Arriva is using a data-led approach to identify what bus users and non-users want, and then deliver it


arriva_connectArriva is rolling out its own smartcard, Arriva Connect, in the North West


In the competitive world of transportation there is a greater need than ever before to embrace digital technology to make the customer’s journey as smooth as possible – from consideration to ticket purchase to arrival at the destination.

Since the start of the year, Arriva UK bus has demonstrated how it intends to continue to develop its own suite of digital travel tools to make life easier than ever for customers.

The bus operator has redeveloped its mobile apps with a range of brand new features, which will make journey planning and ticket purchasing even simpler whilst also offering new payment channels to customers.

The new features include the ability to buy tickets using PayPal, Apple Pay and Android Pay, to gift tickets to family and friends, create more personalised journey settings such as replicating previous ticket purchases, and plan journeys more easily and faster than ever before.

In addition, Arriva is rolling out its own smartcard, Arriva Connect, in the North West and has launched contactless payment throughout the North East.

The developments mark the latest innovations in Arriva’s digital programme to harness technology to make services more attractive to existing passengers, appeal to passengers who have stopped using the bus and entice brand new users to its services.

The pace of change in the last six months is in response to market conditions, which have seen a downward trend in bus use in many areas of the UK.

“We are in a market where there is rising congestion, falling high street footfall, increasing online sales, competition from Uber, and where concessionary journeys are falling despite an ageing population,” explains Arriva UK bus marketing and new product development director Gillian Singh. “It means we have to work much smarter, making it easier for customers to travel with us – make it effortless for them. Innovation and customer experience are at the top of our agenda, and last year, we set out to deliver changes in a very short space of time.”

The initial step in redesigning the company’s digital services involved in-depth customer research to supplement existing information gathered from focus groups and online surveys. Working across the country with online communities consisting of regular users, ‘lapsed users’ and non-users, Arriva set out to further understand the obstacles which might prevent people using the bus. The company then identified which barriers could be overcome and how to consistently exceed customers’ expectations of the transport industry.

Singh has been delighted with the research and results. She believes they have provided a richer, more focused understanding than previous research methods, due to the variety of people involved and working with the same groups over a sustained period of time, rather than using snapshot focus group data.

In the first stage of the working research, participants were evaluated on their expectations of bus travel; what prevents them from using the bus, what they wanted from bus use and how the overall experience could be improved. Key themes were then further explored with detailed focus group sessions and supplemented with further online research.

The findings highlighted a huge misconception among non-users about the facilities available on newer buses, particularly the availability of Wi-Fi and USB ports. It was also identified that people taking part in the research desired a wider range of digital services and different payment options to those offered at the time.

“The survey results told us more focus was required across all the digital aspects we wanted to innovate and relaunch,” says Singh. “Absolutely our customers want a wider range of mobile payment options – they want PayPal and Apple Pay and Android Pay. Since relaunching we are now seeing over 43% of m-ticket sales coming through these new channels. Contactless was also a key payment channel our customers were asking for, but interestingly customers wanted smartcards too.”

Although Singh acknowledges that smartcards are sometimes portrayed as a technology ready to be replaced by contactless bankcards and more advanced ticket technology, she was keen to emphasise Arriva’s research indicated they will continue to have a place in the market.

“Different customers want different options,” she says. “If you are going to appeal to our many different types of passengers, it is about trying to introduce payment methods that are relevant for all of them.”

The new m-ticketing app was rebuilt taking into account the feedback and insights gained by filming both customers and non-customers trying to navigate both apps. The research also helped to prioritise new features to include – for example a gift feature, which parents will find particularly useful when paying for their children’s travel, and a wider range of time-based ticket types, as well as additional features for further development.

Additional findings from the research led to significant improvements to the journey planner, particularly in response to feedback and observations of how it should be more personalised and easier to use. Specific developments included a more contextual home screen where each customer is now able to tailor information more effectively based on their individual needs.

Singh continues: “Our journey planning app used to show all the buses in the vicinity of a bus stop. Now people can select the buses relevant to them and they require fewer clicks to find the information they want.

“We had a good app before, but this process has been about making the whole user experience and interface much stronger.”

To further address common misunderstandings amongst non-users about facilities available on board the majority of modern buses, Arriva’s Bus Start marketing campaigns have continuously supported the development of digital services and highlight key reasons people do take the bus, or would be attracted to do so.

“Our strapline is ‘You can do so much more on a bus’, whether it’s catching up on emails, reading a book, or catching up with friends on social media. It’s the key thing for us to get across as well as supporting how much more connected our buses are with Wi-Fi and free USB charging,” says Singh. “Our research tells us that these are key motivators why people want to use the bus – because it’s productive use of time. These multi-channel campaigns have been highly successful not only at attracting new customers to our services but also in getting lapsed customers to re-evaluate their travel choices.

“We’ve taken a very structured, data-led approach, firstly to understand what different types of customers and non-users want, and secondly to develop plans for how to deliver it at pace. We are already seeing our new payment options driving the highest levels of growth, so we know our research was valid. This ‘You said, we did’ approach will continue to help us deliver growth in a tough market.”


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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