Roger Williams

Retail buying habits are changing, driven by the ways we pay, communicate and interact – Roger Williams discovers how

Our world is busy and time is of the essence. When it comes to onboard retail, transaction times matter, they affect purchasing satisfaction levels, and loyalty. If your kit doesn’t work, can’t connect or takes too long, customers get frustrated and sales are lost.

Payment systems need to be quick and easy, so increasingly operators are turning to technology companies such as ECR Retail Systems for solutions that support swift electronic point of sale (EPOS) but also do more.

Deploy early

in the future depends on early deployment of the latest technologies in the market place. Benefits from new systems and kit need to be tangible for both the customer and operator, delivering the highest standards of security, reliability, extensive functionality and, of course, speed.

“Crews will positively embrace a system that supports what they need to do quickly and easily, whilst operators benefit from wider applications. In turn, passengers will appreciate having a broader choice of products, services and payment types – with enhancements such as pre-order and at-seat ordering on the rise.”

Certain technologies, like smart ticketing systems, are already transforming the passenger buying experience. Selling F&B with the online ticket purchase is now more prevalent too, with intercity train companies seeking new ways to impress.

Smarter revenue

It’s not always new revenue gained from such developments but it’s ‘smarter revenue’ – income achieved without waste. It also offers the customer instant choices without queuing to place an order.

Leading travel market food retailer, SSP, has recognised this with the Go Grab app that allows restaurant and café customers to choose at the table, then click and collect from a service point. Similarly, several caterers have an at-seat click and serve option for onboard retail.

Price blind

There are more subtle advantages in the retail technology too – for example the ‘price blindness’ of paying electronically. Customers paying by card onboard are less likely to be aware of price differences than if counting out cash, so small price adjustments go unnoticed. With a fully-integrated system and centralised control of electronic tariffs, price adjustments, special promotions and category control can be done with ‘time of day’ alterations.

Whilst chip and pin payments work in this way to some extent, they still produce a customer receipt automatically, potentially highlighting the amount just spent. With newer wave and pay or tap and go contactless payments however many decline receipts for small purchases and few know if their coffee and bun cost them 3.69 or 3.96.

Contactless is fast out-pacing chip and pin as the preferred payment method onboard trains. Over a nine month period ECR saw chip and pin payments fall from 59% to 40% of transactions with Apple Pay and contactless up, to 60%. That change is advancing incrementally as habits morph towards full digitalisation.

Personalised offers

ECR’s project manager Kate Hutchinson adds: “To enable logistics to work effectively as part of a wider personalised passenger management strategy it’s best if PoS technology covers both the front and back-end. In this way you can access data on consumers’ favourite products, purchase styles, and payment preferences.”

This helps get the most out of PoS software; but, crucially in this era of customer advocacy ratings, passengers receive a more personalised service, multi-buy deals, loyalty rewards and destination-led offers.

PoS can also be used to communicate with passengers about special dietary requirements, and assist with queue-busting, enabling staff to multi-task ticket sales and other services from the same lightweight handheld device.

Connectivity is obviously key, with type 22 authorisations for payments needing to be factored into the mix. This means PoS technologies need to work in all connected environments (e.g. wifi, 4G and 3G), and ensure payments can be trusted to go through correctly within a 24-hour window.

New opportunities

For a higher quality retail experience onboard, up-to-date PoS systems are essential. They can provide information about the customer lifecycle and generate revenue and cost efficiencies, greatly improving customer satisfaction.

By including an app, linked to a suitable PoS system, the retailer also has the chance to personalise services and link into the relationship the rail companies have with their passengers. Apps pushing useful travel information to personal devices, for example, can also offer deals, i-coupons and delay compensation.

The ‘intelligent train’ is at a station near you, and whilst the journey may be incomplete, progress is intuitive and surely irresistible.