Insights 25 October 2018 By: Madeleine Funes

Mobile-First Approaches to Ticketing and Payments for Ground Transportation Operators

Ground transportation is a key link in today’s traveler journeys and includes everything from ridesharing to charter buses and scenic and sightseeing tours, to local urban and interurban transit systems and high-speed rail. But with so many different modes and options for ground transportation, operators urgently need new technology solutions to maximize conversions in their direct booking channels while reducing the cost of each payment transaction. Lower costs plus higher conversion rates equal digital success for ground transportation operators.

And while their needs can vary by vehicle type, routes and schedules, what unites them all is the need to serve their riders, passengers and customers and make travel easier for them. At the traveler experience level, this means making it easier to…

  • Book and pay for tickets
  • View current schedules and timetables
  • Store tickets and other critical information
  • Get real-time service updates and communications
  • Connect to other transportation services (i.e., mobility as a service or MaaS)
  • Make ancillary purchases at train and bus stations, at nearby stores, etc.

Typical Business Case in Ground Transportation

Consider what a typical journey might look like for a ground transportation passenger in a modern city where everyone is carrying a mobile device. Upon arriving at the station, Hanna purchases a ticket for the train which will take her to the airport using the train operator’s app on her mobile phone. Before boarding, Hanna shares her journey with her social network (perhaps as an incentive to earn extra loyalty points) and discovers that her colleague Maria is on the same train.

Before long, Hanna and Maria receive mobile alerts to inform them of a short delay. Coupled with the alert is a coupon for a free cup of coffee as compensation for the extra wait. Hanna and Maria end up meeting at the station café for a chat over a couple of lattes, and what might have been a frustrating travel experience is transformed into a more positive one.

Hanna’s intermodal, omnichannel and seamless rail journey is only possible if all aspects of it – booking, payment and communications– are connected through a comprehensive, mobile-first digital commerce platform. For instance, CellPoint Mobile’s mobile booking solution, Voyage, is fully integrated with Velocity, a mobile-first payment platform, as well as Vantage, a campaign management system for the mobile channel.The more Hanna interacts with Voyage, Velocity and Vantage on her journey, the more tailored the offers and experience become and the less friction she encounters during her delay. And the convenience of managing her journey directly from a mobile device ensures that she won’t just cancel her rail trip altogether and catch an Uber to the airport – demonstrating that rail or bus can be just as convenient as ridesharing or car rentals, with the right mobile solutions.

Transportation Apps and Mobile-First Travel Solutions

Many different travel apps cater to ground transportation needs – business, leisure and local. Business travel apps, for example, are giving “road warriors” more personalized options suited to their travel preferences while aligning their choices with company policy. Other intermodal consumer apps might connect a ridesharing service to a traveler’s airline PNR and automatically update their on-the-ground transportation reservation based on their flight status.

But what’s missing in ground transportation is a strong mobile ticketing and payments strategy that turns a good transportation app into a great mobile app, period – because it connects ground transportation services to the larger travel and retail sectors. Insofar as ground transportation operators are ticket retailers, they should strive provide the best possible retail experience to their customers.

That starts with making it easy for customers to find, book and pay for tickets right from their smartphones. It then moves on to more sophisticated marketing campaigns in the mobile channel. Today’s travel retailers – for example, the coffee shop where Hanna redeemed her mobile offer or the duty-free shop at the airport – are integrating the mobile channel into the overall customer experience, making it easy for travelers to switch from smartphone to store and back again, with no friction. Ground transportation providers can do the same for their customers at bus stations, train stations and anywhere their passengers carry a mobile device.

Some ground transportation providers are already embracing this trend. Last year, 2,100 taxis in Las Vegas began accepting Alipay as fare payment, and 14,000 taxis in New York City are expected to do so this year. More than 1,000 taxis in Hong Kong now accept WeChat Pay. In the age of Uber and Lyft, as well as public transportation agencies that are innovating from London to San Francisco and Beijing, it is important for ground transportation providers to take a mobile-first approach to ticketing and payments.

Mobile ticketing and payments, in fact, are the “glue” that holds this customer experience together. The mobile channel enables the customer to pay when and where they want – at the train station, bus station, at home or en route – and in the payment method (traditional or alternative) they prefer.

Reducing Cost and Increasing Efficiency with Mobile Ticketing & Payments

The logistics of fare collection and ticket payment can be complicated and costly for ground transportation operators. The benefits of mobile ticketing and payment have been proven at virtually every transportation agency or ground transportation service that has made the investment, helping them cut costs, increase efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.

On city buses, for example, mobile payments help ease the long lines that form as people try to find exact change, struggle with the farebox, or ask questions of the driver. By enabling passengers to use their mobile devices, bus operators can board buses faster, lower on-board cash collection costs, provide information before the bus arrives and improve fleet operations by requiring less vehicles to meet timetables.

But which mobile payment methods should ground transportation operators support? When it comes to mobile solutions, flexibility and interoperability are crucial. It makes little business or IT sense for ground transportation operators to think in terms of one-off integrations of alternative payment methods (APMs), such as Alipay or Apple Pay. They need one connection on the back-end that gives them access to virtually all mobile payment methods globally, which they can pick and choose from as business needs and payment preferences evolve.

The future of ground transportation is central to the future of travel. How else will cities connect airports, hotels, restaurants, retailers and other businesses without more efficient and customer-centric bus and train service where riders can do virtually anything – book, pay for and manage different travel modes– directly from their mobile device? CellPoint Mobile’s product suite – Voyage(mobile booking), Velocity (mobile payments) and Vantage (mobile sales, marketing, campaign management) – can provide ground transportation operators with all the tools they need to provide passengers with a smart and seamless experience while cutting transaction costs and increasing booking conversions.

Is your ground transportation company ready for this mobile opportunity? You can learn more about our mobile-first solutions for ground transportation providers, as well as our work in the Ground, Rail and Mass Transportation sectors, here. And you might also be interested in reading this article which looks at the European rail sector moving towards ‘mobility-as-a-service’ operations.