The recent shifts and changes in the landscape of distribution continue to take form in 2015. With fragmented distribution, fierce competition and better-informed consumers, guest loyalty is elusive and costly. Transactions via mobile are increasing exponentially and bookings shift from what we used to know as walk-ins, to mobile app bookings with a lead time of zero.

But even as distribution fragmentation continues, and even expands, also expect tighter integration of the entire landscape. It is now common to expect brand websites listing reviews from third parties, and those same third parties directing traffic back to brand sites, or even processing the booking. These integrations level the playing field for independent hotels, giving them the ability to engage and profile their guest from search to retouch if abandonment occurs, to booking, and even pre check-in.

The key to this new era will be significant content; integrations will mature from room and rate availability to descriptive content, images and other items that foster engagement. Traditional channels such as GDS will continue to remain steady as they work to bring additional qualifiers and indicators to agents. Alternative lodging sources, such as bedroom rentals, are here to stay and new distribution channels such as Alibaba and Amazon will need to be considered. 

Metasearch sites are very popular with guests so it is important for the hotelier to have an understanding of cross-context search in order to compete with OTAs. The consumer now uses multiple devices to complete a booking, so it will be important for hotels to ensure their own booking engines are responsive. This will also be a factor for the now popular mobile only rates, which will most likely disappear as technological advances make the more important cross-context booking easier for the multi-screen user.

The landscape of distribution is ever changing and understanding these opportunities with a mindset that our consumer is constantly connected allows us to use innovative technologies to reach them. Having associates or partners who understand this landscape and can help navigate the various channels and tools available will be crucial to a hotel’s success in 2015 and beyond.