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Access to thetrainline.com via its mobile site continues to accelerate

There is a significant transition by customers to access thetrainline.com website via their mobile devices and an increasing number of these travellers prefer to use the company’s mobile-optimised site.By Glynn Davis

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Access to thetrainline.com via its mobile site continues to accelerate

Ahead of appearing at the forthcoming Retail Bulletin 2nd Mobile Retailing Summit 2012 in London on September 26, Andrew Towers, Head of Product Development at thetrainline.com, gives some insights into mobile trends at his business.

“We are increasingly seeing a transition to mobile usage for journey planning, which can amount to 50% going through mobile devices on certain days of the week. This is a huge shift,” he says. 

What has not yet been seen is a similar shift in transactions being undertaken on mobile devices, with Towers suggesting that the conversion rates on the web remain much higher than for mobile: “It’s about seven to eight times the rate of mobile, but mobile conversion is increasing whereas the web’ rates are stable. There is increasing consumer confidence in mobile as a transactional channel.”

What is muddying the mobile/web dynamic is the increasing usage of tablet devices, which are being used as both coffee table web browsing devices and as on-the-move tools – but again this latter mobile-centric activity predominantly involves accessing the full website rather than the mobile-optimised version.

Towers says the company divides its customer base into three chunks - comprising those who access the full website, those who prefer the mobile site, and users of the apps on the various mobile platforms – but for each of these groups the basic customer journey principles are the same.

“People are primarily interested in train times and buying tickets. Where browsing is easier, there are more options on the full-site like the selling of other services such as hotel rooms and theatre tickets. And some features are specific to mobile such as the use of geo-location information  to help customers find their nearest train station. But until we find an appropriate way of doing so, we won’t be selling you theatre tickets on there,” he explains. 

For the various versions of thetrainline.com proposition Towers says the presentation of the information has to be thought through and it is not a case of simply “re-moulding” content. He adds: “The steps the customer goes though are set out in a different way as you can’t do things the same way on a small screen. We try and simplify the journey.”

Although he says there has been recognition that mobile is becoming increasingly important, what has taken the company by surprise is the volume growth on the mobile website. “We’ve been mobile app-centric in the past but people are seeking out our mobile website. We’d not anticipated the volumes and we are to increase our investment in the site. It reflects general consumer behaviour where more people are doing their browser activity on mobiles rather than using apps,” suggests Towers.  

Further changes for thetrainline.com business are likely to involve mobile ticketing. Rather like the airline industry, which issues electronic boarding cards, Towers believes mobile barcodes combined with NFC (integrated into the next generation of mobile handsets) will “completely change the way people travel in rail”.

“Just look at Oyster cards and the way it has changed ticketing [on London Underground]. The technology is very exciting in a rail travel industry context and over the next few years we’ll be working towards this [future],” he forecasts.

The theme of the 2nd Mobile Retailing Summit is 'Improving sales, loyalty and customer experience in an increasing mobile marketplace'.The day will be highly interactive, allowing delegates to discuss the important isues within a focused peer group. For full programme and speaker details please click here.

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