16 experts advise on what’s to come this year.
Concur does not plan to directly integrate Hipmunk into its
booking tool come October, when it expects its acquisition
of the "consumer-grade" travel search aggregator to close. Rather, Concur
intends to act as an incubator so Hipmunk can continue to develop its
travel-shopping aide. Along the way, Hipmunk's six years of know-how will
inform Concur's own platform, according to Concur executive vice president of travel
Hipmunk compiles search results from other sources into a
user-friendly interface for the Web and its app, sorting travel results by
price but also by other factors important to business travelers, such as
duration, number of stops and hotel location. It also communicates with travelers'
calendars and had stepped into the artificial intelligence arena with search
According to MacDonald, Concur CEO Steve Singh has always
held: "We need to deliver products that travelers want to use, not just
products that travel managers want their travelers to use." And so, Concur
invests through its Perfect Trip Fund, in travel startups with a consumer bent.
It also, separate from the Perfect Trip Fund, acquires such companies, as with
Hipmunk will join other Concur tools like the
itinerary-planning TripIt, which Concur acquired in 2011; ExpenseIt, which
translates receipt photos into expense report entries and which Concur built
and launched in 2013; and ClearTrip, an online travel agency in India that
Concur invested in through the Perfect Trip Fund, then acquired outright. Now,
ClearTrip content can be booked in Concur Travel.
In Hipmunk, Concur is buying the knowledge gained from
testing the travel-shopping experience, plus all the knowledge that will come
from continued testing under Concur's well-funded wing. Hipmunk CEO Adam
Goldstein offered a similar sentiment about being acquired: "Six years
ago, our vision was to take the agony out of travel and travel planning. This
combination means we can do an even better job for frequent travelers."
We need to deliver products that travelers want to use, not just products that travel managers want their travelers to use."
MacDonald said Hipmunk's user base skews toward business
travelers, albeit individuals or employees of 15-person or smaller companies. "As
they innovate and test and learn what really makes life easier for those
business travelers, we'll be able to take those learnings and leverage them
across all of our enterprise products," he said, as Concur did with
itinerary-planning tool TripIt.
Here's how that played out. TripIt users forward their
bookings to firstname.lastname@example.org, which produces a unified itinerary for the
traveler to view. Concur acquired the company in January 2011 and continues to
offer the service under the TripIt name, but it also uses the tool's technology
elsewhere. In a July 2012 press release, Concur said it had "included the email parsing
technology from TripIt inside the Concur application." Concur thus enabled
users to email bookings to email@example.com in order to obtain unified
itineraries. That's useful particularly in areas that don't offer TripIt, MacDonald
said, adding that Concur soon will roll out the firstname.lastname@example.org email address
and service in Japan, where TripIt is not available and where most domestic
travel is booked directly with suppliers like ANA, JAL and Japan Rail.
So while MacDonald said Concur does not plan to integrate
Hipmunk directly into Concur, his TripIt analogy indicates that Concur could eventually
use Hipmunk's search functionality and user experience in the Concur Travel
Also exciting to Concur is Hello Hipmunk, a pair of
artificial intelligence virtual assistants that search for travel. They launched
in November 2015. Hello Email takes its cue to start shopping when it's CCed on
any email that references travel plans. Hello Calendar, meanwhile, scans a
user's Google Calendar and volunteers the best options to get travelers to
those meetings. MacDonald said of Hipmunk and its AI research: "They're
going to learn a ton over the next couple of years around how to maximize the
use of bots, what really works for a frequent traveler in the usage of bots. And
we'll be able to say, 'OK, well, how do we extend those learnings into Concur
Expense, into Concur Travel, into Concur Invoice.'"
How Hipmunk Will Look
The Hipmunk team will continue as is, serving
frequent travelers whether they be business or leisure. MacDonald said Hipmunk
staffers will continue to report through Goldstein, and Goldstein will report
to MacDonald rather than to a board of directors. For its part, Concur, can
help Hipmunk grow, MacDonald said. Again, he offered TripIt as an example,
noting that its user base has increased from 2 million to 12 million since
Concur acquired it. Concur's own market penetration—reaching 32 million users
in 2015—undoubtedly played a part in that growth.
They're going to learn a ton over the next couple of years around how to maximize the use of bots, what really works for a frequent traveler in the usage of bots. And we'll be able to say, 'OK, well, how do we extend those learnings into Concur Expense, into Concur Travel, into Concur Invoice.'"
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