Amex launches a smarter online travel shop
American Express Business Travel has launched what it calls an 'intelligent online marketplace' for travel and related business services, powered by technology from Rearden Commerce and offering goods from over 135,000 suppliers.
The new online business travel shop allows business users to buy and manage travel (e.g. flights, hotel stays and car rentals) and other services such as airport parking, dining, ground transport, event tickets, package shipping and audio/web conferencing.
To more effectively deliver the solution to its client base in the US, American Express has formed a product council with Rearden that will focus on future development needs. In addition, American Express has taken a minority equity stake in Rearden and will name an executive to join Rearden's board.
User's convenience Acting as an online personal assistant, the marketplace recognises each traveller's identity (through a booking profile), their context (i.e. itinerary details), and their presence (their physical location). This enables the system to put together a personalised trip-planner that can automatically recommend relevant goods and services for purchase.
Booked itineraries can then be loaded directly into the traveller's Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes Calendar. The marketplace can also automate invitations to colleagues for activities such as web or audio conferences, and automatically provide alerts via voice, e-mail, text or fax in the event of a change to an already-booked reservation.
Control over travel expenses According to Priyan Fernando, executive vice president and COO for American Express Business Travel, "The American Express Intelligent Online Marketplace uses our combined capabilities to help companies achieve a higher degree of visibility and control over all aspects of their travel and related expense. Rearden's online personal assistant simplifies schedule management and provides the peace of mind employees need to remain productive while on the road."
According to recent estimates, US corporations spend more than US$470 billion on travel, entertainment and other employee business services each year. More than US$190 billion (40% of the services purchased each year) are bought without preferred vendor contracts, resulting in a large number of missed savings opportunities.
Strategic sourcing The Intelligent Online Marketplace helps companies gain visibility and control over unmanaged expenses which, according to American Express, can account for nearly half (49%) of all business travel and entertainment costs. By aggregating thousands of suppliers in one online environment, the marketplace aims to help travel managers and procurement managers strategically source secondary corporate services, in addition to the traditional sourcing of fares, room nights and rentals.
The platform also helps companies set policies and provide services for employees based on their roles, location and actual business needs. It is also possible for managers to guide employees to preferred business service suppliers and thereby maximise negotiated savings from participating merchants.