Millennials Are Changing The Game For Business Travel

Getting on a plane for a face-to-face meeting halfway across the country may have been the dominant business model for the Baby Boomer generation, but Millennials who were born in the Internet age are more accustomed to virtual meetings and a digital sales process. The C-suite, recognizing the trend, has come to expect that virtualization as not only a cost-saving measure, but as a means of making the sales process far more efficient and productive.

When Gerry Brewer, CEO and Managing Director of Teamuniformorders.com, came on as an investor in the firm in 2012, the company was still young. “The gentlemen working in the company, when I first met them, were on the plane, flying out to meetings face-to-face,” said Brewer. “We stopped that. This is Sales 2.0, meaning that the sales group focuses on pre-calling the prospects, and the prospects are qualified through the pipeline using digital content. No more cold calling. Of all the things we did, that was the most important and necessary thing, and now, we have 30 to 40 leads a week reaching out to us. Out of that, we do a 30-minute online demo, and we’re closing 90 percent of our sales in that 30-minute demo.”

The move to digital sales and virtual meetings has become essential to growth, and a necessary component of meeting the expectations of millennial buyers. According to Boston Consulting Group’s research, “Traveling with Millennials,” among non-millennials, 45 percent of those surveyed take four or more business trips a year, compared with only 28 percent of millennials. But, when those face-to-face meetings do become necessary, millennials are taking a different approach to how they make those business trips.

It’s business and pleasure

Business trips for baby boomers involved expense accounts and per diems that were frittered away at the hotel bar, drinking Bombay martinis and enjoying small luxuries on the company dime. Clients were taken golfing and to expensive dinners, where more martinis would be consumed.

Millennial business travelers are taking a different approach, and those in the travel industry are taking notice. In the next three years, business flights will account for half of total millennial travel spend, but millennial consumers are looking for a more seamless digital experience, traveling only when necessary, and often taking personal time after business is concluded in what has been termed a “bleisure” trip.

“A big difference we have seen is that business travelers now are relying more heavily on mobile platforms and smartphone apps,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at hotel comparison platform HotelsCombined. “We noticed this shift towards mobile bookings back in 2014, and invested heavily in developing our mobile product to ensure we provided customers with the same experience that they would get on the desktop. Since then we have seen mobile bookings continue to grow year on year, while desktop bookings have decreased. We believe that this number will continue to rise as more and more people embrace a mobile or tablet as their primary device.”

The practice of booking both leisure and business travel on the same trip, with the help of online platforms, is an emerging trend among millennial business travelers, according to a BCG, who also notes that the same millennials are more likely to use mobile devices for travel arrangements.

The millennial business trip

When Baby Boomers reigned supreme, companies had travel agencies on retainer, but today’s millennial travelers simply see that as an unnecessary step, instead making reservations for themselves on mobile apps.

“Millennials are more interested in achieving work-life balance than previous generations,” said Rivett. “As a result, we’re also seeing them be more proactive in achieving that balance and preventing work burnout.” According to research commissioned by HotelsCombined, 39 percent of Americans who traveled alone, did so because they felt burned out at work, and needed time to rejuvenate.

A larger trend is what may be seen as the consumerization of business travel. Rather than relying on the corporate travel agency to make arrangements, business travelers use the same tools they have come to rely on for personal trips, simply because they are easier, offer better pricing and services than old-fashioned travel agencies, and millennials are already familiar with them.

Business travel will never be the same again. With millennial business travelers blurring the line between business and pleasure, and relying more heavily on personal digital tools and travel apps, those business trips – when they do become necessary – are becoming a lot more tolerable for the employee, and a lot more cost-effective for the company footing the bill.

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