By Chuck Martin
While trains around the world keep rolling along, more and more travelers are using mobile to pay for the ride.
Mobile train ticket sales are now in the billions of dollars, though the scope of payments varies widely by country, based on a new study.
In yet another reminder of the global nature of mobile commerce, consumers everywhere are increasingly using their phones to pay for more things, especially train travel.
Mobile payments or activities in areas that are recurring are in many ways the most logical in which to take off, with routine Starbucks visits and mobile payments there one of the most obvious examples.
Taking a train, such as to work every day, is another example and a new worldwide study by Frost & Sullivan measures how much is being spent on that travel.
Based on the amount of money spent to buy train tickets from a mobile device, Europe leads the world (by a lot), with clear room for growth in North America, according to the Strategic Dashboard of Global Rail Passenger Volumes study. Here’s the breakdown:
61% — Europe
36% — Asia
3% — North America
For the dollar volume of mobile ticket sales, the U.S. trails nine other countries with France leading the pack, according to Frost & Sullivan. Here are the top 10 countries by mobile ticket sales.
France — $1.4 billion
South Korea — $1.1 billion
China — $382 million
Netherlands — $331 million
Germany — $254 million
United Kingdom — $106 million
Switzerland — $100 million
Austria — $98 million
Norway — $76 million
United States — $63 million
Passenger rail traffic in North America will increase 1% by 2020, with passenger traffic globally reaching almost 5 billion by that time, according to Frost & Sullivan.
“A new generation of customers has to be catered to,” said Shyam Raman, automotive and transportation research analyst at the firm. “These are customers that are used to user interfaces that change based on the application. Delaying mobile presence can mean losing passenger volumes and potential revenue.”
Many rail transportation entities are evolving and recognizing the sheer number of travelers with smartphones, though migrating from legacy systems to mobile commerce is not always easy.
For example, anyone who buys tickets on Amtrak likely has noticed the lack of total integration among phone, mobile, online ticket ordering and the loyalty program. However, once purchased, Amtrak has gotten quite proficient at using mobile tech to scan tickets and codes on phone screens, even if the process still ends with a paper ticket being placed on the seat to identify that the passenger has paid.
In what could be a gradual boost for NFC (near field communication), already more prevalent in Europe than in the U.S., Frost & Sullivan forecasts the technology will account for 14% of ticket sales in major European countries and 20% in the UK in six years.
Mobile payment for train travel may just be another ticket for mobile commerce.
Chuck Martin is Editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk column. He is the author of “Mobile Influence,” “The Third Screen,” and “The Smartphone Handbook.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute. Chuck Martin is a frequent Mobile Keynote Speaker and Mobile Marketing Speaker internationally. He also addresses Social Media in Mobile.