News | DistributionHow to fine tune your selling channels in travelThis article was originally published onBy Viewpoints | June 25, 2015 In today’s multichannel environment there’s no shortage of ways for travel sellers to connect with customers.What’s the best channel mix for your business today – and are you ready for tomorrow?NB: This is an analysis by Eric Dumas, CEO of Vayant Travel Technologies.Travel retail today is a multichannel business and travel sellers have more opportunities than ever before to start and build relationships with customers.For their part, customers have quickly adopted channel diversity and people move seamlessly from one channel to the next.Half of purchases are now made over multiple days and multiple touch points.From the retailer’s point of view, every channel has its own advantages and its own potential to generate revenue. But which channels have the most potential for any given travel seller?What role or roles can each channel perform over a given period? The capability and relevance of each channel is continually evolving and that means the optimal channel mix is in flux.Channels – and the channel mix - evolveMobile is a case in point. Traditionally the mobile channel had limited capabilities because of limitations in the form factor: before touchscreens, the mobile interface was fiddly and hard to use.Data connections offered low bandwidth and could be unreliable.But then everything changed. Pervasive 4G and WiFi networks – plus much more competitive data pricing from operators – eliminated many of the issues with connectivity.Mobile devices themselves saw an even more dramatic change. Some got bigger and created new categories, like tablets and phablets.Some got a lot smaller, like the new mobile Wearables. And, with the aforementioned touchscreens and much bigger processing power, mobile devices became a lot more fun to use – and they let people do lots more things.This has big implications for mobile as a travel retail channel.From being a platform for simple in-trip services like information updates – and a "last resort" way to alter travel arrangements, high-capability mobiles are finding new relevance throughout the travel experience.Today your mobile is your boarding pass, your guidebook, your frequent flyer programme and your access to social communities.With Wearables even more is possible, from checking out your travel options on the Wearables version of Trip Advisor to managing frequent flyer programs like Avios on Apple Watch.But the most significant development is the emergence of mobile as a sales channel.Over a third of travel sales are predicted to take place via mobiles in 2018. The growth of ancillaries and add-ons creates strong opportunities to expand revenues.Mobile is a vivid demonstration of how a channel can morph over time, enabling new ways to connect with the customer.And this channel evolution does not happen in isolation: as the role of mobile shifts so does that of other channels.There are now some 1.685 billion active social mobile accounts so travel sellers who use social channels need to understand the implications of people using social media on mobile.An integrated approachSo channels evolve and they play together, working together to enable different facets of the customer experience.To make sure they enable the right kind of customer experience - and are integrated the right way - requires an integrated strategy which means travel sellers can think and act in a joined-up way about the way different channels work.As noted, different channels have their own capabilities and characteristics. They will attract different sets of customers and customers will have different expectations in different channels.Travel sellers will need to adjust their offers to align with each channel.For example, social media users can see offers posted in their timeline. On mobile, app users can set preferences and receive pushed offers / alerts within the app.Other offers may need to be created to reach email subscribers via the direct mail marketing channel.And there are instances where a travel seller is also a provider: airlines, for example, may want to deliver special prices to OTAs and tour operators.Channel managementThe next area for channel success is about having the right channel management system in place.To manage the creation and distribution of offers to these channels – and deliver robust accurate pricing across all of them - travel sellers need a powerful business-rules-driven shopping platform.With this platform the travel seller has control over custom pricing and shopping logic for each channel.And it really does need to be powerful: enabling high quality (fast and accurate) search across different channels means manipulating a lot of data.Delivering the rich and detailed pricing people expect through just one channel entails vast amounts of data.Making this quality available across several channels just multiples the heavy lifting.What’s coming down the track?Looking ahead, we see that the expansion of travel options expected by customers will only mean more data needs to be handled and we’ve built our systems on this assumption of growth.Looking at the growth trend in search data volumes we’re very confident that events will match our prediction!This brings us to the third component of successful channel management: anticipating the future. Where do you need to invest to strengthen your presence in a given channel?What channels are underperforming – and may need to be downgraded or jettisoned altogether?What new channels are gaining relevancy?Where and how will the customer want to buy tomorrow? Being able to answer these questions is the only way to deliver the choice, quality and consistency that increasingly demanding customers expect.NB: This is an analysis by Eric Dumas, CEO of Vayant Travel Technologies.NB2: Multi-channel travel image via Shutterstock.