• Mario Ćubelić

How to choose a channel manager? Features and aspects to consider

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

Before we talk about the products that exist on the market, let’s discuss the main points to be considered when you choose a channel manager product for your hospitality business.

Before we talk about the products that exist on the market, let’s discuss the main points to be considered when you choose a channel manager product for your hospitality business.

Define optimal channel mix

The first aspect lies on the surface. Keeping in mind that you need a channel manager to increase your online visibility and welcome more travelers, it must connect with channels that are optimal for your property and the experience you offer. More importantly, a channel manager should provide quality connections to channels used by the types of guests you’re hoping to attract. “If you’re a hotel looking to attract Chinese travelers, for example, you will want access to the booking channels that Chinese travelers use most, like Ctrip or Fliggy. The makeup of travelers is constantly evolving, so gaining access to these more niche channels, as well as the top global ones, will allow you to broaden your distribution strategy and attract new types of guests,” explains Gregor Vogel from SiteMinder.

It’s not only about big brands, thinks director of global partnerships at CloudbedsSebastien Leitner. Listings on popular OTAs help accommodation providers drive direct business. But channels catering to a dedicated customer base must not be ignored. “Most hoteliers understand they need to connect to large players such as Booking.com and Expedia. While those players aren’t going anywhere, there is a move towards niche distribution channels that can cater to a property’s unique experiences and customer segments. Hotels that stick to their legacy list of channels will ultimately lose out on incremental revenue and miss an opportunity to meet guests where they are shopping,”says Sebastien.

Ensure two-way XML connectivity

Fast connection between a property management system (PMS) and chosen third-party channels is one of the must-have features for a modern channel manager usually realized with the XML data format. Two-way connectivity implies systems continuously exchanging data about rates, bookings, availability, and restrictions. Using such channel managers, property owners can avoid overbookings and pricing that doesn’t match reservations. The speed with which a channel manager updates your data is also important. Channel managers with higher update speed also allow hotels to reduce overbookings and rate disparity cases, notes team lead of content marketing at eZee Technosys Manasi Shah.

“Hotels get reservations daily from their channels. Now often they might receive walk-ins or sudden (unplanned) bookings on a day-to-day basis. In such cases, hotels need to update their inventory on the channels immediately, as someone might be booking a room which is not actually available (which is what happens at the time of overbookings.) Similarly, selling the right room at the right price at the right time is the key to a hotel’s success and revenue growth. Rate updates on the channels, if not done on time, may lead to revenue and booking loss to a hotel. Besides, the hotels’ rankings on OTAs also improve owing to the consistency maintained with the rates and inventory,” adds Manasi.

Look for PMS integration for booking automation and speed

Inventory availability is updated instantly when a channel manager is compatible with a PMS. That means travelers always see the exact number of vacant rooms, beds, or properties. In turn, you fully use your assets and avoid reservation and pricing errors. So, you should ensure a software seamlessly integrates with your current property management system.

Prioritize pooled inventory

Look for a channel providing a central location for inventory management. Pooled inventory allows you to simultaneously distribute all available rooms on various channels, including your own website, without the risk of double bookings or overbookings. For instance, a booked room or property is automatically removed from a list of available inventory across all channels.

Check whether system has centralized content management

A well-showcased property is a busy property. A user wants to know everything about a place of interest: policies, interior design, amenities, attractions, etc. A modern channel manager must allow you to edit content across all channels at once. In other words, it has to integrate well with other channels’ management systems. “Distribution is no longer about syncing inventory and rates,” notes Sebastien Leitner from Cloudbeds. “Richer integrations allow for centralized management of content which can streamline initial registration/contracting all the way through ensuring seasonal photos and offers are accurately synced across channels. The ability for distribution technology to seamlessly manage and sync content can save property’s time and, more importantly, drive reservations.”

Assess analytics and reports capabilities

Informed is forearmed. Opt for a channel manager providing detailed analytics and reporting. Insights on revenue per channel, booking volume, total revenue for a specific amount of time, competitor analysis, or parity rate will help you develop your distribution strategy.

Seek fixed pricing

You’ve researched multiple channel managers, compared their functionality, and bookmarked those that meet your requirements. Now it’s time to estimate how much each of the solutions would cost you. It’s not a difficult task if a vendor provides several pricing plans. But what about additional fees per each booking or a percentage of a channel revenue? Our advice is to consider vendors that provide fixed monthly payment options. A price for each plan depends on a set of functionality and the ability to customize and scale a solution. Most vendors also follow a “try before you buy” strategy, so you can test each of the products and decide which of them is right for you, if it has an intuitive interface, integrates seamlessly with marketplaces and systems, and updates travel-related information instantly. Another benefit of a demo version is that you can check whether a customer support team is responsive and professional.


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