Simon Barker, CEO and Founder of leading virtual card technology provider, Conferma, explores what 2017 has in store for business travel payments
We can be certain that uncertainty is here to stay
2017 will stand out as a year of significant change for corporate travel. The biggest challenges facing business over the next year will spring from dealing with more uncertainty. Over the last 6 months, it has become even more evident that we are not good at predicting the changes that are afoot.
Successful business will become even more agile and fleet of foot. The ability to anticipate and roll with the implications of change has to become part of businesses' DNA. Uncertainty in political, economic and technological landscapes should all be treated with the same dexterity of thought, after all ambiguity can provide opportunity for those who are quickest to adapt.
As we move forwards in an ever changing payments world with global actors and start-ups attempting to define new standards, we can be sure of nothing. All we can do is to make sure that our people, technology and infrastructure is adaptable to a highly dynamic market place.
We can be certain that uncertainty is here to stay, and so are we if we focus on adding even greater value for our customers and partners.
Opportunities to grow and to innovate will spring from uncertain footing, but businesses must be quick and efficient in providing business travellers with the same level of convenience they already enjoy in their personal lives.
- Mobile will lead the consumerization of business travel
Mobile has changed the status quo. Holidaymakers are accustomed to using their mobile phones to check in to their hotel room, make payment, check out and manage their entire trip. We don't plan our journeys without our smartphones and we don't travel without them either.
Moreover, consumers are quickly recognising that, to make payment, you don't need plastic or cash. An ever-increasing number of consumers use their contactless card, mobile phone, fitbit, or virtual card as a convenient way to pay.
The uptake in contactless and non-plastic transactions, electronic and mobile wallets is growing, and this trend will undoubtedly continue in 2017 at an accelerated rate. In fact, mobile payments are predicted to account for $1 trillion USD in value in 2017.
Mobile adoption grew, particularly in emerging markets, and global smartphone traffic is predicted to exceed PC traffic by 2020.Mobile payment has grown in popularity, and monthly active users of Apple Pay were up more than 450% year-on-year in June 2016. Research has predicted that total mobile payment volumes will climb up to $1.08 Trillion by 2019.
The same customers have, as yet, been unable to replicate that convenience when travelling for business, but soon it will translate for business. There is plenty of room in the market for movers and shakers in virtual payments to service the business traveller and TMC, and as consumers grow more accustomed to convenience, they should act fast.
- More millennials are on the move
The boardroom is changing. A generation of workers born between 1980 and 1995 have become of age to make high level decisions, drive business development and of course, take business trips.
Microsoft and Apple, for example, employ a host of bright young minds, but growing up in the age of digitalisation and automation has left them frustrated with manual and one-size-fits-all processes for corporate travel booking.
For these digital natives, accustomed to seamless mobile integration with an enhanced user experience, paper-based inefficiency is unexpected and quite jarring. This is an important demographic to please, considering millennials took 7.4 business trips in the last year. In comparison, Gen Xers took 6.4 and baby boomers 6.3. Even so, only 28% of corporate travel solutions enable bookings via mobile devices, with just a further 5% intending to offer in the next 12 months.
The corporate space hasn't caught up to the level of automation and customisation that millennial business travellers are accustomed to in their personal lives. To remain relevant among young executives in 2017, the key will be to simplify and automate paper-based processes, manual check-in and time intensive expense claim policies.
 Cisco, June 2016