Expense and Travel Solutions Retail Businesses Need to Succeed

By Jessica Sillers

Digital tech has changed the face of doing business. Particularly in response to the coronavirus pandemic, companies have made great strides to establish a strong presence in a virtual world, with meetings and daily operation often happening at a distance. Even so, many industries truly rely on face-to-face interaction and are eager to regain safe, thriving travel programs.

The retail sector in particular often faces lower profit margins than other industries. Retailers rely on in-person meetings to collaborate at their best, prepare new locations for opening, and secure deals with clients and vendors. The right travel and expense management software can offer a way for digital tech to support the human side of your business.

4 Travel and Expense Challenges for Retail Businesses

Implementing an effective travel and expense management program means addressing specific concerns in your industry. Here are a few common challenges retailers often encounter, and how to solve them.

Multi-leg trips

Retail road warriors may need to combine multiple cities into one trip, which makes manual booking complicated. It’s hard to tell if a multi-leg package, a handful of one-way “hacker fares,” or a combination of multi-stop and one-way tickets offer the best deal.

Manual trip booking is time consuming and often won’t result in the most cost-effective trip planning. Travel management software can simplify flight rates, as well as offer discounted rates that some SMBs may not otherwise be able to access.

Dependable agent support

If your team travels frequently, you need reliable support to provide guidance or answer questions. Look for a software solution that offers a dedicated account manager to help your employees use the software consistently and effectively.

Getting 24/7 traveler support makes it easier for managers and business travelers to stay in touch and problem-solve on the go. Companies can uphold and improve their duty of care and make travelers feel supported, which aids morale and helps prevent burnout.

Manage rebooking and last-minute changes

Business trips don’t always go according to plan. There’s various reasons why a business traveler may need to rebook or back out from a trip on short notice. The challenge for retail companies is preventing these itinerary changes from turning into an expense problem.

If your travel policy doesn’t include best practices for unused ticket management, now’s the time to make those updates. Features such as TravelBank’s unused airline ticket tracking can help you track flight credits easily and use them toward other trips to minimize cost waste.

Long-term travel blocks

Many retailers are taking advantage of commercial real estate vacancies and reduced rent in 2021 to open new locations. Extended stay is also on the rise, possibly due in part to businesses that need a team on the ground to launch a new location smoothly.

Multi-city trips and extended stays in one location may sound like opposite forms of business travel, but careful travel expense management matters for both. Employees traveling for more than seven days may be able to take advantage of discounted rates or room blocks. Your travel management software can connect with corporate rates that aren’t available on major travel booking platforms.

Employees on an extended stay also need a swift, convenient way to submit expenses for reimbursement. Bringing managers, business travelers, and finance professionals onto the same software platform can make it easier to share accurate expense information and process reimbursements promptly.

Easy expense tracking

In some cases, companies may have travelers on the road enough to warrant a monthly per diem budget. Expense management can come into play here, too, to support compliance and accurate reporting. Two great options to track expenses on the ground are the following:

3 Benefits of Travel and Expense Management Software for Retail Businesses

Adapting swiftly to changes in the market has always been a retail or commerce business’s best recipe for success. Staying efficient and responsive with your operational processes can help you keep evolving. A travel and expense management solution can help you achieve many benefits, including the following:

Improved spend

Minimizing wasted costs and using resources effectively is a continuous challenge. The right software streamlines expense tracking, improving accuracy and compliance and empowering managers and finance professionals to correct spend issues early.

Faster reporting

Expense reporting delays can make it harder for the financial team to capture an accurate, current sense of how the business is performing and how spend and revenue targets align. When travelers can easily submit expenses from anywhere, even on a tightly scheduled trip, you gain clearer insight and more accurate reports.

Reduced errors

Simple data entry errors are costly, both in terms of the mistakes themselves and the hours of lost productivity finding and correcting them (or even manually entering expense information in the first place!). Smart business managers know investing in preventative systems is more powerful than pouring resources into fixing errors after the fact. Automation tools in expense management software can lower error rates, helping preserve profit margins.

Retail and commerce businesses have an opportunity to bounce back or discover new business growth in 2021. The right tools at your fingertips can help you make the most of opportunities that arise.

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