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14 Feb 2018

Getting the channel distribution balancing act right

‘Time is money’ goes the saying that sometimes feels as if it rules the world. Businesses everywhere are trying to achieve more, in less time, and for less cost. When it comes to effectively managing distribution, it isn’t so much about the time and the money, but what you do with it that counts.

Distribution falls into two camps – third party and direct. Each one has huge benefits, and potential challenges. Keeping a keen eye on both is essential to ensuring healthy profit margins.

There is massive value in each camp. Third parties can quickly reach audiences you may struggle to do alone, they bring a community who trusts them and often user-friendly websites that their customers don’t think twice about returning to again and again.

Gun for direct and you can often offer a more tailored experience, own the data and insights behind the booking, and enjoy nurturing a long term and fruitful conversation into the future.

Putting a price on the true cost of distribution can be hard. Marketing, training, e-commerce investments, preferred partner agreements and more – they all add up. It is impossible to address the true value of your distribution mix, if you are not aware of all of the sums of the parts.

It is important to find the right technology partner who can help you adopt a more strategic approach to driving down the cost of distribution. Businesses like Guestline and their rate management tools can help you implement and maintain a programme of regular reviews of the various channels. The right technology team will also empower you in planning how to utilise each channel to its full cost potential, and to track your investment in direct booking channels, to ensure they are all working the hardest for you and delivering the greatest return on your investment.

When it comes to taking stock of your distribution priorities, we recommend that you put your channel partners under the spotlight. Couple this with a competitor analysis review on these channels. How do you fare in comparison? Can your profile be improved?

Once you’ve take a more forensic approach to examining your channel partner terms and conditions, make sure you have a clear strategy in place for how best to work with them.

Investment in th direct channel will also pay significant dividends in the long run. Implement a direct booking strategy that will ensure guests fully understand the benefits of booking direct. Data capture will inform and support this and enable you to market effectively to guests to encourage valuable return direct bookings.  Social media can also have an important role to play in adding value to the guest experience, and making your brand something to stay in touch with.

The future of distribution is both exciting and complex. There are bigger and bigger players to contend with, and an ever decreasing guest attention span. Guests are demanding greater personalisation, are increasingly comfortable to engage with AI, and savvier about value than ever before. The greatest investment in future distribution that hoteliers can make is time to assess where the best value is being