Know Thy Customer: Meet the Business Travelers


Illustration: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: While it’s undeniably best to know thy customer as intimately as possible, buyer personas are a good place to start. In this multipart feature, meet the budget setters, family-first flyers, high lifers, business travelers and big spenders.

The term “business traveler” is fairly synonymous with frequent flyer nowadays, with the average road warrior taking between 12 and 14 trips per year. Though they are not the largest passenger segment – in fact the percentage of trips for business purposes has dropped from 47 percent in 1997 to 31 percent in 2015 – they are typically twice as profitable as leisure travelers for airlines.

In the past, this travel segment was predominantly male; recent years have seen a sharp uptick in the number of women traveling for work purposes, and the gender variable has made a considerable difference. Overall, business travelers make travel reservations much later than holidaymakers, but a 2016 study found that female business travelers book 1.9 days earlier than their male counterparts, saving employers a significant amount. The study, by corporate travel firm Carlson Wagonlit Travel, also found that as traveler age increases, so too does advance booking.   

Asia is the world’s biggest market for business travel, accounting for 38% of about $1 trillion in annual spending.

Unlike leisure travelers, who travel with a greater sense of novelty, for frequent flyers, navigating concourses and in-flight entertainment systems with blinders on is business as usual. Roseler suggests that companies should try to recreate a sense of surprise and delight for business travelers. “There are ways to do that; for example, using pop-ups or presenting offers that are relevant to them,” she says. “With a new and exciting feel, you might be able to convert them.”

The most tried-and-true method of converting road warriors has been through loyalty rewards programs. Named Loyalty magazine’s 2017 “Best Loyalty Programme of the Year,” the Frankfurt Airport Rewards program has found success through its ability to present personalized and real-time offers to its customer base, 38 percent of which are business travelers.

The majority of business trips are booked within a week of the departure date.

Done right, partnerships that allow customers to spend airline points at the airport could be a sweet spot, Roseler says. In partnership with OTG, United Airlines explored this idea through Miles Shops and restaurants that accept points as payment at Newark Liberty International Airport. “Captive currency is spent a lot more freely because it’s almost like toy money rather than real money,” she says.

“Know Thy Customer” was originally published in the 8.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.