After nearly three years of pandemic disruptions, industry experts from TripActions are optimistic that 2023 will be the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel for business travel.
For the corporate travel and expense industry, 2023 promises a complex convergence of the current macroeconomic environment and the undiminished demand for travel. This combination will test leaders’ ability to do more with less; it also underscores the value inherent in relationship-building and in-person connections to further business outcomes.
As we reflect on 2022, TripActions’ team of experts—spanning customer service, travel, expense, Europe, and information systems and security—share their predictions for the coming year and their thoughts on how businesses can prepare for opportunities that could emerge.
From a rise in M&A activity to prioritizing sustainability initiatives, here’s what’s top of mind for TripActions executives as we head into 2023.
Chief Customer Officer
CX gets even more personal. In 2023, personalization will go a step further in anticipating the needs of customers across their journey, rather than just focusing on mission-critical tasks. Solutions that offer a more personalized experience will maintain stronger customer relationships.
In-person connections will keep customers on the hook. Personal relationships established through in-person connections will be vital for ensuring that customers maintain a positive experience throughout 2023. Organizations that continue developing relationships with clients through an in-person presence will be able to troubleshoot issues more efficiently, allowing them to maintain more partnerships.
Increased visibility will combat traveler dissatisfaction. The pandemic highlighted areas for improvement across all industries, but especially in travel. Following a year of flight cancellations, a lack of real-time updates, and overall dissatisfaction with outdated solutions, travel providers will enable more tech-driven solutions in 2023 to increase visibility and communicate with customers more efficiently.
Natural language processing (NLP) chatbots will become a necessity for CX teams. The level of personalization and speed that customers demand from online services will reach new heights in 2023, ushering in a new era of CX in which NLP-driven chatbots become the norm. As those chatbots develop the ability to take comprehensive tasks to completion, CX teams will have more time to handle more complex customer support requests, resulting in a boost in productivity.
Michael Riegel, GM, Europe
EU rail systems will have a renaissance. With macroeconomic pressures, the greater accessibility and affordability that rail systems provide will prompt a continuous shift away from short-haul air travel across the continent.
The ongoing improvement in train services across the EU, plus the collective push to discourage short-haul flights, will also encourage visitors and residents to opt for the more sustainable travel option—rail—for both business and personal travel. To keep up with this demand and create a more efficient experience for travelers, EU rail systems will integrate more tech-forward solutions.
The ability to purchase SAF wholesale will kick EU sustainability initiatives into high gear. More EU organizations will take advantage of the ability to purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) wholesale in 2023 in order to meet industry emission targets. Similar to how electric cars gained rapid popularity in the past 20 years, SAF will quickly gain traction within the corporate travel industry as a more effective alternative to offsetting emissions.
Beyond SAF, EU organizations will monitor sustainability efforts and track toward cleaner habits in three ways: by making emission rates more visible, allowing users to set a carbon budget, and surfacing nonstop flights over ones with layovers—even when it could save the company money.
The inflection point for T&E tech has arrived in Europe. Finance teams will look to spend and expense management control as a key driver for cost savings in 2023—and given the macroenvironment, this effort will be of the utmost importance. Without these tools in place, finance teams will fall behind in analyzing data and won’t be able to budget accurately for the future, causing teams to cut programs unnecessarily.
Nina Herold, EVP, GM, TripActions Travel
Employers will use travel as a workplace benefit. With the demand for personal travel unabated, employers will lean into travel as a benefit. Similar to offering a fitness allowance, forward-thinking employers will look to offer travel credit as a benefit for promoting work-life balance.
Along with personal travel, blended travel will continue to gain popularity, becoming a viable vertical.
Tech-first travel solutions will make their way to VIP travel. To support traveling executives, the corporate travel industry will focus on the specific needs of those who actually make the decisions around VIP travel: executive assistants. Historically, executives and their EAs have only been served via manual, labor-intensive processes. In 2023, technology will make inroads in the VIP corporate travel space, optimizing the end-to-end booking experience.
Conferences will become business travel hubs, maximizing in-person meetups. As the economy pushes organizations to cut down on nonessential travel, the meetings and events industry will increase in importance. Conferences will become hubs for get-togethers, offering a single meeting place for colleagues, teams, prospects, and customers. With limited travel, organizations will use conferences as an opportunity to optimize time together.
Michael Sindicich, EVP & General Manager of Liquid
Mergers and acquisitions of fintech companies will be prominent in 2023. Fintech has become an increasingly saturated market; many companies offer solutions but very few provide actual value to their customers. With high interest rates and the pressure that consumer habits are putting on fintech, the industry will begin to shift dramatically in 2023.
We will begin to see a large consolidation of solutions through various mergers and acquisitions, in order to create a diverse offering and build multiple sources of revenue. Smaller players that do not invest in strategic partnerships will be outliers, as customers look to platforms that offer multiple solutions in one. And with a 7% interest rate, companies that mainly float funds to cover purchases will begin to feel the pressures of a stagnant revenue stream.
Increased use of embedded finance solutions within user platforms. This coming year will see an increase in embedded fintech, as companies look to create a seamless, consumer-grade experience for users—which customers have now come to expect from most (if not all) solutions within a business. Embedded finance does just that by meeting users where they are with a native UI and low-friction experiences. A great example is the automation of expenses; with TripActions Liquid, all users need to do is tap their smart corporate card and TripActions takes care of the rest.
Kim Huffman, Chief Information Officer
We will see optimization of existing investment in technology and consolidation of the technology landscape. As the pressures of the macroeconomic environment continue to mount, leaders will optimize existing systems that offer a seamless, end-to-end experience rather than adding more tools to the company’s tech stack.
Additionally, the consolidation of existing solutions will enable increased automation, easier monitoring, and enhanced visibility into company spend and technology portfolio management.
Tools that drive productivity, deliver business value, and decrease costs will become key focus areas of technology investment. We will be asked to do more with less, including resources and budgets. As a result, technology leaders will be seeking tools that drive value via a proven ROI that maximizes productivity and decreases costs.
We will see AI being used to automate repetitive tasks, such as internal support requests, creating more time in the work day for IT support employees to focus on value-added, in-person interactions and activities. AI usage will increase within software development and testing functions, shifting the role of these employees as well as reducing R&D costs.
Last, AI will be leveraged to improve user experience via targeted product insights, automated support capabilities, smart agent bots, and focused in-product offerings.
Proactive security will become a top priority. To quickly identify and triage threats and limit third-party security incidents, organizations will engage with business partners that offer tech-forward solutions with a strong focus on customer trust and security.