Towards a multi channel distribution and a customer-centric model

12 jan. 2010 | Written by Julia

Ten years ago, distribution channels were simple to identify and to manage: products were only sold in offline travel agencies. But nowadays, this market has evolved and customers have multiple ways, online and offline, to access to a same product.

Let’s sum up this evolution from a technical point of view.

First, the transition to a multi channel distribution was appeared because of a problem in the access to the stocks of the production. The new channel (the internet one) appeared like a second enterprise. They were not meant to become a global strategy for distribution and marketing on one side, and a separate production on the other side.

The first step was reached when the stock connection has no longer been a limiting factor (a same product can be simultaneously distributed on several channels) and when a global strategy was set up. This enabled the firsts interactions in which one channel could promote another one. But at this stage, customer data were sill dispatched. It was impossible to have a single global view of the customers.

The majority of the players in the travel industry are being in this stage of development.

The third step is this schema was to make the accessibility to the products not limited anymore from a technical point of view, and to enable the players to  focus on their differentiation strategies. The deployment of a global CRM strategy is a strong point of differentiation. This includes a centralization of the customers’ information , and the possibility to share and exploit it to improve the answers the customers are given.

Thus, this schema represent an enterprise working in a customer-centric model.

Even if this third stage is still under construction, we can yet start drawing the premises of the next level. Then, the enterprise will be more open and focused on customer experience. As well as products are technically accessible to every player, customer data have to be sharable and more reliable. So it might no longer be a matter of who owns the customer data, but be more a matter of how to converse with customers in total transparency and confidence.

To reach this level, the most plausible way to enable the different players to have an complete view of a customer would be with the help of a third partner.  We can imagine several possibilities through affiliation platforms (with common programs as the Global Web Alliance from RealMedia 24/7 or Cross Cookie Correlation from Commission Junction), through a big group or alliances (as Expedia PasseportAds) or the most relevant possibility from my point of view, through numerical identity provider (with tools like OpenID or Facebook Connect).

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