Travel’s hidden costs

Influencing traveller behaviour is key to unlocking additional savings

December 29, 2014
by Ben Scott

Consumer trends are driving change in the expectations and buying behaviors of business travellers. Armed with smartphones and tablets, travellers have access to a wealth of information and now rely on these devices to stay connected and productive on the road. Connectivity and access to relevant, personalized content is table stakes.

Personalization is everywhere—from Starbucks writing your name on your cup to retailers like Amazon offering personalized recommendations based on search and past purchase history. Retailers know who you are, understand your buying habits and can showcase the products and services they believe are most relevant to you. This makes it easy to find what you want, fast. It’s no surprise that business travellers expect the same easy, customized experience.

Research conducted in 2013 by the CWT Travel Management Institute (Where now for managed travel?) found business travellers are twice as likely to book outside of their company’s travel policy for more convenient options. This poses risk for your travel program in terms of safety and security and savings—likely top priority.

How do you combat the influence of consumerization and convenience to deliver the best possible travel program—one that not only drives savings for your company, but also supports travellers’ needs?

For companies with mature travel programs in place with preferred supplier agreements and negotiated contracts, the answer lies in increasing compliance to the program without instituting mandates. You can do this by influencing your travellers to make the right travel decisions on your company’s behalf.

Travel Gamification
Travel Gamification is one tactic that can be employed to achieve this goal. The concept of gamification—using game mechanics and rewards for non-game applications to increase engagement and loyalty—has been in use in multiple industries for some time.

The healthcare industry uses gamification to encourage people to engage in healthy eating habits and behaviors to save money on health insurance premiums, for example. Some individuals have taken that a step further with the use of wearable technology, like Fitbit, allowing them to track their health and fitness progress against their personal goals and friends and family. Airlines have used traveller loyalty programs for decades to incentivize travellers to book with them repeatedly in order to gain mileage points and status.

In managed travel, we look at gamification to get travellers to seek the options that best fit their company travel policy. Business travellers want to make the right decisions, but often don’t know what the ‘best’ decision is from their company’s perspective. Gamification educates them about what options are most valuable and rewards them for selecting those options. Perhaps it’s most beneficial to book air travel 14 days in advance, or maybe it’s more important to book on a specific airline regardless of how far in advance the ticket is purchased? The answer varies by company, but it’s imperative travellers understand what’s most important to their travel policy.

Naysayers may think they shouldn’t reward travellers for expected behaviors. After all, they are travelling on business, and should book within their company’s preferred program.

Gamification isn’t about rewarding travellers for expected behavior, but rather, recognizing travellers who display exceptional behavior, or who are supercompliant. Supercompliance means the traveller makes the most desirable choice for the organization when faced with two or more decisions that are all considered to be in compliance with the travel program.

Does Travel Gamification work?
CWT uses Gamification internally to motivate travellers to make the most appropriate travel decisions, and it’s created a culture of competition, especially at the executive level where team results are reported. Internal competition is motivating, but gamification also delivers bottom-line results.

A number of our clients have embraced simple gamification tactics through a traveller scorecard, and collectively have realized increased savings of four percent across their travel programs. Select clients have undertaken a more dynamic approach, using Travel Gamification by CWT Solutions Group, and have seen significant results in a short time.

A major online retailer who has engaged Travel Gamification realized incremental improvements in buying behaviors that generated additional air savings of two to three percent, and an increase from 90 to 96.5 percent in booking through the company’s online tool. This program incorporates badges, points, leader boards and daily data uploads.

Compliance is critical to driving savings, and can be achieved not by mandating a travel policy, but by influencing traveller behavior. In fact, influencing traveller behavior offers the greatest opportunity to drive additional savings in a mature travel program. By engaging and rewarding supercompliant travellers for making good decisions on behalf of the company, you can achieve incremental savings of up to four percent.

Ben Scott is vice-president of marketing in the Americas for Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), a global leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events. CWT serves companies, government institutions and non-governmental organizations of all sizes in more than 150 countries and territories.