How the Connection Economy is influencing corporate travel

The world has lived through a hunter-gatherer economy, an industrial economy, and an information economy. However, today, travel industry analysts are diving head-first into what modern-day marketer Seth Godin calls the ‘connection economy’.

This new economic era is also commonly referred to as the ‘relationship economy’, the ‘experience economy’, and, even, ‘the dream society’. It is characterised by meaningful connections or relationships and, in the context of access to information, personal choice and competitive pricing, the connection economy prioritises a personal connection, ie: “I want to do business with you because I like you, trust you, I believe in your cause, your values; we have a relationship.”

As futurist Keith Coats puts it: “It is that simple, it is that complicated.”

Although person-to-person ‘connections’ depend on human interaction, technology is helping employees to build connections with their customers through intuitive solutions.

FCM Travel Solutions General Manager Nicole Adonis says in corporate travel, technology can reveal patterns, trends and business insights to help profile the corporate traveller.

“As a global organisation, FCM recognises that data is a critical resource to build connections. We recognise too that the ability to analyse and mine data will shape your business travel programme. And we recognise that high-quality, clean, transparent and organised data offered in real-time and with a wide range of reporting functions can be the lifeblood of your business – and ours,” says Adonis.

By interpreting Big Data, FCM has significantly reduced traveller friction, the term used to describe wear and tear frequent business travellers experience. “By identifying how your travellers behave in the travel decisions they take, you’ll be able to forge a closer connection with them and help reduce traveller friction and increase compliance with the travel policy,” adds Adonis.

Adonis says more than 80% of travel managers have shown an interest in looking further into the impact of travel on travelling employees.

“Often, account managers are asked to model specific programme enhancements that would make travellers happier, for example, moving from economy to premium economy on heavily-travelled routes, the cost of a minimum standard of nightly hotel rates and improvements to car rental programmes. FCM has found that, in some instances, changing an element of the policy to give travellers greater allowances resulted in a win for traveller satisfaction, while the cost increase to the programme was minimal,” Adonis reveals.

Another example would be when an organisation has a frequent traveller who spends half of the year on the road, she says. “It is essential to understand the stress they are under as a result of that travel. It could be cheaper to adapt the travel policy to suit their needs, within reason, than to replace a valued employee.”

Personalisation is also vital, Adonis maintains. Does the traveller prefer unlimited Wi-Fi to a daily breakfast? Do they prefer flying on a legacy or a low-cost carrier? That is where Big Data helps Travel Managers to understand and deliver on their business traveller’s demands for a personalised experience, Adonis maintains. “Predictive functionality presents only the choices that are going to be most pleasing to that individual traveller, speeding up the process of planning and booking and even further cost savings.”

Seth Godin coined the term ‘connection economy’ and defines the concept as built on three pillars: co-ordination, trust and permission. Co-ordination creates value by bringing people together; trust establishes grounds for a relationship; and permission means it is essential to talk to those who will listen. “The connection economy is a great way to view corporate travel and the relationship between TMCs, travel buyers and time-poor corporate travellers.”” Adonis concludes.