Nicole Adonis

By Nicole Adonis, GM FCM Travel Solutions

Why are corporate travellers making specific travel purchasing decisions? What are they likely to buy? How much are they willing to spend?

These questions have kept travel managers awake for the past decades. In 2019, however, we can expect the travel industry to look to Behavioural Economics to find relevant answers to these questions.

Combining insights from psychology, judgement, decision making and economics, the field of Behavioural Economics considers why individuals make purchasing decisions, what they will buy and how much they are willing to spend.

In corporate travel, decisions that are made daily can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line and on the wellbeing, productivity and morale of the corporate traveller. By understanding Behavioural Economics, subtle changes to travel policies can be implemented to ‘nudge’ employees to behave and choose travel options that fit within the company’s travel policy.

According to Richard Thaler, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago, one of the ways to encourage people to make better purchasing decisions is merely to make the good decision easier.

Giving a traveller more options might sound like a positive way to give them more control; however, sometimes, this can become a negative. In business, time is money and the more options a traveller has can lead to time-consuming indecisionor decision paralysis. By designing booking tools to offer a limited number of options you can use Behavioural Economics to steer travellers towards your preferred choice.

One theory is that you can persuade travellers by giving them a choice of three hotels, at three different price points, instead of only two. In this scenario, most people would choose the middle-range priced option, rather than pick the most expensive or the cheapest. The theory is dubbed ‘the decoy effect’: when introducing a third decoy option influences a person’s behaviour to choose the option you want.

People will always be tempted to choose the path of least resistance or the ‘easy’ way. So, the trick is to make the easy way better.

Address Pain Points

To change behaviours businesses must first identify and understand the key problems or challenges travellers face and endure. These insights can be used to tweak travel programmes to achieve better compliance and engagement and to reduce the human cost of frequent travel.

Traveller friction can occur when business people are travelling too much or have poor travel experiences. To reduce traveller friction, travel managers need to place greater importance on service levels and more-personalised experiences that keep travellers happier – and more productive – on the road, and more engaged with their travel programmes.

For most of us, 2019 will bring complicated, demanding and time-poor lifestyles. In this environment, simplicity will be increasingly important for travellers. This is especially true of business travellers with hectic schedules who want to see travel streamlined.

Connected consumers are connected travellers

Connected consumers are connected travellers, whether they travel for business or leisure. It would be a mistake to distinguish a traveller as having separate personal and corporate travel profiles when digitisation has ensured that the travel expectations and decision-making, whether travelling for business or pleasure, are largely one and the same.

Digital access has altered all aspects of our work and personal lives. From shopping to social interaction, entertainment, banking and fitness, connectivity drives the way we act, choose and spend.

We talk about a connected consumer being the same as a connected traveller. Consumers who use travel technology in their personal lives, expect the same convenience in their work lives, which places corporate travel stakeholders under pressure to deliver new technologies that simplify the travel process.

An example of this is the increasing dependency on voice-activated digital assistants for basic search and query response functionality.

Research has also shown that Millennials and Generation X, in particular, have a keen interest in Artificial Intelligence and are comfortable using digital assistants on a regular basis. When it comes to travel booking, we’ve seen our own chatbot, Sam, commonly fulfilling this need using a simple and intuitive chatbot-based interface, much the same as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp and speeding up processes.

And Sam has been getting smarter since it first launched in South Africa in early 2018. The chatbot now offers transfers via Uber and Lyft. It also has city guides filled with local hints and tips, and more is yet to come in 2019.

By achieving a frictionless booking and travelling experience, businesses can reduce both the financial and human cost of travel in 2019.

At a time when corporate travel budgets are being slashed, encouraging staff to comply with corporate travel policy and efforts to save travel costs is critical. Companies have to get creative and do things differently if they want to succeed.