Square, and PayPal.
Which small business industries is this software geared toward?
This software works well for any small business that depends on revenues from scheduling clients, such as a yoga studio, massage center, spa, cooking school, dance studio, art classes, self-improvement counseling, and personal trainer/coaching, or other consulting business.
What’s involved with setting it up?
The basic setup is very easy by simply following eight steps. Then, there are customizations possible for the scheduling page, the email settings, and the intake form. A guide, which is specifically targeted towards using the software for managing a yoga studio, describes all the steps and options.
Here are the eight steps for the basic set up:
- Getting Started: Choose the days you want the system to be available to accept appointments, choose the days/times you are available for appointments, choose the calendar systems that you are currently using, select whether you want to take online payments, and set the time zone of your clients.
- Availability: Set scheduling limits, or use the system defaults, for the minimum time before an available appointment that is allowed for scheduling and the advance time required for cancelations. Set the hours available for different appointment types according to each practitioner’s calendar.
- Services: Create your appointment types by adding the types of services and the types of group classes. You can set the amount of time and the price charged for each service and class.
- Group Classes: Set up a class offering by giving it a name, a description, and an optional photo. Chose the time for the class, any time blocked off after the class, and the price to attend the class. Choose the number of students that are allowed to register for each class, whether students must attend all classes in a series, and the schedule when the group class is offered.
- Appointment Types: Add all other appointment types of services and classes that are scheduled.
- Calendar: Review your calendar schedule. Adjust as necessary.
- Payments: Choose whether to accept online payments and the methods that are acceptable from Stripe, Square, and PayPal.
- Calendar Sync: Choose if you want the Acuity Scheduling system to synchronize with Google Calendar, Outlook (Office 365, Exchange, or Outlook.com), iCloud, or 1-way Subscription.
That’s it! The setup is very easy and straightforward. The interface is intuitive and the instructions are clear. After you set up yourself, you can add any additional users.
Then, you get to decide whether you want to use the embed scheduler on your pre-existing website and make any possible customizations as desired.
The scheduling page, email reminders, and the intake form can be customized.
Here are the customization choices:
- Scheduling Page: Choose the appearance settings for the scheduling page (advanced CSS adjustments are also accessible for those who know how to use CSS). Choose a monthly view or a daily view. Add your logo image (optional). Add any instructions you want to show to clients before they make an appointment. Choose the day of the week that the calendar starts, the time format, the time zone, and the language (supports English, German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese).
- Email Settings: Choose the email settings for the initial confirmation, reminders, cancelation, re-scheduling, follow-ups, package/gift certificate order, subscription paid, and subscription canceled. Choose the email notifications of appointments and the emails of the agenda summary for the practitioners. Add new custom email templates as desired.
- Intake Form: Customize the intake form by adding questions as text in text boxes, with a drop-down list for choices, adding a checkbox, adding a checkbox list, offering a yes/no choice, offering a file upload, and requesting a mailing address. The system automatically asks for a name, phone number, and email address.
- Embed Scheduler (optional): This feature allows you to use a customized, embedded version of the Acuity scheduler in your pre-existing website to create embedded links that connect your website to the Acuity Scheduling system. You can use direct links, create a booking button, a booking bar, or create links for use on Instagram. Here is an example of a simple embedded version of how it might look on a webpage on your pre-existing website, without much customization work done on its appearance.
The Acuity Scheduling system is designed to display properly on any device or screen size using responsive website technology. It is very easy for clients to book appointments using mobile devices or smartphones.
The system sends out automated emails and text messages as reminders for appointments and follow-ups.
The marketing features of this system include offering discounts through automatic emails and being able to use direct links for appointment scheduling on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The free version is virtually useless and the Google Calendar works better. All paid plans, starting with the Emerging Entrepreneur level at $15 per month, include these features:
- The ability to embed the scheduler into a pre-existing website.
- Offering individual sessions, classes, workshops, and group events.
- Automatic emails for initial appointments (sent to both clients and practitioners).
- Automatic email reminders (sent to clients).
- Synchronization with Google, iCloud, Outlook.com, Exchange, and Office 365 calendar systems.
- Integration with GoToMeeting, Join.me, and Zoom online meeting systems.
- Integration with QuickBooks, Freshbooks, and Xero accounting systems.
- Integration with AWeber, Constant Contact, ConvertKit, MadMimi, and MailChimp for bulk emails.
- Integration with Pipedrive for sales and customer resource management (CRM).
- Integrations with more than 500 applications through Zapier.
- The ability to accept payments through PayPal, Square, or Stripe.
- Store credit card information for subsequent client billing.
- The ability to accept tips for sessions/classes.
- The ability to offer coupons and discount vouchers for redemption.
- The ability to offer items for an up-sale at check out.
- Comprehensive reporting about scheduled appointments, performance, and no-shows.
For the Growing Business level at the cost of $25 per month, this adds text messaging, the ability to offer subscriptions/memberships for reoccurring revenue, and the ability to sell appointment packages and gift certificates.
For the highest level called the Powerhouse Player, at $50 per month, this also adds custom APIs and CSS, the ability to hide the “Powered by Acuity “ promotional link, and this level is HIPAA compliant (BAA) for working with protected healthcare information.
- Design: The graphical user interface (GUI) design is attractive.
- Customization: The customization possibilities are exceptional, especially for a user familiar with APIs and CSS.
- Functionality: For scheduling functions; it does this job very well.
- Integrations: Works with many of the popular SaaS offerings such as QuickBooks, MailChimp, and through Zapier connects to over 500 other systems easily.
- Lack of Comprehensive Scheduling: One missing feature is the need to have workers who are scheduled for things that are not billed to clients, such as admin, maintenance, etc. These workers and their schedules need to be maintained as well but would not need to appear on a schedule that can be seen by clients.
- Price: For what this software does, it costs too much. To have text messaging, which is vital, it costs a minimum of $25 per month. To have the full features for APIs and CSS customization costs $50 per month. There are many competitors that have a scheduling system included in their small business management software, which is already fully integrated with accounting functions, point-of-sale systems, and more. Paying for additional integrated services adds to the expense of using this software in a comprehensive way to fully manage a small business.
One place where this software excels is its integrations with other popular software and systems. The cost estimations I used are as of January 2020. Here are some integrations that are possible:
- API: An application programming interface (API) is a software protocol that allows one software system to communicate with another one. At the highest level of service called the Powerhouse Player, at $50 per month, there is the ability to use custom APIs. This would allow the Acuity Scheduling software to communicate with any other software that can work with an API.
- Google Analytics: This is a tracking mechanism for websites that was developed by Google to give website owners a clear analysis of the web traffic that their website is receiving. I find it very amusing that they brag about this integration on the Acuity website because Google Analytics works with any website.
- MailChimp: This is a very popular mailing software system. Businesses need an email system to send out bulk emails for newsletters and to inform their clients of discounts, specials, etc. Without using a system like this, these bulk emails are very likely to be falsely regarded as spam by most email systems. MailChimp starts at $9.99 per month (without ads), $14.99 per month for automation, and goes up to $299 per month for full-feature use.
- PayPal: This is a popular payment processing system that allows users to pay for something without revealing their bank card numbers. It also allows for reoccurring billing.
- QuickBooks: This is a very popular accounting software system. It starts at $12 per month and goes up to $150 per month. Most businesses choose QuickBooks Plus for $70 per month.
- Square: This payment processing system gives a free credit card reader with no monthly fees and charges a 2.75% transaction fee for contactless and card-present transactions. Online transactions are 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.
- Stripe: This is an online payment processing system that has the same fees as Square.
- Xero: This cloud-based accounting software system is a competitor to QuickBooks. It starts at $12 per month and goes up to $60 per month. Most businesses choose the Growing level at $30 per month.
- Zapier: This is an API system on steroids. It allows integration with over 500 applications. It is free for 100 tasks per month, which is only good for testing stuff. Serious web developers pay from $19.99 to $599 per month depending on the number of tasks they need to perform each month. Most small businesses can get by with 2,000 tasks per month at the Professional level for $49 per month.
I would use PayPal and Square for payment processing. Adding up the monthly fees for the things that I would probably use to run a yoga business, would be $50 for Acuity Scheduling, $70 for QuickBooks Plus, $14.99 for MailChimp, and $49 for Zapier, which I would use to automate my social media marketing efforts.
It seems a bit pricey to me for a comprehensive solution at a total of $183.99 per month. I have seen other systems for around $99 per month that can do most of this stuff.
The customer support is either self-help or by email request. There is no telephone customer support or live chat.
There is no after-hours support. At 6 p.m. Pacific time (9 p.m. Eastern) the email service request form on their website says: “We are not online right now. Our friendly support team works Monday to Friday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. EST (and also periodically throughout weekends and holidays).”
They do offer free webinar training sessions for existing customers and those who signed up for a free seven-day trial. If I was going to seriously investigate this further, I would attend some of the webinars and ask them tough questions, like did your programmers write an API that interfaces with the AI chat functions of Facebook Messenger?
I don‘t have the patience to wait for an email answer to that one. I would be surprised if they knew what I was talking about!