The subject of content fragmentation within the business travel ecosystem is not a new one. Getting access to everything a business traveler needs to make a completely informed decision when they’re booking travel is and has been a challenge from the onset of the online booking tool, and even before. Whether it was access to low cost carriers, ‘web only fares’ (remember those), or descriptive content including photos and reviews, the challenges of pulling together everything a traveler needs to make a completely informed decision, is still well, a challenge.
For consumer travel, there’s no shortage of studies showing how many websites a traveler visits before making a booking. While these studies often focus on the fickleness of a ‘deal hungry’ shopper, they have not delved as deeply into the psychology behind this quest to find the exact right flight or hotel. Is it price, time, location, product attributes, service, loyalty, something else, or a combination thereof?
As suggested in a 2016 business travel study conducted by Phocuswright, there is also a high degree of multi-site ‘shopping’ that occurs on corporate booking tool sites as well.
And when you move into the booking phase (below), traveler behavior continues to show a significant degree of fickleness.
It is my belief that much of this multi-site searching behavior, is because travelers simply can’t find what they want. Travel even for business, is still a very personal decision. Obviously for most business travelers, things like time, location, price and policy are important, but so is productivity, familiarity, loyalty benefits, not to mention how hard or easy it is to navigate the booking tool itself.
The business travel content conversation is also being complicated by other factors, including more complex products (think about buying an airline seat today versus five years ago), supplier merchandising efforts, supplier direct to consumer strategies, and new customer engagement models to name a few. And it doesn’t appear as if this condition will get less complicated anytime soon. In fact, I’d suggest this situation will get even more complicated given the outcome of the recent USAirways/Sabre litigation.
Corporate buyers are clearly challenged by this situation and often look to their travel management company for help, but given this rapidly changing environment, what’s a TMC to do? Do they invest in becoming a content aggregator in addition to being a service provider? If so, how far do they go? Do they change their fee structure and if so, who pays?
These are all interesting questions that we spend a fair amount of time thinking about at Deem. As stated in previous posts, we view our role as being an enabler to business travel’s Core Four (traveler, travel buyer, travel management company and supplier), and as such, we see these content challenges as opportunities. As such we’re investing in ways we believe will deliver significant value specifically as it related to this content situation. While it will take a while to fully complete, you will read about and see the first phases of this new approach in the coming weeks, as we roll out a revised strategy and technology platform. So stay tuned.