By Kelly Ellis, Senior Consultant
In today’s digital world, travelers have an increasing number of ways to access travel information. That’s a major issue for travel managers trying to make their corporate travel programs work efficiently. Advito’s data shows that 78% of business travelers actively compare what’s offered via the corporate online booking tool (OBT) with what’s available through other 3rd party travel sites. If they find what they think is a better deal, they’re often tempted to take it.
That’s the last thing travel managers need. When business travelers take options outside your program or policy, you fall short on your program goals and miss out on potential savings. Fortunately, there are ways to help travelers make better decisions by optimizing travel technology and adjusting the content that is delivered through your OBT. This can lead to cost savings and other benefits for your program and your travelers.
Meeting traveler expectations in your OBT
When travelers search for travel information, they’re looking for deals and perks. Dotcom OBTs are great at highlighting these benefits to guide travelers to make a particular choice. If you’re going to compete, your OBT has to do the same.
For example, you can:
- Use visual ads to provide information while travelers are researching to influence them to choose one airline over another
- Highlight preferred hotels that offer better rates and amenities, so travelers select those instead
- Show messages that alert travelers to company travel policy issues. For example, a pop-up message prompting travelers to book their hotel at the same time as their flight will help compliance with duty of care requirements
- Identify best practices when booking, such using messaging to highlight rate caps for specific markets and showing how to book under rate caps
Many travel managers don’t realize their online booking tool can do this, but with a bit of strategy, planning, and a little elbow grease, it’s amazing just how much you can get out of your OBT.
Put your key messages at “eye-level”
If you’re going to get more travelers to use your OBT and to make better choices, you could look to the hundreds of behavioral economics tactics that retailers use to merchandise their products. Grocery stores, for example, put the cereal brands they want you to buy right at eye level and everything else above and below, knowing it takes more work to look up or bend down.
Here’s how you’d apply this basic concept to your travel program. Say your busiest route with the highest spend is between LAX and JFK. Because of this, you’ve negotiated a great contract and your travelers are getting some pretty nice perks. But, you only get those terms if travelers actually USE your preferred carrier routinely. So, one way you could make your content “eye-level” is to display a banner ad in the OBT that suggests which airline to select when searching for flights between LAX and JFK.
Build confidence in your program and improve compliance
With the right messages delivered in just the right way, more travelers will book your preferred route, carrier or hotel. For instance, when travelers are searching in the OBT, a message can pop up advising them to book the preferred airline. This approach is proven to get results. For one client, we saw many more reservations go to the preferred airline within a three-month window. During that time, 175% of ticket purchases were moved from a non-preferred supplier to a preferred supplier in a specific market, representing a significant shift in traveler behavior.
Making your OBT behave like a consumer site also builds trust, which improves compliance even more. If travelers get the experience they’re used to when booking externally inside your OBT, they’ll trust your program, will want to use it, and will make better decisions.
Focus on the benefits to the traveler when you’re crafting your message. Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them. If travelers are going to get free Wi-Fi or earn points, those are powerful incentives. This results in more leverage with suppliers, meaning travel managers can get better negotiated rates, and more benefits for travelers, like priority boarding. And giving the carrier that business means travel managers could get even higher discounted rates in the future.
5 ways to deliver smarter content to travelers
So, as a travel manager, how can you prime your OBT to deliver smarter content to travelers to reap these benefits? Here are the top five things you should do.
1. Outline your program goals
Start thinking about what success will look like for your program in the next 12 months. Be specific about what you want to achieve.
2. Run the numbers
Data is key. In order to effectively deploy merchandising techniques in your OBT, you need to have a source of data that is the root of your strategy and ongoing audits/adjustments.
When you have the data, work with your analysts or consultants to establish baselines and targets for your goals, and areas where you can save.
3. Talk to your suppliers
Start the conversation with suppliers to see which are the best options for your travel program. Talk about rates, amenities and inclusions, so you’ll have all the information you need to meet your goals and improve your OBT messaging.
4. Reach out to Advito’s Traveler Engagement team
We’ll have an open discussion on what you can do now, and what you could achieve in the future. We work with all travel categories – air, hotel, and ground – to capture insights on program initiatives and identify the right strategies.
We focus on your travel program preferences for suppliers and booking actions, and provide consultation addressing when and where messages should be visible.
We also work with your OBT team to determine how content is displayed on the page and throughout the booking experience. We’ll recommend how to make adjustments to drive the most value to your program. Then we’ll work with you on a regular basis to look at your data, audit the results and optimize messaging as needed to achieve results.
5. Get started today
Start now. Travelers will prefer your program if you supply them with meaningful policy guidelines and provide the right messages and the right time to motivate smart purchase decisions.