With the growing popularity of on-demand services, it’s only natural to see their appeal not only in the consumer space, but also to business users. According to Certify, a provider of travel and expense report management software — in 2015, for the first time, more people used Uber (41 percent) than taxis (20 percent) or rental cars (39 percent) while on business trips. What’s more, it’s reported that the number of people staying in Airbnb properties while on work trips grew 259 percent during the same time period.
Certify looked at more than 30 million receipts and travel expenses in 2015, and its research shows that employees want to use services they’re fond of as individual consumers. Jeremiah Owyang, CEO of Crowd Companies, an organization dedicated to helping brands understand the on-demand and collaborative space, assured VentureBeat that this finding is accurate: “Business travelers are budget conscious, but more importantly seek speed and efficiency rather than rely on taxis to ensure a ride home,” he said. “Most of these startups are integrated with American Express Global Business Travel as well as Concur business travel software, easing the transactions.”
In terms of ground transportation, Certify said that there’s been a progression over the past four quarters, with people moving from car rentals to Uber. The on-demand service became the dominant mode of transit in Q4 2015 with 41 percent (compared to the 39 percent of people who rented cars). At the beginning of the year, Uber trailed behind the other two options, but it grew steadily each quarter. Lyft is also included in the picture, but Certify said that it grew “by a much smaller percent of total ground transportation than Uber.”
Airbnb listings are also popular among business travellers, with a 2015 annual growth rate of 261 percent domestically and 249 percent internationally. The U.S. city where business people were most likely to stay in one of these properties is, not surprisingly, San Francisco, Calif., while the most popular internationally is Vancouver, Canada.
“Many of the successful on-demand services are based upon either an introduction of a more efficient process, a more satisfying solution, or a product that is less expensive than traditional providers,” said Certify CEO Bob Neveu. “Clearly business travelers are interested in saving time, adding convenience, and reducing costs, so the essence of on-demand services are aligned with the business traveler.”
The trends that Certify is seeing seem to justify moves that both Uber and Airbnb have made in the past two years in their efforts to win over business travelers. The former unveiled Uber for Business in 2014 to let people to cut down on receipts that they’re collecting. The service also began testing business profiles and other features to make sure you can charge your ride to your work account.
As for Airbnb, it’s also been targeting the business traveler, having partnered with Concur and launched a dedicated portal. To encourage more travelers to stay in its properties, the company also rolled out a “Business Travel Ready” certification, which highlights listings that offer 24-hour check-in, flexible host cancellation policies, and more.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) projects that $1.25 trillion was spent worldwide on business expenses in 2015, with 17 percent on lodging, 11 percent on gas, 5 percent on car rentals, 3 percent on taxis, and 1 percent on tolls and parking. It’s likely that while employees enjoy Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb due to their familiarity, companies are probably looking at them more closely because of the potential savings they offer.
“When given the option to choose, business travelers are rapidly adopting and integrating ‘sharing economy’ type services into the purchasing habits,” said Neveu. “Traditional providers of these services should find ways to respond to this trend in an effort to defend market share and potentially increase adoption of their products.”