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It was a bit of a surprise last year when metasearch site Hipmunk, which had been struggling in the face of larger competitors, was acquired last year by SAP-owned corporate travel giant Concur. But it makes sense when you consider that user experience, which Hipmunk excelled at, is one of the biggest problems facing corporate booking tools.
Concur is looking to leverage Hipmunk’s consumer-oriented user interface through a new service for small businesses dubbed Concur Hipmunk. The revamped Hipmunk-infused site would let business travelers receive discounts and have their itinerary and expenses tracked by Concur.
The new service is being tested by Concur partners, essentially in a private beta, and is slated to be available to the public later this year. Initial partners providing discounts include Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s RoomIt, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Avis.
“This new product is a lightweight offering that brings together Hipmunk, TripIt, Triplink, and Concur Expense, and starts to introduce these small businesses to some of the value of a managed travel program,” said Tim MacDonald, Concur’s chief product officer. “It sits right on top of the consumer experience, which will work the way it always has.”
The new service has been in the works for nearly a year. Users of Concur Hipmunk would receive discounts from Concur partners on flights and hotels, after logging in with their Concur account, and bookings would be tracked through Concur’s existing tools. The goal, basically, is to ease the pain points experienced by small business employees when they travel while still enabling them to book their own travel without any kind of travel policy.
Bookings made on airline and hotel sites by business travelers would also be automatically populated in expense and itinerary management apps, as well, like they would for any other Concur traveler.
The unmanaged travel space for small businesses has received a lot of attention in the last year, including the launch of Jay Walker’s Upside. The expense management field, similarly, has undergone consolidation with an eye at unseating Concur as the top provider of expense solutions.
At the time of Concur’s acquisition of Hipmunk, the company claimed it had no plans to turn Hipmunk into a business travel company. Concur has a history of acquiring consumer travel tools, like itinerary management tool TripIt, and allowing them to languish after being integrated into Concur’s travel management stable.
Hipmunk, according to MacDonald, is still actively refining its technology and offerings for consumer users.
Concur is looking to solve the problem of attracting smaller companies into the fold, even if they don’t have the need for a more stringent managed travel program that would necessitate using Concur Travel.
“The problem is that while we firmly believe Concur Travel and one of our preferred travel management company partners is the best travel solution for our customers, we found that there are tens of thousands of small businesses that are not ready for a fully managed travel program yet,” said MacDonald. “It’s our largest and fastest-growing segment. For years our travel management company partners have been trying to sell managed travel into that segment, and they say they’re just not ready for it.”
There’s also the reality that travelers from small businesses are used to booking themselves with online tools and may not want to use a dedicated corporate booking tool. Concur Hipmunk essentially meets these travelers halfway by combining the consumer booking experience with the perks of a more robust corporate travel program.
“The biggest difference with travelers doing it themselves is that they’re particularly sensitive to how much headache they go through to book,” said Adam Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Hipmunk. “When you’re an individual who is left to himself to handle all of this stuff, you’re just overwhelmed by choices. If you only look in one place, you don’t know if the options you see are most convenient. It creates a huge burden through the paradox of choice.”