< PrevNext > The Retailing Revolution Arrives By Festive Road managing partner Caroline Strachan / January 27, 2017 Share Has anyone else noticed the words "retailing" and "merchandising" being used more than ever before: travel suppliers talking about themselves as retailers and about defining strategies that enable them to upsell, just like a retail store might? It's not just talk either, senior executives are arriving in travel: from Walmart to Alaska Airlines, Best Buy to Sabre, NBCUniversal to CWT, and I'm sure there are more. To understand this shift, I've been following the retail industry throughout 2016 and can share that every headline I read about the future of retailing could apply to business travel, too. Needing to personalize the shopping experience, wanting to use the latest digital advances to reach a broader customer base, challenging the historical process and looking for new operating models. Sound familiar?Business is, after all, just business. Whether you have a smartphone or a movie you're looking to sell, it's all product development, marketing, distribution, sales and customer service. So why, therefore, do we in business travel get so stuck in our ways and forget that the traveler is first and foremost a consumer? I'm not talking about the consumerization of business travel here. That's old news. Business-to-consumer travel brands determining the user experience—that ship has sailed; the expectations are already set. We should be looking to other industries to see what changes are happening to anticipate our traveler (consumer) needs. Amazon creating a supermarket where you no longer need to line up to pay is another disruption we, as consumers, have forgotten we need—hands up anyone who would choose to spend time standing in a line in a supermarket?—and yet this will fundamentally change how consumers feel about payment. Why do I need a piece of plastic? Why do I need to interact with anyone? This should all just happen and is just one example.The savvy travel supplier is recognizing these changes and adapting the way it interacts with the traveler (consumer). The suppliers of airline seats, hotel rooms, cars and trains have had to rethink their product offerings and sales/distribution strategies, best surmised by an industry exec in 2016 as: "We need to regain control of distribution; otherwise distribution will take control of us." Some supplier moves have been pretty blunt and involved some bold B2C moves, which behind the scenes ultimately involve some form of intermediary. Others are taking their time to build out a multichannel platform—in retailing terms, an omnichannel or optichannel model—that enables a greater personalized, consumer-grade experience and at the same time meets each supplier's own product differentiation strategy, such as upselling and brand consistency. Travel buyers have some important decisions to make in 2017. How can they bring together these external dynamics with their own company priorities to create travel strategy and supplier programs, which in turn will drive the greatest value for their companies and the right-fit experience for the travelers?