The corporate travel space is changing shape, no doubt. First to come to mind is the entrance of on-demand and sharing economy services, like Uber and Airbnb, into the game. These players have gained significant traction in the last year, and analysts agree that their popularity is likely the result of traveling professionals demanding the same services they use in their personal lives.
That link between professional and personal life may be a driver of corporate T&E change, but according to the newest analysis from Technavio, there are more forces at work here.
The global technology and advisory company published its latest report on the travel and expense management space earlier this month and found three distinct trends that are shaping the new face of T&E through the end of the decade.
Mobile apps are in high demand among traveling employees, Technavio researchers concluded.
In some cases, these apps can link employees to the emerging and disruptive services they use in their personal lives, like Uber. But researchers also noted that the uninterrupted connectivity that can be offered by a mobile device makes the technology a must-have. Today, consumers use mobile devices to book travel, track luggage, manage cancellations and travel information and the like — and corporate travelers are doing the same.
Further, these devices, from smartphones to laptops, go beyond simply helping a traveler book their itinerary. Researchers noted their increasing popularity for processes like expense management and report submission.
Technavio concluded that this trend offers a new opportunity in the corporate travel and expense management sector, with service providers now able to shorten the time between travel, expanse report submission and reimbursement when a mobile device is involved. Researchers highlighted companies like Expensify, Concur and Certify that are already adding mobile support to their offerings.
Any traveler needs transparency in where their funds are going, both when booking plans and when spending while on a trip. But when spending corporate funds is involved, the need for transparency and visibility increases. Technavio noted that this demand is a driving force behind corporate T&E development over the next few years.
With more companies implementing an expense management software solution to provide a boost to spend visibility, companies are more likely to better understand spending patterns overall, with businesses flocking to technologies that not only help them visualize how corporate travels spend money but can help manage cash over a longer term.
Businesses’ need for employee adherence to corporate travel policy is also critical to the rise in expense management software, Technavio added.
While demand for mobile-friendly solutions and more robust spend management offerings can be seen across the corporate sphere, researchers highlighted the role of the mid-market in helping the corporate travel and expense management software industry grow.
According to Technavio, mid-size enterprises are leading the way when it comes to demanding solutions that offer a broader picture of how processes impact companies overall; the same is true for mid-market firms with traveling employees that now understand the importance of spend visibility and management, convenience and automation, not only to help manage their budgets but to support overall corporate growth.
“Mid-size enterprises are also looking to adopt solutions that provide deep insights into their spending patterns to help them identify cost-saving opportunities, prioritize spending categories, rationalize supplier base and enhance operational efficiency,” stated Technavio Analyst Amrita Choudhury in a statement. “These requirements are making mid-size enterprises shift toward travel and expense management software.”
Other researchers have also uncovered the growing strength of T&E software players.
Analysts at CAPA found that a rising millennial workforce is driving shifts in the demand for corporate travel and expense management solutions. As they’re looking to often combine work and leisure, solutions need to be flexible and user-friendly, yet still adhere to corporate travel policy, for instance.
Other researchers at Concur and Forrester Consulting recently found that expense and cash flow management are two of the top challenges for financial professionals when it comes to T&E. But the report also found that risk mitigation, financial analysis and revenue growth promotion are also top-of-mind, suggesting that financial professionals are looking for more sophisticated T&E software than those that can simply file an expense report. So, while corporate travelers certainly want the convenience and familiarity of consumer-facing services, the corporate T&E space must also keep up with demand for corporate-targeted solutions.