By Michael Gulmann, Chief Product Officer In my previous blog, I gave the recipe on how to become a digital travel management company. This has been our strategy for the past decade, and I must say, an effective one. We have outpaced competition and the business market intrinsic growth in the last 36 quarters, becoming the fourth largest travel management company in the world. Egencia is fundamentally a challenger. We are the game changers; we wanted to revolutionise business travel through the power of technology. The reality is, we did. The established travel management companies (that do more volume than we do) now use our language, and a flurry of new players too. Now, it’s relatively easy to fake it and look like a real digital travel management company. You can build something, call it digital and spend marketing dollars around it. The true test is whether you can run a multibillion-dollar business on it, increase the traffic double digits every year, and win all your new business with it. It is, after all, a question of execution. I have no doubt that some will manage to do it, while some won’t. So, what’s next for Egencia, then? We knew that we would get copied. Now we will change the game again. At Egencia, we have mastered the complexity of the digital game. That gives us an asset that we are the only ones to own today. We know how to learn – very fast, scientifically, and at scale – from the data of all our users. By constantly improving the experience we deliver to those users, we learn even more about what will work for them and what won’t. The more a user consumes travel through our platform, the more intelligent the platform becomes in recommending pertinent services to the user. This asset put us in another league, and we became the travel management company as a platform. The travel management company as a platform is the fourth wave of business travel technology, a wave you can only reach if you have mastered the third wave, the digital travel management company. So, what to expect next from digital travel management companies, and what would be the added benefits of a platform for you? Here are some potential aspects:
- Access to a network of suppliers beyond air, rail, car, hotels – to cater for the in-between moments in travel (ground, lounge, WiFi, destination etc.)
- Complementary business process software (like expense) to mesh seamlessly with travel workflows
- Predictive analytics tools to allow you to better anticipate on your travel programme
- New communication channels like text and voice chat, powered by artificial intelligence
- Even more omni-channel experiences, where you can start a process in one channel and complete it in another
Each of the things I have mentioned above, taken separately, are not new. However, all of them together form a technology platform that is sustainable and fuels growth. This is the first fundamental network effect. The second fundamental network effect is how the data set built delivers greater value with increased usage.