The telco giant's BlueJeans video platform division is banking on the continued resurgence in conferences, conventions and hybrid work, but with a wide range of hardware and software launches, it could be sending mixed signals.
Future of Work
As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. Read Skift’s ongoing coverage of this shift in business travel behavior through the lens of both brands and consumers.
U.S. telecoms conglomerate Verizon is ramping up efforts to gain a foothold in the meetings and events sector.
The company is better known for its mobile network, but it also operates a video-conferencing and virtual meetings platform called BlueJeans. That division is now delving deeper into the meetings and events sector as corporate travel recovers.
The unit’s boss thinks meetings platforms have become “commoditized,” so he’s now developing a range of features designed to better blend the worlds of virtual and real-life.
“Meetings is meetings,” said Chris Lewter, general manager of BlueJeans by Verizon. “It’s a bit of commoditization right now. Everyone kind of does meetings, it just depends who you prefer, or who your company is using.”
His comments follow a recent Deloitte report that found “inadequate conferencing software” was boosting the recovery of corporate travel, with conferences now one of the top purposes for a business trip.
Hybrid Work Focus
The meetings sector is realigning itself after the pandemic. First came the layoffs, now come the mergers and acquisitions. Cvent is reportedly for sale, while Convene has just bought conference provider etc.venues to cater to the growing trend of hybrid work.
It’s this area that BlueJeans is keen to explore, following a launch of products over recent months.
“What we’re wrestling with is you’ve got on a Wednesday or Tuesday, or whenever people are coming together, they’re in a conference room, but then you’ve got four other people who never made it to the conference room,” said Lewter. “They’re on the team, they need to be engaged, be part of the conversation and feel that inclusion. That’s where we’re thinking of different versions of the platform.”
To address this BlueJeans partnered with Owl to build a 360-degree camera. When placed in the middle of a table it automatically follows the speakers. It also offers “rooms-as-a-service” to help companies upgrade conference rooms, and a “Gateway” device lets companies plug in different video conferencing software, including Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to create a single meeting.
It’s also targeting the exhibition sector with a product called Expo, offering booths with a virtual presence so delegates can still attend. On a bigger scale it’s recently developed a Studio product, offering TV production quality.
“The idea behind physical conferences, we’re going to see a tonne of it in 2023,” said Lewter.
In the face of diminished corporate travel sales, one agency has come up with an innovative way to encourage more bookings: a grant.
Australia’s Flight Centre Travel Group was severely impacted by the pandemic and is now reviving its “Corporate Travel Grant” program.
It is targeting small and medium-sized businesses, and will provide one company with $20,000 worth of benefits, including IHG hotel stays and Hertz car hire. Four runners-up get $7,000 in Virgin Australia travel credit and two of the airline’s Velocity Gold memberships.
The catch? Companies need to film a one to two-minute video pitch, explaining what travel means to their business, and what the grant would allow it to do.
As ever, the cost of running the campaign will be a fraction of the value it stands to gain in terms of market research.
10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up
CWT Raises $90 Million to Fund New Tech Development
Corporate travel agency CWT has raised $90 million in private equity from its shareholders to invest in technology. The investment will “help underpin user-experience, data and reporting, sustainability and myCWT platform enhancements,” it said in a statement Wednesday. More money will be funneled towards sustainability, traveler wellbeing, and inclusivity. That follows investments in real-time carbon footprint indicators, non-binary profile fields, on-trip connectivity, and traveler tracking systems in 2022. Those efforts were part of an arrangement to invest $100 million into its myCWT travel management platform after a hefty financial restructuring.
Europe Pushes Ahead With Cross-Border Rail Vision
The European Commission is supporting 10 pilot projects to establish new rail services or improve existing ones to bolster cross-border rail connections. They include European Sleeper, a night train service between Amsterdam and Barcelona which Skift profiled in April 2021. “While demand for green mobility is growing, we need the rail market to respond much better and much faster, especially for long and cross-border journeys,” said European commissioner for transport Adina Valean. A new high-speed train route connecting Paris and Berlin is also planned for 2024.
Mobility Platform CMAC Offers Financial Coaching Program
UK mobility platform CMAC has a new take on employee wellbeing. It believes managing finances can be stressful, especially with the cost of living crisis worsening, so is partnering with Claro Wellbeing to provide a financial advice program for its staff. It offers one-to-one coaching sessions focused on financial confidence, budgeting, retirement planning, investing in property and more. “Worrying about money can lead to increased stress and negatively affect mental and physical wellbeing. From an employer’s perspective, a team member suffering from stress won’t be as productive, they’re likely to take more days off sick and even leave work altogether,” said chief operating officer Neil Micklethwaite.
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