What’s the difference between booking your annual holiday to a place where drinks with umbrellas grow on trees and booking your monthly business trip to see your client in Hull?
For one, you probably use a slick site that offers up potential airports and hotels based on previous searches and allows you to sort search results in a way that suits you, whereas for another you persevere with a clunky booking tool that looks like it’s crawled straight out of 2004.
It’s a gulf in user experience that has largely been caused by the business travel industry’s complacency (complacency that consumer sites don’t have the time to indulge in if they’re to survive in the cut-throat online retail landscape…), with too many travel management companies (TMCs) making the costly mistake of assuming that prescriptive contracts would be enough to breed user loyalty.
Where is the personalisation in business travel?
In forgetting to focus on the needs of individual users alongside larger, organisational requirements, travel management platforms have been built as a B2B solution – one that feels like a poor fit to travellers and bookers who don’t have the needs of a large corporate top of mind and who are used to being treated as consumers in most other aspects of their lives.
Social business strategist, author and CEO of social media agency, PureMatter, Bryan Kramer argues that B2B and B2C categories are in fact becoming irrelevant; “The fact is that the lines are now so far blurred between the two marketing segments that it’s hard to differentiate between the two anymore. We all need to think like the consumers we are, putting ourselves in the mindset of the buyer.There is no B2B or B2C anymore: it’s Human to Human.”
For travel buyers, providing an enhanced, H2H experience for travellers and bookers means asking for a booking tool that meets your organisation’s specific requirements whilst also providing a superlative user experience for individuals – one that’s absolutely full to the brim with personalisation.
The Amazon effect
With suggestions, saved baskets and wish lists all commonplace when it comes to buying online, personalisation has finally started to filter into business travel – a welcome reaction to the ‘Amazon effect’, a term given to the ongoing evolution and disruption of the retail market resulting from increased e-commerce. No industry has been left unturned and uninterrupted by the ‘Amazon effect’ and the travel management industry is no exception, particularly when it comes to making online bookings.
Research conducted by ecommerce platform Magento in 2017 concluded that it’s imperative for businesses “to view B2B procurers as consumers with personal needs, preferences and purchasing habits” and as such suppliers should be incorporating B2C features and functions into their B2B experience. Within the context of business travel, this suggests that future proof travel management solutions should be matching the services and values that their customers find when shopping online in their personal lives; features such as shopping baskets, switchable profiles, recommendations, in app communication and a separate personal travel profile.
Hot on the heels of the Amazon effect and chasing the business travel industry towards change are the millennials, the largest age group to emerge since the baby boomer generation. A trendy ticking time bomb, the millennial workforce is shining the spotlight on user experience and is forcing TMCs to raise their game when it comes to online booking tools.
Discussing millennials at work, a report by PwC states that “with technology dominating every aspect of millennials’ lives, it’s perhaps not surprising that 41% say they prefer to communicate electronically at work, rather than face to face or even over the telephone”, meaning that providing a travel management solution that works online and across mobile technology such as tablets and smartphones, is more important than ever before.
Removing the need for face to face, and even voice to voice, interactions by implementing a solution that offers live chat and bot services is crucial if your online booking tool is to be embraced by millennial travellers. After enjoying quick and easy online shopping for the entirety of their adult lives, millennials know what makes for a good and bad shopping experience – if their contracted business travel solution isn’t up to scratch then you can bet they’ve got an alternative, unmanageable and out of contract option right at their fingertips.
What travel buyers should be asking for and why
In order to avoid wasting time, money and energy on forcing your organisation to fit a travel management solution that they will only try to avoid using 6 months down the line, prioritise finding a service that can be personalised to suit your organisation and can provide a consumer-style experience whilst also looking after your corporate interests. In business travel, this translates to in app training and communications, shared baskets and seamless integration will all types of mobile technology. Asking for more personalisation in business travel will save your team time and stress!
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