Six ways mobile technology is shaping business travel


A quick look around any airport anywhere in the world leaves little doubt: mobile technologies have become as common as a carry-on. Smartphones, tablets and wearable devices are built for life on the go, so it’s no surprise to see mobile taking off with business travelers.

In turn, rapid adoption of the technology is now driving the future of the marketplace for everything from travel bookings to expense reporting to the purchases and vendor preferences of your employees.

With more and more road warriors relying on their mobile devices every day, here are six ways mobile technology will continue to shape the business travel experience for years to come.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Bob Neveu, chief executive of Certify.

Smartphones will rule the skies

There’s a lot of buzz about wearables like the new Apple Watch, and the potential for the business traveler is definitely there. However, preference is going to continue to trend toward the smartphone for several reasons.

First, phone screens are getting physically larger and adding more processing power everyday. The effect of this is already cutting into sales of tablets, iPads and other “third devices” that sit between the smartphone and laptop or desktop computer.

For the smartwatch, while major airlines, suppliers and others in the industry have rushed to build apps, adoption rates for business and leisure travelers remain far below expectations.

With the lessons of Google Glass still fresh in everyone’s minds, smartwatches will be subject to an extended period of wait and see.

Credit, cash or phone?

Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay and a host of other providers have made significant gains in the mobile payments space lately. While the technology is still quite new and not yet widely accepted, the implications for business travelers and their employers are really incredibly exciting.

Today, the corporate card is the gold standard for convenience, security and spending transparency. But as more banks, credit card companies and retailers get on the platform, mobile payments will likely become the preferred choice of business travelers and company accountants for all the same reasons.

Expense management on the fly

Advancements in mobile and cloud-based expense reporting over the past few years have been nothing short of transformational for business travelers. Just the ability to capture receipts electronically with any camera-ready smartphone changes the game completely.

But more than that, today’s expense management providers can offer a complete end-to-end solution with pre-trip planning and travel booking, the ability to build and approve expense reports remotely, integrated policy enforcement to automate compliance, plus systems and data integrations that simplify administration on the backend.

As more companies adopt an automated expense management platform, watch for more and more travel vendor partnerships and integrations to come together in service of the business traveler.

Bookings by app

We know from Google’s 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision study 60% of business travelers used their smartphone at least once to book travel-related services in 2014. But revenues generated by app are still relatively low as a percent of total business travel bookings.

Also from the Google study, we know business travelers are far more likely to book via a mobile app than leisure travelers. So, we anticipate that the needs of the traveling employee will drive further enhancement of mobile booking tools, not the leisure consumer.

This means booking apps will become more closely integrated with corporate systems and third party vendors, ultimately making mobile apps the number one preferred method of planning and booking business travel in short order.

It’s going to get personal

Personalization has long been the promise of the internet age, and it’s everywhere from search engine results and content feeds, to the recommendations we see on social media and shopping sites like Amazon.

Mobile devices will take personalization even further in the near future with “smart” services based on user activity and preferences. These services will help business travelers with everything from planning and booking travel to getting through the day-to-day logistics when they’re on the road.

Count on hotels, rental car companies, air carriers and others getting know their corporate patrons a whole lot better, with more tailor-made mobile-only services soon to follow.

Times are changing for travel managers

The proliferation of mobile apps and emergence of non-traditional travel service vendors mean corporate travel managers have to take a closer look at their mobile T&E policies now. Even those created in the past year or so may already be obsolete.

And, any experienced manager knows that simply stating “no” without the policy controls to support it is as effective as no policy at all.

So, do you allow apps or not? If so, which are company-approved? How about using personal devices for business travel, or so-called BYOD policies? While mobile has exponentially increased the complexities of travel management, the basic premise is the same: employees need clear guidelines to stay in compliance.

When it comes to mobile and business travel, modern time-saving conveniences are great, but they’re by no means the entire opportunity. Success in business means taking competitive advantage where you can find it, and anything like today’s mobile tools that enhance the productivity and experience of the traveling employee is going to give your company that much more of an edge.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Bob Neveu, chief executive of Certify.

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About Author

Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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