Certify SpendSmart ™ Report Highlights Major Shift from Business Travel to Home Offices in H1 2020

Certify SpendSmart ™ Report Highlights Major Shift from Business Travel to Home Offices in H1 2020

By: Ted Power, chief product officer, Emburse

The Certify SpendSmart Report has tracked travel and expense trends for the past seven years, and we have charted many changes within the business travel industry. This year has been one like no other.

It should come as no surprise that business travel all but ground to a halt in the first half of 2020. One could be forgiven for thinking that business expenses would have similarly stalled during this time, but data from Certify showed expense submissions to be surprisingly resilient.

So, for this year’s SpendSmart Report, we’re taking a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted expense trends. Where we did see a significant change was in the makeup of expenses compared to the same period in 2019. With a shift toward working from home, we saw this reflected by expenses submitted by employees across the U.S.

Many employers tried to make the transition to the home office as smooth as possible for their team members. Purchases from Amazon—such as external monitors, office chairs, and supplies—doubled over the same period in 2019, making up almost 8% of all purchases. Walmart’s share of expenses similarly increased by half.

Another area where we saw a surprisingly large increase was in food delivery, which more than doubled in the past year—up by 110%. As employers sought to make pandemic life more pleasant for their employees, many of them swapped the catered office lunches for food delivery, which could be reimbursed through the expense process. We also saw a few interesting trends within that sector. DoorDash solidified its position as the category leader, with a 36% market share, significantly ahead of its main rivals, Grubhub (25%), Uber Eats (17%), and Postmates (12%). In terms of per-transaction spend, however, Grubhub is the clear leader, with an average spend of almost $75, compared to $57 for DoorDash. The big loser in both areas was Uber Eats. Its share of the overall food delivery market fell by almost a third, and its average spend dropped by more than a quarter.

Uber fares (excuse the pun) far better in its traditional ride-hailing field. It continues to have a share of just under three quarters of that market, despite the continued rise of Lyft. In fact, our data over the past four years show that while Uber’s market share has held steady around 72%. The majority of Lyft’s growth has been at the expense of traditional taxis, which has seen its
share of ride-hailing fall by more than 80% since 2016.

The big question for travel and expense spend is “where does it go from here?” Our data suggest that since the trough in mid-May, expense submissions have seen a continued growth. Numbers haven’t yet hit pre-COVID levels, but according to our most recent snapshot, the total number of expense reports is a little over 30% down on the same period in 2019.

We’re also starting to see the blend of expenses begin to shift back in the direction of travel related spend, and as infection rates begin to fall in many areas (and will hopefully continue to do so as we enter the winter season), travel will likely see a steady continued upward trend.

Moving away from employee expenses to corporate, invoice-based spend, showed a different landscape. While business travel may have seen significant pandemic-related declines, the level of invoices processed by organizations through Emburse’s solutions remained far more steady over the first half of 2020. In fact, as geographically dispersed finance teams were faced with the challenges of processing paper-based invoices for payments, we have seen a significant sales boost for our AP automation solutions.

To see more insights, download the H1 2020 SpendSmart report, or view the infographic here.