Historically, travel transaction systems have been designed to benefit the middleman. Large corporations currently dominate each aspect of travel and use their position to push small businesses out of an industry for which they are, traditionally, the majority.1 These small business owners are left with a choice of being left behind technologically or paying outrageous fees, and these fees end up being passed onto their customers in order for these struggling businesses to stay competitive. The ramifications of this trend are far-reaching, and both small business owners and customers are impacted.
In the past, small business owners have been left behind or forced to pay disproportionate costs to stay relevant. Beyond licensing and transaction fees, small businesses have to advertise and maintain their brand in an increasingly digital world. While the dominance of the Internet and the introduction of social media may seemingly help businesses connect to more customers, these platforms require time and resources that they don’t possess. Nearly half of small business owners manage their own social media and Internet outreach efforts themselves.2 Aside from the difficulties of connecting with customers, small business owners have to vigilantly defend their business from unfair or fraudulent bad reviews and Internet-based scams.
Marketing can be a frightening prospect for business owners, especially smaller organizations. Most small business owners find that they’re unable to cover their advertising needs adequately; in fact, more than 64% of small business owners don’t believe that they are marketing effectively.3 Inadequate marketing can have a significant impact on a business’ ability to reach new customers and generate an appropriate return on investment. Beyond that, these small business owners are vulnerable to predatory practices from consultants that range from overpriced subscription plans to overt scams.4
As if these issues weren’t enough, with the rising ubiquity of Internet interconnectivity, small businesses now have to deal with an influx of publicly-visible, negative reviews. Of course some reviews are legitimate complaints, but often such reviews are written and posted with no evidence to prove their veracity. In the current digital world, this can cause serious issues. Today, 85% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 79% claim to have spotted a fake review in the last year.5
Transaction fees associated with accepting credit cards mean that businesses have to forgo either revenue or customers. These fees are usually between 2-3% and often include an additional flat fee.6 Some businesses elect to not accept credit cards at all, but this leads them to potentially miss out on almost two thirds of the market.7 A business owner that is looking to sign a contract with even a major credit card company or open a merchant account with their local bank is faced with severe application times, rejections, and fees.
Far too often, businesses have to deal with chargebacks, counterfeits, and con artists. Mitigating losses from fraud comes at its own price, and even still, small business owners lose about 5% of their revenue annually.8 Simple disputes can mean an arduous process to retrieve owed funds and often the business, in the end, is not compensated. The simple truth is: Small business owners need a better way of interacting with customers from the beginning to the end of a transaction.