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Eurostar sees big opportunity with mobile ticketing

Transportation company Eurostar is tapping into mobile with a slew of new initiatives such as a mobile-optimized Web site, applications for iPhone and Android devices and mobile ticketing.

The European high-speed passenger rail service claims 80 percent of its consumers use mobile devices while traveling. With the new tools, consumers can browse travel schedules, book tickets and use mobile ticketing to scan tickets.

“We first knew we had to get into mobile after we saw a substantial amount of Web traffic coming in from mobile devices, but our Web site was not optimized for it,” said Chris Jenkin, head of product and partnerships at Eurostar, London.

“We also wanted to make sure our consumers had a convenient and seamless way to travel,” he said.

Eurostar is a Western European train service that links Britain, France and Belgium.

One-click booking
Eurostar saw the majority of mobile hits come from iPhone and Android devices, so it decided to focus primarily on the two platforms.

Before optimizing the Web site in August, Eurostar saw approximately 5 percent of searches coming in through mobile, per Mr. Jenkin.

The apps are available for free in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market.

“The key feature to this app was to create mobile ticketing, which was our main reason for developing it,” Mr. Jenkin said.

Once consumers book a trip via the app, they can store it and scan their mobile devices at check-in gates in the train stations.

Consumers can also book their plans through the company’s mobile site.

Additionally, users can store their contact information in the app for future use.

Consumers who participate in the Eurostar frequent traveler program can earn points and track their account balances via the apps.

The app lets consumers book tickets for one to six passengers. Mobile ticketing is currently only available when booking a single ticket.

“Our goal has always been to improve customer experience as it relates to travel and giving consumers access to all the content and information they want when they need it,” Mr. Jenkin said.

Mobile moves
Eurostar’s move into mobile is the latest in travel and transportation companies using mobile to target consumers.

Most recently, Amtrak rolled out an iPhone app to let on-the-go consumers buy tickets (see story).

With Eurostar specifically, the app is available in three languages – English, French and Dutch.

It shows the importance that mobile is playing with the company’s broader set of goals to make traveling easier for consumers regardless of mobile device or language.

“Mobile exemplifies the very nature of travel where people are busy and on the move,” Mr. Jenkin said

“Consumers are demanding information in real-time, and it is important for us to support them to make travel as easy as possible for them,” he said.

“I think the next big phase of mobile we will see is with mobile ticketing, because it seems like the logical next step for traveling.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York