An ad campaign doesn’t make you traveler-centric

July 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm 2 comments

by Tony

Last week I read a story on The Beat in which Jay Campbell insinuates that simply marketing mobile solutions directly to corporate travelers is sufficient to establish a corporate technology provider as traveler-centric. Bowling night was canceled last Tuesday, so I wasn’t waking up to the typical Wednesday morning fog.  I reread the posting several times, and frankly I cannot comprehend how marketing to an end-user makes a company or its products traveler-centric.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s quite telling when a company must resort to marketing to end-users when its clients are unwilling to pass along a seemingly critical product offering such as mobile. And, last I heard, the product in question is free, so I’m guessing when an economic buyer is unwilling to launch something that is supposed to benefit the end user, and that doesn’t cost the enterprise anything, there must be something else going on.

I’m going to quote Susan Steinbrink from PhocusWright who coined the term “traveler-centric” in the 2009 PhoCusWright’s U.S. Corporate Travel Distribution Fourth Edition Report.  In that report she wrote:

“Traveler-centric buying recognizes the pivotal role of the Internet is selling/purchasing business travel components and services . . . [and] views business travelers to be seen as consumers and leisure travelers in order to leverage consumer applications in business travel.”

Establishing a traveler-centric program requires a fundamental shift in corporate buying practices in order to recognize the demands of the traveler and/or advancements in technology that help serve that traveler. In my opinion, travel managers have no choice but to find a balance; and need to offer an experience comparable to that in the consumer market, while simultaneously maintaining the control they need to meet all of their corporate objectives around policies and preferred suppliers.  When all is said and done, only a superior end-user experience will increase employee productivity and drive adoption, especially in a non-mandated environment.

Over the years we’ve been at the forefront of educating corporate buyers on the value of adopting a traveler-centric approach.  Our mobile product which launched in May 2008, was built with the end user and the enterprise in mind – we believe this is where technology should be. Today, the majority of  Rearden Personal Assistant clients have embraced the mobile app and willingly promote it to their end-users because it enhances their program while providing a great user experience.  These companies understand the importance of a mobile solution and simply want to offer their end-users the best possible experience, but are not willing to sacrifice anything relative to the overall management of their program, and in our opinion, they shouldn’t have to. Not all mobile apps are created equal. In fact, based on overwhelming demand, we’ve enabled our mobile application for use with other booking tools.

At the end of the day, companies can spend thousands of dollars marketing to travelers, buyers, procurement execs, whomever, but when all the chips are counted, it’s the product that is evaluated and ultimately considered “traveler-centric” . . . or not.

Entry filed under: Business Travel, Mobile, Tony's thoughts, User Experience. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Do you make your travel program easy for you, or for your travelers? OpenTravel and Open AXIS. The new Betamax and VHS?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jay Campbell  |  July 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks for reading Tony. Sorry you had to read it over and over again :(

    Here’s my perhaps more succinct response:

    • 2. carryingonblog  |  July 16, 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Jay, Thanks for the clarification, and I get it. As to Rearden Commerce clients facing IT “challenges,” I’m not sure I would characterize it as such. It is more a vetting process that we welcome and pass with regularity because we have built the application to serve two masters, the company and the end user, and these constituents have different needs. At Rearden Commerce we have the luxury, or burden as some would suggest, of serving both the corporate enterprise and their end users, in addition to non-corporate consumers (recall that we power the Chase Ultimate Rewards loyalty redemption site), and as such we design our products with all of these parties in mind.

      If a product such as a mobile app cannot pass the test of the IT guys with respect to security, infrastructure requirements, etc, avoiding that process by going straight to the end user will result in the scenario you reported. If, for some reason, a company chooses not to offer a mobile app to its end users, or chooses to offer an inferior solution to them, those employees will seek out solutions on their own. This is a bad thing for the following reasons – just remember my acronym APPS and you’ll be good to go:

      • Accountability | With 250,000+ apps out there, many are going to be dogs. Who is accountable if the one-off app breaks or provides your employee with bad information that results in them being stranded?
      • Productivity | Back to the large selection. Do you really want your employees spending their valuable time searching 7-10 random apps when a single integrated solution can do the trick?
      • Pricing | Many consumer apps, particularly the travel one, are quite expensive. You can be certain that the company ends up paying for many of these when they hit expense reports.
      • Security | There is no chance that your IT department has the resources or desire to validate the security of every consumer app your employees may end up downloading.

      I’ll close with an analogy because I like using analogies (maybe in a future posting I will tell you why life is like bowling).

      I absolutely think the “rubber meets the road” with the end user, particularly with something like mobile. However, to even get on the road and operate a vehicle, you must have a license to drive, your car needs to be inspected and approved, and you need insurance in case something goes wrong. Our corporate customers sometimes serve as a sort of Department of Motor Vehicles. Sure, as a company we could drive without a license in a car with bad brakes or insurance, but we don’t mind adhering to the DMV rules because we recognize we have two masters: the company and their end users.


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