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Make savvy use of your online sales channels

Selling inventory online, whether it’s hotel room nights or electronic gadgets, is a complex process – even more so when you’re doing it via a third party, reports the ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’ in its latest issue.

In an article written for the magazine, Noëleen Bruton, Director of Marketing for the Tsogo Sun Group, says that it’s crucial for businesses to be extremely savvy when contracting with third parties or affiliates to sell your inventory online.

“The modern online market is a hotbed of competition, with traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers facing both opportunity and threat from various meta-data or price aggregator sites, as well as other online agents or affiliates. In the hotel industry, for example, chains and independent hotels are battling it out with online travel agencies and online tour operators for sales of their own room stock,” notes Bruton.

“The minute you have inventory online, there are those who want to sell it for you and to obviously make money out of the transaction. That in itself is not a bad thing. Because often these online companies have access to different markets or are able to compete more effectively in general online spaces than you are as a hotel group. The challenge is when they actually compete against you … with your own product.”

Bruton says that, as a result of horizontal and vertical integration, there’s been a complete shift in the sales process. Competition is coming from all angles and price-checker websites are pitting retailers against one another in a ruthless battle based on price comparisons.

“In the hospitality industry, for example, price-focused online travel agents (known as OTAs) are a reality. Brands need to find a way to cohabitate and work with them to their advantage, or lose out on sales.”

She adds that the benefit of finding common ground with these operators is especially evident when it comes to accessing new or untapped markets where an OTAs brand-name has already been established, and where it has both the marketing muscle and critical mass to secure incremental business at a reasonable commission. The site then becomes another sales arm or sales channel of your business.