Written in collaboration with Matthew Newman, Director, Strategic Programs, Oracle Public Sector
The next time you’re out in public and something interesting happens, look at the crowds. What will you see? People on their phones – taking pictures, commenting, interacting with and informing others. We are in the midst of a revolutionary change in how people communicate and share information:
- Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners (source: Pew Research Center)
- 91% of U.S. adults now keep their smart phones within arm’s reach (source: Morgan Stanley)
- 9 out of 10 mobile searches lead to action. More than half lead to sales, and 70% of that within an hour (source: searchengineland)
As the digital revolution continues to evolve, transportation agencies find themselves in an enviable position compared with many other government organizations seeking to engage citizens: they have a built-in, captive audience. Expense, time, and comfort are top priorities for anyone who travels or makes regular or long commutes.
For agency leaders looking to engage this audience the questions are:
- How can transportation agencies use digital technology to make their customers more satisfied and loyal?
- How can transportation agencies use digital technology to increase revenue?
Digital Engagement Journey
The digital engagement journey for transportation agencies is about creating an experience that is relevant and uniquely targeted to the individual. While many agencies attempt similar efforts, the traveling public has specific requirements. We have broken down the digital customer journey into four areas:
- Initiation: The organization’s website, contact center tools and social media are all critical touch points for customers as they engage with the transportation agency. At this stage in the relationship, the focus should be on informing and educating prospective customers so they have the incentive to provide their demographic and contact information. This information can help agencies increase the frequency and loyalty of current customers as well as attract new ones. This information can also help agencies promote services and take advantage of cross-marketing opportunities with business partners.
- Selection: Once an organization has successfully engaged with the customer, the focus of the digital experience shifts toward guiding and influencing the customer, with a focus on revenue generation. This can be done informally (e.g., through enhanced website content) or through direct campaigns across the digital media spectrum (e.g. text, email, social, IPTV, and internet radio advertising).
- Conversion: Speeding and simplifying the purchase process is a vital step in the digital customer experience journey. A streamlined, efficient online purchase process is vital to preventing abandoned shopping carts. Further, the purchase process is another opportunity to engage customers and capture useful data.
- Advocacy: The final phase of the customer journey is the advocacy phase, during which satisfied customers become advocates for your brand. Opinions that people share about their experiences with a product or brand are a highly valued source of information. Awareness and strategies that positively influence reviews and personal experiences is one of the most important dynamics of the mobile, social age.
Mobility and Internet of Things
To gain the attention of customers, it is imperative that digital communications be tailored to their preferences and contextual. In transportation, an important “contextual” need is the current location of your customers. For example, a concessions discount means more to a customer arriving at the station or waiting at the station than to a customer already on the bus or train. The same goes for passengers passing through an airport — they need timely and relevant information to make navigating the airport easier and the experience more pleasurable. To this end, we are seeing more transportation agencies leverage mobile and proximity-based technologies like beacons to “geofence” their customer locations. Sensors, connected vehicles, and the emergence of the Internet of Things – connected, internet-enabled devices and more – are also being used to drive smarter communication strategies.
The importance of these innovations for the transportation industry recently was underscored when the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a the “Smart City Challenge,” a competition offering a $40 million prize to the city that can best define what it means to be a “Smart City.” Seventy-eight cities applied and seven finalists were announced this spring by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Austin at the South by Southwest festival. It’ll be exciting to see which city has the most innovative plan!
In today’s digital landscape, the bar for success is being set by the rising expectations of always-connected consumers. The good news is that the tools and techniques for modern effective marketing and communication are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Transportation authorities can start to see the return on their digital investments almost immediately.
Franco Amalfi is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.