Survey for telecomms giant finds bus and rail users are dissatisfied by poor digital engagement from operators, and sector knows it is lagging behind

The passenger transport industry may be missing out on £1.2bn of revenue every year by failing to connect effectively with customers digitally.

New research conducted for telecommunications provider O2 by expert analysts Conlumino found that bus and rail operators are struggling to harness digital technologies despite the fact that the majority of passenger spend (64%) is now influenced by these digital channels.

From comparing prices and planning routes in advance to checking for delays whilst travelling, use of mobile apps and online sites has soared – but of 2,027 consumers surveyed, 96% were dissatisfied by some aspect of their digital journey.

Meanwhile, 84% are confused by websites and apps and 87% are frustrated by the lack of real time travel information. Almost 90% are annoyed when prices aren’t consistent across different outlets.

Operators concede that they are struggling to keep pace with today’s fast-evolving digital environment. Only 30% of 25 operators surveyed said they thought they were doing a good job in adapting to new technology.

With the number of Brits planning ‘staycations’ rising year-on-year, the country’s bus, rail and coach companies could benefit from the millions of additional journeys being made over the summer months. O2 says that this trend presents passenger transport operators with an opportunity to boost their bottom line through digital engagement.

The study shows that digital is the preferred way to find passenger transport operators with over 80% of people having used digital channels to plan journeys and look up prices. The station is no longer the place for purchases: more people are now buying tickets via websites and apps (66%) than in person or over the phone. Meanwhile, the survey found that real-time information is crucial, with 65% having used digital methods to check for travel news updates.

“The industry is making efforts to provide passengers with the digital tools they want; however there is still room for improvement,” commented Anna Holness, managing partner of O2’s Passenger Services. “The priority now is to create a seamless experience for the customer offering real-time, multichannel information which will ultimately improve the passenger journey.”

Mark Cartwright, managing director of RTIG, the pan-industry technology group, told Passenger Transport that there was wide recognition in the sector that digital engagement could be improved. However, he said that the challenge for cost-conscious operators and their local authority partners was to work up a sensible business model for investments and ensure that they don’t waste money on technologies that quickly become out of date.


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