Insights 07 December 2018 By: Madeleine Funes

Building a Digital, Omnichannel and Mobile-First Rail Passenger Experience: Notes & Takeaways from World Rail Festival 2018

At the recent World Rail Festival in Amsterdam, one word we kept hearing over and over was digital. Digital transformation, digital payments, digital railways and digital strategies. It was clear that rail operators want new digital solutions that will help them make rail travel a more attractive mode of transport, and much more profitable in the age of ridesharing, driving automation and other technology-enabled services. Like the airline, hospitality and cruise industries, the rail industry in the midst of a digital transformation – one driven by necessity.

This transformation and evolution toward mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) was a major theme at the recent World Rail Festival, along with more immediate concerns including yield management and new ticketing solutions. But these shouldn’t be viewed in silos; all are interconnected and vital for a mobile-first approach in today’s omnichannel, multi-modal world.

Another major ‘shared challenge’ that faces operators (private and especially public) is that of getting more people out of their cars. The environment and congestion are major concerns for all metro/urban areas. This shift to mass transit requires making public transport easy to access, plan, book and pay for – all challenges that CellPoint Mobile is dedicated to solving.

What else were rail operators thinking about? Here are a few considerations we took away…

  1. As rail tax subsidies dwindle and competition for passengers increases, the public sector is looking to the private sector to innovate and drive demand. In a multi-modal world, the public and private sectors can and must co-exist for more seamless transport solutions.
  2. Innovation is mostly being seen around on-demand services (e.g. FlixTrain), and these new operators are driving up standards in customer satisfaction by operating as open-access services (creating more flexibility and options for travelers). But these new service models depend on evolving how passengers transact and interact with transportation providers. The mobile channel provides a common architecture around which everyone can do business in a seamless way. Connectivity becomes a prerequisite to deliver digitally enabled innovation – not just connectivity in the sense of offering Wi-Fi, but giving riders better tools to manage all stages of their journey.
  3. Margins are already thin or non-existent for many operators and new technology needs to be deployed in highly cost-efficient ways. This requires either leveraging existing infrastructure or utilising low- cost technology such as Bluetooth beacons or geotagging, which detect the nearby presence of mobile devices for serving timely and relevant offers. Fortunately, mobile technology can complement existing processes (ticketing, payments) or replace them altogether, and can be implemented in a scalable manner – one solution at a time.
  4. Within the public sector, being able to manage disruption effectively is almost as important as driving increased ridership. And this is something a well-designed mobile solution can deliver. One of the most frustrating forms of disruption for passengers is peak-time overcrowding, which can be smoothed out by incentivising passengers (via mobile offers) to take an off-peak train. Another passenger pain point – First Mile/Last Mile, or how to get to or from the station – could easily be addressed with better transit apps and increased support for mobility-as-a-service.

Overall, the impression that our Ground team took away was that rail operators need a smarter, more digital-savvy approach to everyday transactions and challenges – starting with more support for mobile ticketing and payments.

Is your rail owning group or rail operation ready to create a better experience for today’s multi-modal traveler, while boosting capacity, satisfaction and revenue? Learn more about our omnichannel solutions designed to help rail companies create better passenger experiences through seamless payments and mobile ticketing, targeted communications and complete campaign management.

Let’s schedule a time to talk, and in the meantime please download our report on the UK rail sector, and keep an eye out for our upcoming study of the US Ground Transportation industry.