Businesses opting for digital vendors over traditional brands on expense reports

Digital providers such as Amazon, Lyft and Uber are increasingly beating out older companies on expense reports.

Expense management software provider Certify reported Thursday that Uber was the most expensed brand among businesses for the third consecutive year. The ride-hailing giant accounted for 11 percent of all transactions. Uber’s rival Lyft cracked the Top 10 list at No. 6 for the first time in 2018, with 2.8 percent of all transactions, and ranked in fifth place in the fourth quarter of 2018. The average cost of a taxi last year was nearly $9 higher per ride than Lyft and nearly $7.50 higher than Uber.

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Amazon took third place for the first time, with 4 percent of all transactions, ascending from fourth place in 2017 and fifth place in 2016. Starbucks (No. 2, with 4.1 percent), Delta (No. 4, with 3.6 percent), and American Airlines (No. 5, with 3.4 percent) were the rest of the top six.

“Enterprise-wide adoption of sharing economy services—due to convenience, efficiency, and price—are key drivers for this shift,” said Certify CEO Robert Neveu in a statement. “The sharing economy vendors have rapidly adopted offerings to target the business traveler and have made it even easier to consume their services across large and enterprise organizations.”

Certify drew from more than 50 million expenses and $3.3 billion in expense transactions by its customers across North America for its 2018 SpendSmart Year in Review report. Certify found that companies are more often choosing digital brands rather than traditional providers for meals, office supplies, transportation and other goods and services.

The reliance on digital brands was even more pronounced in the fourth quarter of last year. Uber finished in first place, with 11.9 percent of all transactions, Amazon second with 4.2 percent, and Lyft in fifth place with 3.4 percent.

Businesses also seemed to favor digital brands in ratings of various vendors. According to Certify’s data, the food delivery app Seamless was the highest-rated brand of 2018, getting an average of 4.8 “stars” out of a possible 5. Lyft and Uber Eats tied at second place, with an average of 4.7 stars, and Chick-fil-a and JetBlue shared third place, with an average rating of 4.6 stars.

The rise of ride-hailing apps indicates the growing reliance by businesses and business travelers on digital brands. Back in early 2015, Uber and Lyft together made up less than 50 percent of ride-hailing transactions, according to Certify’s data. But by last year, Uber and Lyft accounted for nearly 92 percent of the market, thanks to factors like cost and convenience. The average cost of a taxi ride in 2018 was nearly $9 higher per ride than Lyft and nearly $7.50 higher per ride than Uber, according to Certify’s expense data, while the average rating for taxis was 4 stars in 2018 compared to 4.5 for Uber and 4.7 for Lyft. At the same time, nearly 73 percent of business travelers opted for Uber last year, compared to 19 percent for Lyft and 8 percent for taxis.

Certify also reported that the food delivery category grew 118 percent year over year. The category was led by Grubhub, with 36 percent of food delivery transactions. Meals were again the most expensed category last year, making up 17.2 percent of all transactions. Meals have been the most expensed category since Certify began tracking its SpendSmart Reports in 2013. This time, though, the category is also feeling the effects of digital brands, as more employees choose to have food delivered to their offices or hotels. The food delivery category grew 118 percent from 2017 to 2018. While Grubhub led the pack with 36 percent of transactions, it was followed by Uber Eats with 25 percent and DoorDash with 21 percent. Seamless was the highest rated food delivery service, averaging a rating of 4.8 compared to 4.7 for Uber Eats.

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