Thanks to the ever-widening array of smartphones available, consumers the world over are not only getting used to information at their fingertips, wherever they are, but also to shopping, booking and comparing services on the go. There are literally millions of applications available (of perhaps varying quality!) for use on smartphones and tablet computers, with new additions every day. However, despite the seemingly exponential growth of the mobile application market, there are still relatively few mobile applications for travellers - and even fewer for the rail traveller.
This state of affairs won’t last for long though and the race is on to ensure that content reaches the modern rail traveller in this increasingly important way. We’re already seeing rail providers and travel agents taking steps to meet the traveller in the mobile channel, and travel companies are teaming up with mobile software companies to develop applications that will allow them to offer services to the traveller via their smartphones. Last year, both Deutsche Bahn and Hogg Robinson Group have launched mobile ticketing applications for smartphones – Deutsche Bahn’s ‘Touch & Travel’ ticketing application is for use with Apple iPhones, and Hogg Robinson Group’s mobile application allows travellers to book hotels as well as access other travel information such as flight and train schedules on their Blackberrys.
It’s clear from new applications such as these that rail providers and travel agents are starting to view mobile technology as the next logical step in trying to reach the traveller.
Not only does mobile technology provide a new route to the customer for sales and ticketing purposes, it also offers rail providers a chance to improve customer service. Mobile applications can allow the traveller to search for and receive appropriate information that will enrich their experience and ease the frustration that is generated when the traveller feels ‘out of the loop’.
In Amadeus’ report, The Amateur Expert Traveller, technology’s role in transforming the journey itself – not just the booking process – into ‘the responsive journey’ is discussed. The online survey within the report shows that nearly a third of travellers feel that mobile devices will have a greater impact on the way the next generation researches and books travel than social networking, user reviews, video sharing or visualisation tools. The report also notes that it’s not just leisure travellers who benefit from the application of technology to the journey itself – there is a huge opportunity to add value to the business travel experience.
Could we expect to see the mobile application market increasingly turn its attention to developing mobile tools for business travellers and managers? Time will tell.