Full Speed Ahead: Preparing the European Rail Sector for a Mobile-First Future

Full Speed Ahead: Preparing the European Rail Sector for a Mobile-First Future

Rail transportation in Europe is an important link for travel across the continent. From high-speed trains on popular routes across Western Europe to commuter rail and rapid transit in metro areas, the rail sector serves a vast market of European citizens, along with leisure and business travelers from across the globe. Rail transportation has been resurgent in recent years after losing out to more popular travel options via road and air. With the emergence of high-speed rail, travel by train is often more convenient than air and faster than car, making it an ideal mode of transportation for Europe’s flexible and on-the-go tourists, while locals increasingly depend on commuter rail in congested cities.

Rail operators are looking to expand and increase their share of the travel market, but first they must sell a new generation of travelers on the convenience, comfort and economy of rail. The easier it is for travelers in Europe to search, book and pay for their train travel plans, the easier it will be for the rail industry to strengthen itself as an attractive, mainstream travel option. To that end, rail operators must invest in mobile solutions that can streamline ticketing, simplify payments, drive ancillary revenue, improve communication and create a seamless rail experience for operators and passengers alike.

Rail Transportation and the Mobile Traveler
There was a time when tourists in Europe would commonly purchase an open-ended rail pass which they could use to cross countries at will. Today, that sort of travel is declining as millennials overwhelmingly prefer point-to-point bookings, often at the last minute, affording them more flexible travel plans. This shift in travel habits has largely been driven by the emergence of online and mobile booking, which has increased variety, choice and value in travel. And even open-ended rail passes will eventually be completely paperless as rail operators adapt to a new generation.

Rail transportation must evolve to meet the needs and demands of this new traveler: intermodal, mobile, paperless, cashless and frictionless. Tourists are away from home, traveling across countries and looking for adventure. They are not walking around with a map and a fixed itinerary, they are browsing online travel agencies (OTAs), looking for personalized deals and dreaming up their next activity. Even business travelers are mixing business and leisure, known as “bleisure,” and want the flexibility to make on-the-go bookings. And as any journey on rapid transit or in a regional rail car will indicate, commuters are always carrying their mobile devices, which should, from the rail operator’s perspective, be integrated with mobile ticketing, geotargeted offers and social media. None of this is possible without mobile solutions built specifically to integrate the entire passenger journey with the mobile channel.

With the right mobile solutions, rail operators can eliminate roadblocks to purchase during search and booking, make mobile payments fast and frictionless and streamline the entire rail journey on a mobile device: from ticketing and immigration documentation to station information and cross-selling/up-selling opportunities such as food and beverage, local activities and open-ended rail passes. Without seamless mobile solutions, however, rail is beset by inefficiencies (congested ticket kiosks or agent windows) and inflexible selling (limited options for alternative payment methods, or APMs), which slow travelers down and makes the path to purchase more difficult. These easily solvable challenges are holding the rail sector back from higher revenues and more satisfied and frequent passengers.

Mobile Travel on the Sell Side and Pay Side
Mobile devices have transformed how rail operators sell travel and how passengers experience it. Rail operators need mobile solutions not only to effectively manage their own direct booking channel (website or app), but to actively engage travelers on other channels, including online travel agencies, social media apps or regional payment platforms. Mobile solutions are necessary if rail operators hope to be seen and heard in today’s crowded but highly profitable digital travel market.

With consumer expectations for efficient and personalized service, mobile solutions are as much a marketing imperative as a business necessity. Rail operators understand the need to modernize rail infrastructure, but much of their investment in high-speed trains and other capital-intensive improvements will be wasted unless they can turn rail travel into a revenue-generating journey that maximizes opportunities for cross-selling, up-selling and fare packaging from point to point and channel to channel.

The opportunities for rail operators to generate higher revenue (core and ancillary) are limitless. It all starts, however, with basic capabilities for travelers to search, book and pay for travel on a mobile device. Once rail travel across all of Europe leverages the simplicity, convenience and efficiency of integrated mobile solutions, the industry’s potential will fall into place.

Our company provides mobile booking and payment solutions to help European rail operators capture higher mobile revenue, streamline inefficient processes such as ticketing, integrate travel with alternative payment methods (wallets, pay by link, bank transfers, installments), improve communication with passengers and increase satisfaction across the entire passenger journey. European rail operators can be more successful and profitable with mobile-first solutions from CellPoint Mobile.

Want to learn more?  Read about how mobile solutions can impact commuter rail and rapid transit here, learn about CellPoint Mobile’s plans for the ground transportation market here, or contact Jesper Tristan Harrishøj directly at jesper@cellpointmobile.com.