A new account-based digital channel for Wellington’s smartcard users
Snapper Services, has commenced a trial of a new digital channel for transport ticketing in Wellington with an account-based architecture at its core. Developed in-house by Snapper, the solution is designed to leverage the existing card-based infrastructure with no software or equipment upgrades.
Snapper CEO Miki Szikszai said “our vision is to create a unified platform for all customers to access public transport, either online or by smartphone. By removing the barriers to top-up for the customer, you also remove the cost constraints of that top-up infrastructure, leaving the Transport Authority or Operator with the freedom to choose more innovative and cost effective methods to support customers in the future.”
Snapper has been providing fare collection services in Wellington for the last 10 years, and have extended the Snapper card from use on the bus to on-street parking, taxis, the Cable Car and Android smartphones. Despite the success of these services, they were still getting feedback from customers that that topping up was inconvenient and that there was room for improvement.
The next logical step was to investigate an account-based model, to move all the fare logic off the equipment and into the back-office. However, when Snapper reached out to other cities around the world who had implemented account-based models, they discovered that it had taken between three to five years for them to implement and involved either a complete system replacement or a significant investment to upgrade equipment.
Snapper didn’t want to ‘burn and replace’ their existing system, as it still has plenty of life left in it. Instead they started to look at innovative ways to get the benefits of an account-based model, whilst leveraging their existing system.
One of the main insights has come from the shift in customer behaviour that Snapper has observed over the last five years. When comparing the usage across reload channels, 96% of customers used retail for reload transactions in 2012. By 2017 this had dropped to 60%. Instead of visiting a retailer, tens of thousands of people were instead using Mobile to reload (22%) or visit a self-service Kiosk (15%). “What this tells us, is that the customers preference is to self-serve. They want to top-up and purchase products in the most convenient way, and that is trending away from visiting a retailer” explains Nina Ive, Head of Sales and Marketing.
The Snapper solution has therefore evolved into a new digital channel. It is designed for Android, iOS and the web; it supports multiple payment options for customers to choose how they wish to pay; it is built with an account-based architecture at its core so that it has the flexibility for fare policy and open interfaces to support a wide range of tokens and technologies, including concessions and travel passes which EMV solutions do not currently support. There is no software or equipment upgrade required, because it leverages the existing card-based infrastructure, using the card as a token.
Customers will continue to use the Snapper card and all the existing equipment exactly as they are used to doing, yet the inconvenience of topping up will be removed.
The new mobile app has some exciting features, such as the ability for customers to avoid penalty fares if they have forgotten to tag off. Automation is used to identify these occurrences and a push notification will be sent to prompt the user to resolve the issue themselves.
While the trial is currently in-house, Snapper intends to open subsequent iterations to more people quite rapidly over the coming months. They expect to see customers continue to shift away from costly reload channels such as retail, and instead take up this new digital service, also continuing to drive down the cost of reload and ultimately the cost of operating the ticketing system.
Ultimately, Snapper plans to verify that through this new digital channel, they are satisfying those initial customer challenges that couldn’t be completely solved with a card-based system – that the pain of topping up has been removed. Miki Szikszai says “we will continue to update the market as our trial progresses and we have meaningful data to share with other Transport Authorities who may also like to extend the value of their initial investment in a card-based system.”