Creating a successful corporate travel platform in today’s fast-changing market means serving several masters. Egencia COO Mark Hollyhead describes the need to unlock value for several of them as part of a “virtuous cycle.”
The marketplace is more dynamic. It’s a fact. Ten years ago it was easy to spot a competitive threat emerge; today we’re seeing legacy players digitally transform to protect a lead and better compete, while new ones entice the market with fresh approaches. What does this mean for businesses? Competitors could come from anywhere and hungry investors are ready to fund new ideas where the market opportunity seems attractive. It’s never been more crucial for companies to stay relevant and, importantly, create clear value for customers and for partners. For the business travel industry this means going beyond the traditional distribution model to a full-service platform model that creates value for the business, the traveler and the supply partner in a virtuous cycle.
Getting this right takes a mix of acumen, science and flare for design. It involves developing a platform that creates value in the exchanges across the stakeholders involved. Making it easy is a given, and ignoring this will quickly deem a travel management company irrelevant in today’s congested world of information and seemingly endless propositions. It means mapping data and design together to develop new products that really deliver on travelers’ and travel managers’ wants, needs and, indeed, whims. It also means being a trusted expert representing supply partners in ways they wouldn’t have thought of.
Unlocking Value For Travel Managers
According to the Global Business Travel Association, business travel spending worldwide will hit $1.7 trillion by 2022. While it’s clear that this is a fast-maturing industry, what is less clear is how to show the strategic value of each and every business trip. Having a data visualization and analytics platform can really bring a travel program to life in an organization. It delivers actionable insights and diagnostics that help travel managers to identify new sources of savings, enhance employee care and satisfaction, and optimize investment across their travel programs.
Unlocking Value For Travelers
Robust competency in data science, alongside artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize the customer experience, is fast becoming table stakes for digital and transforming businesses. Failure to deliver benefits associated with these will simply create apathy in the minds of customers. Improving loyalty and retention, and creating value will be tough. According to a recent Harvard Business Review report, 81 percent of surveyed business executives mentioned personalization as an important driver of financial performance in 2020.
When it comes to personalization in travel, it’s clear to me that business travel in particular has a distinct advantage. With business travelers booking all of their trips through a TMC, not only do program managers know what they buy, where they are going and the amenities they like, they also can, for example, understand what their colleagues like too. Learning from and acting upon these data points means the business travel industry can further contextualize the experience and make it ever more personal.
Unlocking Value For Supply Partners
Suppliers are more than just vendors. When treated like true partners with a shared vision and strategy, mutual value can be unlocked. According to a McKinsey report, global companies that collaborate with suppliers see EBIT growth rates at double the rates of their peers. Working together on innovations that put the customer front and center really does mean that everybody wins. TMCs can fulfill their role as both customer advocate and industry innovator.
A great example of this in the business travel sector is enabling two-way conversations between travelers and hoteliers. I often travel for work and on more than a few occasions contacted my hotel to ask for a late check-in due to a delay. Being able to message my hotel directly in an app where all my booking details are makes this a whole lot easier. It also means that my hotel can message me before I arrive with helpful information, making me feel welcomed and instantly starting a rapport.
I’m excited to be part of this era in an industry as dynamic as business travel. We are pushing ourselves to deliver great experiences, to connect more people and to deliver more control. Happy customers make for better partnerships, and better partnerships lead to more opportunities to develop products and service that unlock more value. This in turns benefits our customers. It’s a virtuous cycle.
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