With ridesharing apps such as UBER and Lyft becoming one of the leading business travel expenses in North America, there is no ignoring them now. The data that is available in the marketplace from this technology about a traveler’s ground transportation requirements brings more insight than ever before. How can a buyer integrate this rich information into the managed travel program and Phat Data strategy?

Travelers love their ridesharing apps! These services are often significantly less expensive than traditional ground transportation and they are super easy and convenient to use. At least one source states that ridesharing accounts for up to 15 percent of expenditures for business travel. That is huge. Everyone knows it has been a game changer for sure!  

The once dark days of data around taxi usage has been transformed through ridesharing. Travel managers can now gain greater insight into the traveling patterns and behaviors of their travelers and, in turn, utilize that data to develop a really solid strategy for their ground transportation needs. Let’s face it: The traditional car rental sourcing exercise has changed, and that’s primarily due to ridesharing.  

There are very few downsides to partnering with a ridesharing company. Travelers are using it whether the company sanctions it officially or not. So why not go ahead and partner with the provider – if for no other reason than to obtain the data that can be so valuable in the managed travel program?  

Driving the Savings
There are two key areas in the ridesharing data to focus on: First, to lower expenses and second, to influence a traveler’s behavior, all while providing them a better experience.

Every travel program is trying to squeeze a little more savings each year, and it gets tougher all time. What we are seeing today is that the overall car rental spend in many companies is falling off even as ridesharing is increasing exponentially. It becomes a balancing act for buyers, as they don’t want lower spend to cause their car rental costs increase unless the offset that comes through ridesharing is significant enough to make up the difference.  

Taking the data provided by the ridesharing companies, buyers can determine what types of trips travelers are using ridesharing. What distances are they traveling? What cities are most frequently used? Domestic versus international? Average cost per ride?  

Combining this data and comparing it to same data for car rental or even black car service, a buyer can then formulate an offering for their travelers that balances savings and service. Understanding this also enables better negotiations with your ground transportation suppliers.

For example, travelers going to City A may be better off renting a car because the frequency and distance traveled make renting a better option than ridesharing. In other cities just the cost of parking a rental car makes ridesharing a better option.

Buyers often address ground transportation in policy by stating, “Use the most economical means.”: Now given all the details a buyer has access to, they can drive more specific expected behaviors by stating specific instances when the traveler should use a black car, a rental car or ridesharing.

This keeps travelers better informed which provides a better experience. It also helps encourage the expected behaviors and allows the travel buyer to gain more influence over the ground transportation category.  It may be black car in NYC, ridesharing in SFO, and car rental at DEN.

As always the more near real-time data a buyer can access the better; they can manage a category, develop a policy and influence the traveler – that is Phat!

Meeting the Need
Travel buyers can also utilize booking data to engage with ridesharing companies to provide potential transportation for specific meetings or events. Imagine having a sales meeting in a particular city with attendees coming from various destinations and varied times. Providing ground transportation can be expensive, inefficient and not always very convenient.

Buyers can procure event codes specific to the dates and locations from ridesharing companies and provide this information to their travelers. It drives down costs, reduces waste and creates a more convenient experience for the traveler.  

Even if a buyer opts to not provide an actual event code, wouldn’t it be cool to provide the ridesharing companies anonymized information about the dates and times travelers are expected to arrive so the provider can ensure they have enough drivers at or near the airport? What if ridesharing companies were willing to pay for that information? What if they were willing to offer discounts? It is an interesting thought about the ways one could commoditize one’s data in this category.  

As buyers take a new look at the ground transportation landscape, there are so many new and Phat ways that one can use ridesharing data to complement their managed travel program. Whether travel buyers are using data provided by rideshare providers in order to save money or improve experiences, it’s more important than ever to not overlook this new, rich source of information that buyers have never had access to before.

If you haven’t already added ridesharing into your overall Phat Data strategy, the time is now. If you are just developing your strategy, don’t overlook this hip and relevant data!

Jennifer Steinke is Global Head of Travel, for PPD, Inc., and an industry thought leader who has over 30 years experience managing corporate travel. She holds an MBA plus Certified Corporate Travel Executive (CCTE) and Global Travel Professional (GTP) certifications from GBTA. Jennifer strives to deliver innovative and thought provoking ideas to the corporate travel industry.