The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that corporate travel spending will reach $1.6 trillion in 2020. Most of your company’s future revenue will come from just a handful of your existing customers.

Here’s how you engage them with your loyalty programs.

According to ACCESS in “Millennial Loyalty Statistics: The Ultimate Collection” 70% of millennials and pre-millennials are members of loyalty programs .  Gartner figures that 80% of your revenue will come from just 20% of your customers.

The UX Research

To discover what drives and what frustrates Corporate Millennial Travelers (CMT), we interviewed six of them.  We collected data that will impact your travel rewards program.

We interviewed six CMT between the age of 23 and 38, that made at least seven business trips in a  year. They were all employed at a US based company, and they were members of different rewards programs.  Among others, these included American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska, American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and IHG.

We then analyzed how rewards programs are used and how they collect and redeem points.

How CMT Select Rewards Programs

Frequent business travel

CMT realize they need a reward program when they start to travel frequently for work.

Recommendations

A large number of them choose the travel program their coworkers use. It is often more convenient and fun to travel with colleagues.

Location

In the end, the deciding factor was based on a user’s location. Being affiliated to a local company gave them better flying routes and a wider array of places to stay.

Booking Process of CMT

Millennials like to personalize things–they definitely prefer to do their own bookings.  Even when they have a Travel Manager, they like to select their time, flight, airline, and hotel.

I like to do things on my own and not depend on anyone.

I don’t think travel managers will care about the details as much as I will.

Business trips are made under a budget. For this reason our users that were part of a small company or startup said that they first look through Google Flights to see the different options.  They compare prices and then book a specific flight in their desired airline.

Employees of bigger companies said that they booked through business travel platforms like TripActions, Concur, Points Travel or Egencia, but still sometimes looked in Google Flights first.

Their main considerations when selecting a flight are,

  1. Time. What’s best for the business meeting and the work ahead.
  2. Price. They make sure to find a reasonable price. They also said that they don’t mind if its an expensive ticket because the company pays for it.
  3. Rewards Program. No matter if they pay with a corporate or personal credit card, they book hotels and airlines affiliated to their rewards programs to maintain their status and earn points.

Points, Status, Benefits

ACCESS’ 2018 Customer Engagement & Loyalty Statistics says that 29% of millennials plan to sign up to every hotel loyalty program they run into.

Since all the airlines and hotel chains have a program, I usually have an account with almost all of them in case I need them someday.

CMT are pretty aware of the status and the benefits they have in the accounts they use most often.  The programs send them status emails as a reminder on a regular basis. Yet, the fact that they manage different accounts and have to check in different program websites makes it a struggle.

I have so many points per account. It would be easier to keep track of them in the same place.

CMT prefer to use their desktops for travel.  We found that 83% of users said they prefer to check their points on their desktop rather than their phones when booking.  They can see more information and search better.

Maintaining Status and Leveling Up

Five out of six users find it difficult to manage their airline status because.  This can limit booking to participating airlines, accumulating certain amount of miles, or spending on a trip within a predetermined time.  By comparison, they consider credit card management easy since all they have to do is pay on time.

I travel enough but I don’t spend enough. That’s what limits me from leveling up.

Redeeming Points: The Hard Part

Users have a hard time choosing when’s the best time to redeem their points. Sometimes they are not clear on what’s the real value of their accumulated points.

I’ve spent over an hour or more researching for the best option because I wanna make sure I’m getting the most value out of my points.

Perks of Being Loyal

Having the possibility to get points from their business trips and use them for personal travel is one of the main reasons why business travelers are loyal to their rewards programs.  All participants agreed they only use their points for personal travel, never for business travel. 50% of users said they like to mix business travels with leisure travel.

Bleisure travel is a thing!

If I have an extra hotel night and I’m in an interesting location, I’ll use it to do non-business related stuff.

Rewards that help cut costs down are very valuable.  100% of users agreed that getting free or cheaper flights and hotel nights is the best way to find value in their travel redemptions. Only 33% of them commented they like the perks of being upgraded, but still prefer to have discounts or free stuff.

I think having a trip extension is nicer than having drink vouchers.

Top 5 Pains for CMT to Lookout For

Inconsistency

Being part of different programs means keeping track of their status. It also means understanding the value of different kinds of points, since every company has their own ratios.

Uncertainty

It’s hard for users to identify the value of their points. It makes it hard for them to know when it’s more cost effective to redeem them.

You have to educate yourself to understand what you are getting and how it works. It’s not easy for everybody to take the time to do that.

Shadiness

The fine print can give them a sense of shadiness. Not being sure about what they are getting until they read it is usually a bad experience. They find it misleading.

Unreachable Options

The have to spend too much in order to get upgraded and get other valuable options.

I don’t think the amount of travel that you have to do to get the free tickets is worth spinning my wheels about.

Constraints

Things like expiration dates makes it hard to manage a rewards program. Restrictions in transferring points between accounts is frustrating as well.

Your Rewards Program

  1. Be Straightforward. Use easy metrics in your point system.  From the start, be clear on what they are getting and what they need to do to level up.
  2. Be Flexible. Give CMT the option to transfer points between different accounts and companies.
  3. Don’t be to Harsh. Let points have a long life, if not eternal. Users don’t like to be forced to book a flight just so their points don’t expire. They like to keep them and use them whenever they think it’s more convenient and valuable to them.
  4. Bleisure. Start considering the fact that bleisure is real and users are mixing business with leisure.  This trend is here to stay. Turn bleisure to your advantage, work it into your programs.
  5. Keep it simple. For CMT, the ideal platform allows everything done in one place: price comparison, options, bookings, keeping track of every program they have in a consistent and unified way.

Upcoming Webinar

If you want to know more about this topic, be sure to register for our free webinar, “How Loyalty Programs Can Leverage New Trends in Corporate Travel

It will take place on Thursday February 28, at 11:00 am PDT.  Space is limited, please register.  If you can’t make that time, you’ll find the recording here.

If you have any questions, go ahead and drop me a line at corduno@nearsoft.com.