Friday 24 January 2020

*GUEST BLOG* How the rise and rise of mobile technology has transformed traveller expectations (and why you should care)

Try to imagine your life without a smartphone. For many, it’s a difficult prospect. Needless to say, the smartphone has revolutionised the way we interact with the world. Even for those who may previously have felt technology adverse, these handheld supercomputers have changed everything. Whether you’re an avid social media user, secret handheld gamer, news-hungry reader or occasional photo snapper, the ability to connect, create and interact with a few simple taps has empowered us all to do so much more on the go.

The smartphone revolution

While technically not the first smartphone, the Apple iPhone created a huge splash in 2007 when it gave consumers the ability to use a huge(!) 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen and take photos with an incredible(!) 2-megapixel camera. Now, just 12 years on the iPhone 2G is considered not just incredibly outdated, but a collector’s item, with some mint condition examples listed for upwards of £10,000 on eBay! This demonstrates how quickly the development of mobile technology has accelerated and the rate of change that all businesses are having to keep up with.

The iPhone was the first consumer-focussed smartphone success story, but its smart predecessors were much more business-oriented. Palm pilots and other stylus-enabled handhelds allowed business users to access limited corporate applications and emails on the go. But it took the explosion of smartphones in the consumer arena for the now ever-connected devices to flourish.

Consumers influencing business

Since then, it’s not just been screen sizes, processing power, storage and camera quality that have massively increased; smartphone users’ expectations have skyrocketed, as apps for every conceivable use have launched, from booking your next holiday or organising your weekly shop to turning your lights on, changing the thermostat or learning to play the guitar. And these user expectations in turn created demand for a better mobile experience in business.

Companies across all sectors have had to run to keep up, finding ways to leverage the hand-held tech to provide additional benefits to staff. Many established technology and software providers shifted focus to develop mobile versions of their offerings, and new companies sprang up to fill niche voids in the market. Today, Apple’s App store alone has an incredible 3.262 billion apps and, in 2018, over 52% of all internet traffic globally was generated through mobile devices.

The app options for business travel

The business travel industry is certainly no exception when it comes to mobile technology. Companies and their business travellers now have a vast array of mobile app choices available, offering a range of value-added benefits and efficiency gains to save money, protect travellers and improve productivity pre, during and post trip. And in line with how they interact with technology in their personal lives, business travellers now expect their smartphones to make the experience of travelling on business more straightforward.

Dedicated business travel apps cover a range of use including online booking tools, itinerary management, traveller tracking and messaging, expense management and much more. When implemented at a company level, these mobile applications often integrate with back office systems that make the entire business travel process much more efficient.

Travel Management Companies have generally followed one of two paths when considering mobile technology – either developing their own proprietary applications or partnering with tech experts in the field.

There are benefits to each approach – those with the in-house capability of developing their own solutions can enjoy the freedom to design and build their own features and user journeys… but of course this comes at a cost, and the pace of change in technology means companies that choose this path need to be prepared to invest to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.

Alternatively, working with a partner gives TMCs the chance to take advantage of best in class technology with, potentially, less risk of investment. These solutions can often be tailored, but TMCs have less input (and in many cases no input at all) into their ongoing development.

The third choice

Here at Business Travel Direct, we’ve developed a unique relationship with SAP Concur which empowers us to offer incredible technology solutions from a place of real expertise for our clients. Our investment in this relationship also brings the added benefit of being able to provide feedback that can help influence the product’s roadmap.

Our client services, support and implementation teams are uniquely SAP Concur Certified giving us the inside track on the technology to deliver the best possible results for clients. And this expertise also enables us to understand how other technology and applications can be integrated and leveraged with Concur for maximum benefit.

It’s a best of both approach that gives us a compelling offering. Working with a solution like SAP Concur also means the travel related applications available to our clients are cross-platform, device agnostic and seamlessly connected to other expense management and back office processes.

Making the right choice

For organisations considering their mobile approach, what’s paramount is selecting a technology stack with integrated apps that can offer an intuitive experience for the end user, combined with clear efficiency gains for their organisation. And that starts by choosing to work with a forward-thinking, future focussed partner who understands the technology inside and out; whether that's a TMC who has developed their own solution, or one like Business Travel Direct who has invested in a partnership approach.

The most important thing is choosing someone with the credibility, expertise and reliability to support you - both now and in the future - with sufficient investment in innovation and development that you can be confident of your solutions' continuity and relevance moving forward. The rise of the smartphone continues… businesses need to work with someone who can keep pace or risk losing out.

This blog was posted by John Pawson, Marketing Director at Business Travel Direct, who are exhibiting at the Business Travel Show next month. Please register for your free visitor pass at and visit Business Travel Direct at stand B960.

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