B2B Payments

Balancing User Convenience, Data Collection In Corporate Travel Payments

In just two years, the U.S. will see 483 million domestic business trips, according to Audrey Hendley, SVP of Global Products at American Express. Hendley recently spoke at a corporate travel event held in New York, put on in conjunction with Hilton, to explore some of the latest trends in corporate T&E, and the experts agree: Corporate travel is changing.

“Enjoyable business travel was an oxymoron when I started traveling 25 years ago, and brands like Hilton have really modernized the experience and made it something for business owners, particularly small business owners, to look forward to doing,” Hendley said, according to reports in Hotel Business on Monday (Feb. 5).

Exactly how changes in corporate travel and expense management occur is far from obvious, but a look at the latest data uncovers a few clear trends.

Analysis from T&E firm Certify published last week found a continuing shift toward ride-hailing services, for instance, “underscoring the industry disruption and change in business traveler preference,” Certify said in its announcement of the data.

According to the report, ride-hailing landed 68 percent of ground transportation expenses processed through Certify; Uber alone accounted for 9 percent of all expenses and receipts in 2017, a 3 percent year-over-year increase.

“A healthy business travel market is a key driver of a strong economy, and year over year we are seeing a sharp increase in our business travel data,” reflected Certify CEO Robert Neveu in a statement. “Today, relatively new industries like ride-hailing, room sharing and meals management are maturing quickly as approved corporate suppliers at all levels of business.”

“Coupled with leading-class technology for ease and convenience, demand for traditional services also continues to grow,” the CEO continued. “We see a number of legacy travel providers securing their market position by investing in, and adopting and partnering with, best-in-class technology.”

The traveler experience is changing, but that shift introduces new challenges to travel managers and financial professionals to manage company spend and maintain security.

Mark Williams, partner at GoldSpring Consulting, penned an article last month covering the results of the company’s 2018 travel trend survey. While the travel experience is becoming a greater priority, organizations are increasingly concerned about duty of care and safeguarding payments.

According to GoldSpring Consulting, adherence to company policy in travel spend means businesses can gain greater insight into transaction data. Separate analysis released by another T&E company, Chrome River, noted that corporate card programs will be particularly important this year to combat fraud.

Chrome River’s survey found 58 percent of financial executives consider undetected fraud a major concern. But as organizations look to ensure business travel spend is secure, the adoption of new payments and T&E technologies is also increasingly focused on spend optimization and convenience.

“We know the greater the convenience, the greater the usage,” wrote GoldSpring’s Williams. “How convenient is it to use the newer payment products such as virtual cards and mobile pay?”

Williams also advised businesses to pay attention to blockchain as the technology continues to make its way into payments infrastructures too.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released its 2018 industry forecast report last year and found that, while the global and U.S. economy are both experiencing growth, costs in corporate travel are likely to go up. In response, companies must zero in on data from business travel spend.

“It’s time to enhance the capture of data related to your company’s business travel,” the GBTA wrote. “If you’re not already, track credit card and expense data that can help create metrics that show per-trip ROI on [a] traveler-by-traveler basis.”

But as GBTA and other experts emphasized, the corporate T&E space today weighs heavily on the traveler experience: That means organizations need flexible programs and convenient payment policies and technologies, ensuring employees actually use the tools that will give companies the T&E data they need.

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