By Michael Silvey, Senior Director, Traveler Engagement
With a multi-million dollar spend on business travel, any savings will make a big difference to the bottom line. And we have proved that the way to achieve big savings is to use merchandising and technology optimization to create a more effective business travel program.
The merchandising and technology optimization offering is a core component of our Traveler Engagement™ services. And it’s really paid off for Advito’s customers.
In this article, we’ll take you behind the scenes so you can learn more about:
- How traveler behavior has changed
- How unoptimized programs cost you money
- What merchandising and technology optimization really means and how it can help your company
We’ll also give you proven examples of how our customers have used this service to keep business travelers engaged while reducing travel program spend. First, let’s look at the context your travel program is operating in.
Understanding traveler behavior
These days, business travelers have a lot of different ways to get travel information, and they use a variety of channels, too. They can find information online via travel websites and social media or get it via a whole range of mobile apps.
Sites like Expedia and Booking.com are often their first port of call when thinking about any trip, and that includes business travel. Our data shows that 78% of all business travelers will comparison shop on third party websites before going onto the corporate program.
Based on our internal analysis, we find that corporate sites may have similar or better options but nine out of 10 times, those sites are not configured to provide options to travelers that are viewed as positive. Additionally, those corporate sites are usually not assessed by viewing the digital display or by understanding the traveler experience and program goals. The merchandising and technology service provided by Advito includes the ability to target and best optimize your online booking tool. This creates a better booking environment that supports the company goals and the traveler experience.
How comparison shopping hurts your travel program
That behavior limits the success of your internal travel program, and here’s why. Travelers who search for information externally will already have ideas about the price of the trip, and may be emotionally invested in a particular itinerary or type of accommodation.
If the options available through your program don’t match up, they’ll be disappointed or dissatisfied. That can snowball, making them less likely to want to use your program in future.
Even if they do make a booking, they may not select the travel options you’d like them to choose, because of the information they’ve already seen externally. That’s bad news, because your supplier deals rely on you delivering a certain volume of sales. If you can’t, your supplier discounts won’t be as good.
There’s one more thing. Sites like Expedia and Booking.com are great at highlighting their preferred options. They also work seamlessly no matter whether customers are on the web or on a mobile device. Business travelers expect that same experience internally – and many corporate travel programs don’t deliver.
Let’s be clear: business travelers don’t purposely set out to mess up your hard-won supplier discounts. What usually happens is they don’t get the information they need to make good decisions that fit in with your travel policy. That’s where the merchandising and technology optimization service comes in.
How merchandising and technology optimization helps
Our merchandising and technology optimization service aims to give your internal customers – business travelers – the information they need. That information is delivered the way they’re used to getting it: online and via mobile and personalized to meet their needs.
The service can:
- display a variety of available travel products to stimulate travelers’ interest and make them want to buy
- highlight the choice with the most value for them and the company
- Reinforce that choice and educate travelers with mobile and digital messaging
- Review, assess and optimize the online booking tool to create a positive traveler experience
All this is backed by robust analytics that helps us adjust messaging automatically as travelers shop. In other words, we fix how you communicate to your business travelers through travel technology such as an online booking tool or mobile app.
This has proven benefits including:
- More awareness of available options by travelers
- Travelers who are happier with the booking experience
- Drive bookings to your preferred suppliers or away from non-preferred suppliers
- Create leverage by managing the traveler’s choice so you can more effectively negotiate with suppliers from a position of strength by demonstrating your ability to influence traveler choices
Using merchandising and technology optimization for better compliance
In other words, Advito’s merchandising and technology optimization service gets the right information to the right travelers at the right time. Just like those external booking sites, it’s personal, and it’s available via mobile and digital technologies. We’ve proved over and over that this helps business travelers make decisions that fit in with your travel policies.
Here’s an example of how this would work.
Say one of your employees is about to book a trip. They’ve done some external research and now they’re using your internal travel tool. With our services, you’ll be able to make sure they:
- Know when an option they’ve selected is one of your preferred options (and when it isn’t)
- Understand when a particular option breaches your travel policy
- Are aware of the amenities and savings available with the preferred options
We’ve found that this approach results in big savings for companies by:
- Providing information at the time when people are searching
- Making sure those preferred options are actively highlighted and brought to the top of the list, and those that are not are demoted in the content display
- Using marketing and behavior economic tactics to deliver information the travelers need through messaging capabilities during the booking process
Running the numbers on travel program optimization
We’ve got the stats to back this up. Get the messaging right, and deliver it at the right time, and compliance increases. In the companies we work with, we’ve seen a 5% increase in compliance with air travel policies across a year. During the same period, there’s been a 10% uptick in hotel program compliance. For hotels that have been removed from a preferred program, we have seen a 98% shift from the old to new within 30 days– simply by configuring and communicating the change during the booking process.
Merchandising and technology optimization also helps you give suppliers the business they need to keep offering a preferential rate. By bringing preferred options to the top of any list of search results, we’ve seen a swing to those options of up to 8% over a year. And if a supplier’s no longer working with a company, and we stop promoting a certain hotel or itinerary, this is where the 98% comes into play.
How merchandising and technology optimization helped Mondelez save
We used this service to help Mondelez build a trusted travel brand that complied with internal policies.
The global snacks giant has 100,000 employees and spends $130 million on travel each year. But travelers’ on the road behavior was costing the conglomerate a lot. Any deviation from preferred suppliers and policies seriously increased the travel spend.
We helped them put in place a program to
- Educate business travelers about the company’s policy
- Help travelers plan ahead for trips
- Promote the use of official booking tools
- Refreshing and integrating the internal travel brand
- Making the intranet easier to use
- Raising awareness of policy via a concerted campaign
The results were a 45% reduction in late bookings, and a 20% drop in travel spending over the year.
The bottom line: creating a better experience boosts engagement and compliance, and results in big savings for your company.