Concur’s mobile voice search – another great step in business travel experience and productivity?

In somewhat understated fashion yesterday, Concur announced its new voice-driven mobile travel search.

Concur Hotel Booking input

Concur Hotel Booking input

This is a great step for a number of reasons. As mobile bookings grow, particularly for new hotel bookings and in-trip changes, any advancement that enables business travelers to cut friction out of managing their trips is fantastic.

And while this is cool technology, it also helps deliver what business travelers and their companies really need as hard travel costs and fees continue to rise with airline consolidation and a strong hotel industry – economic productivity.

This has been coming for a while. As Google announced its ITA acquisition in 2010, I showed via the linked presentation how a convergence of forces could enable Android voice search integration with ITA’s QPX airfare technology and why travel is a great candidate for voice to potentially help shift the consumer travel landscape.

And as I’ve worked with corporate travel clients the past two years, it’s even more applicable to business travelers.

Now, congratulations to Concur for making it happen, likely using its late-2012 investment in Evature, which seems to have pivoted to voice search after launching as natural language text search, and tapping the Android voice API.

Why is the timing right now?

Simply, voice engagement continues to go mainstream. Android searches were already 25% voice around 2010-2011. Siri, of course, received a lot of fanfare.

But it’s not just mobile. Microsoft continues to push its vision in the striking example of its new Xbox One, architected to markedly drive voice engagement in the living room with its hardware install base and 45-50 Million Xbox Live subscribers.

For travel specifically, as I wrote earlier:

 “Travel is still a commerce category that needs innovation…the beauty of Expedia and others is that they gave consumers the ability to cut inefficient offline search and intermediary steps and costs and go directly to the transaction.

So could natural language voice help cut inefficient online steps and costs? Current online booking UI’s…were great advancements, but still create friction. GDS’s create friction and cost.”

So back to the subject of business traveler productivity – how can we offset those costs?

  • Voice technology isn’t just about convenience…
  • Avoiding typing and drop-down menus can easily save a minute or three, and those minutes add up…
  • Imagine  saving just  ½ hour out of the entire booking and itinerary management process…
  • For a company whose employees take 100,000 trips, value that time at even just @ $100/hr…
  • that’s a $5 Million economic productivity gain…annually
  • Even as a soft cost, it’s a nice bite out of those increasing airfares, ADRs, and lovely ancillary fees

So what’s next?

TMC’s can continue to improve their own product, and for open booking via Concur, the opportunity for suppliers to capture business travelers by reducing friction in their own sites and apps should be compelling.

As for voice search, we’ll see how adoption takes, so keep on talking…


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