Many of the new technology entrants in the corporate travel business have created vertically integrated “procure to pay” solutions. All position themselves as savvy tech companies that provide a superior user experience that drives efficiency. This strategy should ring true to the historically underserved small to mid-market for a variety of reasons. For smaller companies, a traditionally managed corporate travel program must either provide a compelling value to the traveler to gain adoption or rely on strict policy compliance to be successful. For many, where supplier discount programs aren’t available and the Travel Management Company’s (TMC) consortia deals aren’t as compelling as what a traveler can find online, the cost/benefit of strict policy mandates can be hard to justify. At the same time the industry is due for a make-over and as a result some traditionally managed multi-national organizations are also considering the potential value of these new solutions.
Here’s What’s Interesting to Me
Ease of use, superior technology, and efficiency are the key selling points that these new technologies tout in an effort to influence user behavior to drive adoption. What’s interesting to me is that virtually all managed travel programs rely to some extent on policy to drive user behavior whereas recent investment in travel technology is aimed toward offering a product that provides a better traveler experience. Put differently, if policy compliance was a fait accompli we would probably not be seeing the massive investments from private equity, SPAC’s, and financial institutions all positioning a better and different mousetrap.
So Why Is Automated Expense So Important?
A corporate travel program’s primary optimization goal is normalized data aggregation. If all air, car, and hotel bookings can originate in a single place (TMC, supplier site, OTA, or even one of our new marketplaces) then the travel manager has all she needs to enable live agent support, gather comprehensive data to inform budgets, leverage supplier deals, provide duty of care, and populate expense reports. The new technology entrants are vying for a piece of the highly fragmented industry that exists largely as a result of both corporates and suppliers not being able to fully deliver upon these key objectives. At over $1.5 trillion in global corporate travel spend, only about 10% is formally managed by a traditional TMC. A new industry player really just needs a taste of this untapped market to find success. Said differently, new industry players aren’t focused on compliance per se; rather, just getting their piece of the untouched pie. No matter how slick, easy to use, or how much artificial intelligence, studies show that many travelers book how and where they wish. And suppliers generally prefer travelers to book direct. The ability to mitigate distribution costs while enhancing brand loyalty is top priority, chipping away in its participation in an antiquated distribution model. Even during the pandemic, a time when safety concerns for travel were at an all-time high, CapTrav saw no difference in terms of traveler compliance to policy.
The Home Run
Nothing creates quicker value when thinking about T&E optimization than implementing an automated expense solution. The beauty of expense automation is that for those travel bookings that occur in either the TMC environment or within one of our newer industry technology companies, the efficiency value to both the organization and traveler is compelling. Most studies show that companies enjoy 30% or more cost reduction in internal labor and other efficiencies by automating expense. I’ve never met a finance manager who doesn’t intuitively agree with this estimate. Automation simplifies expense submission, virtually eliminates lost receipts, reduces errors and fraud, and enables better internal budgeting. Employees love automated expense solutions because it saves time and speeds up the reimbursement process.
So, if employees love automated expense solutions why is that we still see 50% or more non-compliance in hotel bookings and 20% or more non-compliance in airline bookings? Why is close to 90% of corporate travel unmanaged if the clear benefit to suppliers, TMC’s, and the client itself is the expense automation component that comes as a direct result of travel compliance during the booking process? The booking experience itself must hold this answer and recent investments make this clear.
The value a traveler derives from booking a trip is a matter of perception. Some travelers like the high touch of a skilled agent. Other travelers book trips through our traditional corporate booking engines with no problem and enjoy the support that can be garnered, when needed, by live agents. And yet others are brand loyal to certain suppliers and are adept at navigating supplier or aggregator websites.
An easier booking process, vertically integrated with a payment and reimbursement solution is certainly compelling to some but no traveler doubts the value created by automating expense. Unlike any booking solution, automated expense requires no real user behavior requirement. The value is not variable like a booking source. The benefit does not rely on the eye of the beholder.
This is the “Why” Behind CapTrav
CapTrav can help automate more of the T&E expenses into any expense tool that come through via bookings from any booking source. Corporate clients, suppliers, new industry entrants, and traditional TMC’s all benefit from this but as you consider the money being spent on new technology and market positioning, automated expense solutions are what ultimately attracts and sticks to the traveler.
- No user behavior requirement – book anywhere including any TMC or any new industry tech entrant
- Normalized data aggregation
- Supplier leverage
- Duty of Care
- Unlimited content sources
The one barrier to a comprehensive procure-to-pay solution lies in the front end booking experience. Lose the front end booking and efficiencies are lost. CapTrav sought to solve this problem. As new industry entrants ponder how to hit a home run in this fast changing industry, how best to create a front end booking solution may prove to be a costly venture and one that only provides a partial answer to the question.
How to get automated expense compliance is the better question. Answer that and the next would-be SAP Concur may be swinging for the fence.
Take a demo of CapTrav today to see how it works and if it might be the right solution for your travel program.