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Amtrak exec: Time to move beyond ticketing to mobile experiences

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ ? An Amtrak executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that the railroad is now looking beyond the mobile ticket to connect consumers to both employees as well as other travelers.

In the ?Adapting to the customer?s total mobile experience? keynote session, the executive discussed how Amtrak has used mobile in the past two and a half years and how the company plans to expand. According to the exec, Amtrak has seen more than three million application downloads and more than a million etickets viewed, not including those viewed on Apple?s Passbook.

?Our focus has been on the mobile ticket, but it?s not about mobile shopping, it?s about the full mobile customer experience,? said Arthur Agin, head of mobile ecommerce at Amtrak, Washington.

?Where mobile really shines is after they?ve made that purchase at the time of travel, that?s where we can deliver the real power to make the experience stronger,? he said.

Three-pronged approach
Mr. Agin explained that there are three different areas where Amtrak is looking to integrate mobile.

The first area is where consumers and employees can connect via a centralized server or center.

An example of how Amtrak is already experimenting in this sphere is its service that lets consumers send a text message to the police dispatch if they see a suspicious package. Consumers can message APD11, and the message will be sent to the Amtrak police dispatcher, who will forward the message to the correct employee via mobile as well.

The second way in which Amtrak is integrating mobile is for consumers who have a specific need or want that can be directly addressed by an employee. For example, if a consumer is on a train and wants a beverage, but does not want to get out of his seat, he or she can order a drink via mobile.

The last and most complex area that Amtrak is looking into is the consumer-to-consumer connection. This would allow a consumer to connect with other consumers that she already knows on a train.

The social system would notify a consumer if a relative is on the same train so that they can catch up and chat during the train ride.

Mr. Agin admits that Amtrak will most likely have to partner with another interface to implement this and to ensure that there is privacy and security in the system.

Mobile trains
Amtrak has been experimenting with mobile since 2006 when the company launched its mobile booking site. The company updated the site in 2011 and has since added mobile applications for smartphones that can be integrated into Apple?s Passbook and Samsung Wallet.

According to Mr. Agin, Amtrak?s downloads increased by 40 percent after integrating with Passbook.

Consumers are not only using the mobile sites and apps to book and redeem tickets, but they are also using them to obtain real-time information about their trips. Amtrak is also leveraging push notifications to provide consumers with such information.

Additionally, Amtrak is looking into providing onboard entertainment and amenities that consumers can access on their personal devices.

?[Consumers] definitely are looking at their mobile device for their experience,? Mr. Agin said. ?Customers expect their device to deliver for them, they expect to connect through it.

?Obviously it?s not 100 percent, but a lot of customers are looking for that and they?re looking for that functionality in an easy to acquire method,? he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York