Skift Take

Merging travel and expense will appeal to those corporations wanting to save money by streamlining operations, but with so many platforms now moving into budgeting tech, how will it stand out?

Against the backdrop of heavily reduced business travel, yet another booking platform has decided to switch its focus to expense management to claw back some revenue.

This time it’s Lola’s turn.It launched on Wednesday a product called Lola Spend, marking its expansion into budget management. The move comes after it lost 95 percent of its business due to the pandemic. However, it’s no stranger to swiftly altering its business model, after starting life as a leisure booking platform.

The launch follows TripActions’ own change of tack earlier this month, expanding its virtual card payments product Liquid amid claims it was eliminating the need for expense reports.

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TravelBank, meanwhile, last month reverted back to its expense roots creating dedicated marketplaces and offering policy advice.

Lola claims its new platform is a company-wide solution for managing company expenses against budget in real-time, “freeing finance teams from repetitive administrative tasks.”

It provides a “smart corporate card” that dynamically updates in real time to only allow employees to spend within their budget and on permitted merchant categories. Like TripActions, it’s also heralding “the end of expense reports.”

Catching Up With Concur

Lola Spend was apparently being planned before Covid-19, with the company saying the pandemic pushed its development forward. This push also means that it now joins TripActions (and others) in wanting to take a slice of business away from SAP Concur, which along with Emburse dominates the expense market.

“It’s not a five-percent better version of Concur, it’s a completely different way to think about the problem,” Lola’s CEO Mike Volpe said in a interview.

Lola is now in its second year of a five-year exclusive deal with American Express Global Business Travel, based around a revenue-sharing arrangement. Amex GBT already offers expense management with its KDS Neo tool, but Lola’s move will likely be targeting smaller clients.

In March last year, Lola also raised $37 million in Series C funding. At the time, Volpe said the company would use the money to double its head count across engineering, sales and marketing. However, according to the interview, the pandemic this year caused Lola to “lay off 30 of its 100 or so workers.”

Going after the expense sector is a risky move for corporate travel platforms, as it relies on customers’ employees actually spending money — which in the current climate isn’t the safest bet. It’s also becoming a crowded space.

For the next round of innovation, platforms may need focus on trying to disrupt other areas of corporate life.

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Tags: american express global business travel, concur, coronavirus, expense management, kds, lola, tripactions

Photo credit: A growing number of platforms are diversifying into expense management to offset declines in business travel booking revenue. Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

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