Steve Huffner on the development of kayaks for business

Kayak In late 2019, just before the pandemic, we quietly launched Kayak for Business (K4B)’s corporate travel solution, which was fully launched in July 2021.

According to CEO Steve Hafner, the product has been in development for the past year, but is still treated as a startup within Kayak.

He talks to Phocus Wire about the ups and downs of the pandemic business and the challenges Kayak for Business is currently facing.

The first mention of Kayak for Business was in late 2019. What did you think when launching it?

The origin story is that we built it for our use. I couldn’t find the travel site I wanted to use as a consumer, just like I did with kayaking, so I made a kayak.

Combination with OpenTable [which Hafner also oversees] We’re approaching 2,000 employees and didn’t like the company’s travel solution, especially on the OpenTable side, so we formed a small team to innovate some on top of Kayak’s consumer site. I told you to build it. Eventually it will be K4B.

What did you dislike about what was there? What did they have?

They just didn’t have good search results or user interface. We thought we would start with the kayak consumer interface and add what big companies need, such as policies, expense tracking, approval queues, company fares and rates, and simple booking solutions.

How difficult was it to approve or part of a policy?

Our policy wasn’t difficult, but while we were building it, we thought, “Why don’t you build it in a way that others can use?”
This required a bit more work, especially from a data privacy security standpoint. Having a consumer site that is accessible to everyone is one thing, but if there are companies that have special policies in place and travelers can track each other, then a robust login and data privacy rail Must be secured.

Is it true that you have entered a pandemic?

Published in February 2021, between 2019 and February 2021, there was a beta site where companies could request access, allowing them to get their products over and over again. Find and fix broader usage and bugs in it.But we didn’t really Released worldwide until July 2021..

Can you classify your customers for us?

Built for small, unmanaged businesses, about 87% of registrations are for businesses with less than 250 employees, making it attractive to those without a travel manager. There is also a formal travel policy, but this product makes it easy to do. However, some large companies are using K4B.

Why do you think? Has there been a change in how people see these tools and what they need? Why are big companies looking to kayak for business?

It’s a good product and the price is great, so it’s free! I think big companies are using Kayak for Business side by side with traditional programs, overwhelming traditional travel managers. I think one day we might catch up with some of the more advanced features of the companies that K4B lacks and turn off GBTs and CWTs around the world. One of the big differences between K4B and other products is that K4B offers customer service, but we don’t.

What were the pros and cons of launching in a pandemic?

That wasn’t the way we created it. We thought we would launch, gain traction, and add features over time. The pandemic had a slightly silvery lining due to the longer runway for building features without much use.

The airline was much more willing to discuss partnerships because it was trying to find a business wherever it could be found.

All the big business travel agencies and even some new start-ups were all in survival mode, as it really had a chilling effect on the competition. During the pandemic, there was still a fairly resilient consumer business, so I didn’t have to worry about it because I didn’t have a lot of staff and overheads.

The downside, though inferior to the consumer side of the business, is that it took a long time to get the impact of PnL from the efforts we are currently looking at.

How big do you think it will be?

That is the question we are constantly discussing. During healthy times, consumer and business trip opportunities should be about the same in terms of travel costs. I don’t think our market share will be as high on business trips as we are for consumers. I think consumers will probably always be seven times more.

Besides talking to the press and adding new features, what are you doing to get more customers?

That is the true beauty of the business model. You can intercept people who use kayaks and divert them to your business travel path. We are not trying to create a brand name. We are not calling for corporate customers. We only intercept corporate customers when they are using us for leisure or when they are fooling a corporate travel program with kayaking.

How do you intercept them?

When you visit the kayak, you will find that there are many access points where you can participate in the business program.Can drop [a message] If the header detects that it is a business search based on the search you are performing, and if you search frequently, the message will be displayed more often. If you are a registered user and you have a company email address, we will also send you a message. On average, we don’t have a sales force, and we sign up for two to 3,000 companies a month just for that activity.

What about retention? Are you giving them enough to keep them up?

Retention wasn’t an issue because it’s a free program and what people usually do is either sign up and use us. I think the problem is really usage, and for now, broken windows aren’t too many small businesses yet.

What features are most used?

In terms of business trips, it’s a flight. Currently, there are strong policies implemented by companies. If you have an approval queue via Slack and email, your company’s fares and charges are better than calling someone. But what I enjoy most and use, which is an anecdote, is the integration of Expensify. Therefore, when you book something with Kayak, it will be automatically entered in Expensify’s expense report.

What kind of functions do you want to integrate in the future?

There are still many integrations we don’t have. For example, Concur hasn’t worked well with Kayak yet, and many companies are using Concur, so I’d like to find a way to partner with them somewhere in the future. There is still a supply to connect. I think we live in 60 markets, but the world is a lot bigger than the 60 markets. And I think there are still some bugs that need to be fixed.

Did you keep the team you originally devised and developed small to handle these things?

The team is a bit bigger than 2019 and is always looking for more resources, but it’s still treated as a startup within Kayak. This is great.

And maybe it’s your preferred route to keep it fresh and innovative?

We have a team at K4B and a startup team at the kayak hotel, so we have some experience with how to do this.

Do you think it will remain free, or do you have the opportunity to build any premiums or subscriptions?

That’s what we’re talking about internally. I’m now more focused on getting adoption and usage. K4B is always free at the base level. We are considering an enterprise version for large enterprises, which will incur some SaaS charges.

Are you looking at yourself in Trip Actions and Travel Perks, or are you with Amex GBT, CWT, and those guys?

We think they are better than these characters in terms of technical chops and consumer and data insights. In terms of customer service, I think it’s better than us because everything is available. My challenge is how deeply I can go into a corporate trip without providing customer service. That’s where we play and that’s where we draw the line.

What is your broader view of the returning business trip? Bill Gates said that 50% would never come back, and others would say 20 to 25% would never come back.

Both of those opinions have already proved to be wrong. It has already returned to 85% in the United States. Talking to the CEO of a major airline, he says he’s already 85% back. This means that the international flight will not be returned, the test requirements will be exempted, and the international flight mask will not disappear. Without that, I think business trips have a bright future if we can maintain a relatively strong economy.

How can technology see the fusion of business and leisure happening?

It’s definitely happening, we’re looking at it for query parameters. Previously, it was easy to distinguish between business and leisure travelers with just a search query. During the trip, is the departure point Monday or Tuesday? Did you have a weekend stay?

What we’re seeing now is that it’s pretty blurry and the average length of the trip is longer than before. Recent day trips are no longer seen and the pre-purchase period has changed. Previously, leisure guests booked in advance and business travelers booked near the departure date. Now that I’ve booked a leisure folk book a few days ago, I hate that word, but I’m sure leisure is happening.

How else can I build K4B?

We introduced a lot of fun things into our products, made them a little more refined and spread word of mouth. One of the best things I’ve seen our people do is be able to recommend what individual employees should do for where they stay and for those who visit their place. about it. This is really cool. When I go to our office in Berlin, I stay in a hotel where the people of Berlin told me that they should stay with me and do the activities they instructed me to do.

The other is that I moved to work from almost everywhere. [policy].. We are kayak and remote first across OpenTable. This means that our staff are actively encouraged to switch offices and can go to another office for up to 6 months to work and use K4B to do that.

https://www.phocuswire.com/Kayak-for-Business-developments-Q-A Steve Huffner on the development of kayaks for business

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