Travelers have gotten to the point where they expect the digital and mobile experiences they partake in to make their lives easier. This is especially true when they’re making a purchase. According to Juniper Research, digital transactions are expected to rise from $4.9 trillion in 2015 to just over $8 trillion by 2020.
No matter what industry, payments play a key role in the customer’s experience, as well as in the experience of staff and employees. For an industry such as travel, which operates on a global scale dealing with virtually every currency, payments –– especially cash transactions –– can be extremely complex for workers. Changes in overall consumer habits, such as the shift from desktop to mobile, have also had acute effects on the global payments landscape.
The fact that the global travel market is becoming more diverse –– as travelers from mobile-first countries such as China, India, and other countries in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa account for a larger share of travelers –– adds to the complexity. Prioritizing digital, and especially mobile payments, is important for engaging with travelers from countries with a heavy smartphone reliance.
In China, for example, mobile payments made via Alipay and WeChat Pay dominate everyday transactions –– so much so that street musicians, taxi drivers, and food stand vendors accept such forms of mobile payment. Access to these payment systems while traveling will likely be expected, or at least appreciated, by these travelers when abroad. Qatar Airways is one example of a travel provider that realized this. This year, the airline partnered with Wirecard, the leading innovation driver of digital financial technology, to offer Alipay as a mode of payment in selected Qatar Duty Free retail outlets at Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha to capitalize on the current Chinese tourist boom.
Here, we look at further examples of how players in airlines, ground transportation companies, and cruises are integrating digital payments into their businesses to more seamlessly serve their customers and solve industry pain points.
There’s no escaping the complexity of consumers’ payment method preferences around the world, and international air travel only highlights the nuances. It’s no secret that searching for and booking the right flight can often be a cumbersome process, even before customers get to the payment step. Furthermore, each country has its own rules and regulations, and struggles with payments can often lead travelers to abandon potential bookings. Airlines that prioritize providing a seamless payment process can enhance a customer’s overall experience.
A few years back, Hungarian airline Wizz Air, the largest low-cost carrier in Central and Eastern Europe, found itself needing the ability to process multiple credit cards and currencies among its increasingly globally diverse clientele when paying online. As András Sebők, head of corporate finance and fleet acquisition at Wizz Air explained in a press release from the company, “One of the crucial elements was to give our customers the opportunity to pay in their preferred currency.” By partnering with Wirecard, which supports payment settlement in nearly 20 currencies, customer satisfaction increased as travelers were given a choice between paying by Visa, Mastercard, or Maestro when purchasing online, in their own currency.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Netherlands’ largest airline, is another example of an airline that realized it needed to enhance its payment services to expand its customer base. The airline needed advanced omnichannel acquiring solutions for its online business, its travel agent sales, and for its mail and telephone orders. KLM, which serves 149 destinations, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, was also searching for a specialist partner in payment processing in India with its strict financial regulations. In its collaboration with Wirecard, the airline overhauled its entire online payment and acquiring processes across a range of countries, allowing travelers to pay their tickets via credit card in their own currency. KLM was also able to meet India’s strict payment requirements by implementing a gateway service to a local bank allowing the airline to accept and transact payments from the country’s outbound travelers.
Focusing on digital and mobile payments isn’t limited to improving credit card and currency challenges. Implementing a seamless payment system can also help travelers store their tickets on their mobile device for easy access, receive flight updates, enable rebooking, view personalized offers and services based on past payment data, protect against fraud, and enhance loyalty, among other activities that enable better customer experiences.
Ground transportation companies, as well as the consumers who use them, face their own challenges around payments, especially when it comes to issues of cash transactions and currency. For ground transportation providers looking to compete in a crowded and complex market and make inroads in a landscape increasingly dominated by ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, providing seamless digital and mobile payment options is key to offering next-level customer experiences.
When Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) needed to implement a fully digitized voucher platform to help drive customer loyalty, the company turned to Wirecard to integrate its newly launched voucher platform. ÖBB was looking to offer customers the option to redeem vouchers, combine various payment methods, and use them in one sales transaction. Since the platform was integrated, both vouchers and credit cards can be handled in one online process using a single transaction ID.
mytaxi, the world’s first taxi app –– launched way back in 2009 –– was early to adopt the idea of convenient, digital payments to passengers on the go as well. The idea behind mytaxi is to directly link the taxi driver and the passenger. The app localizes the passenger and connects him or her to an available mytaxi nearby. Within seconds, the passenger can see which taxis are available and order a driver. Because of innovative services such as ride pooling through mytaximatch, selection of regular drivers, and the possibility to pay directly in the app, more than 10 million people use mytaxi in nine key European markets.
Evopark is another example of a ground transportation company that has integrated mobile payment and loyalty functions to improve the customer experience. The German company offers digital end-to-end products for parking lot operators and mobility providers such as Porsche and Daimler, which use the innovative digital parking services for customer acquisition and retention. With the help of Wirecard, evopark’s mobility partners can add a mobile payment option and loyalty function to their parking services, which allows customers to obtain discounts from retailers located nearby to parking lots.
For cruise staff and employees, cash payments often present a huge obstacle due to the multiple currencies guests use on board. For cruise passengers, mobile and digital payment solutions solve one of the greatest pain points of cruises: standing in line.
Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises recently overhauled their digital and mobile experience to eliminate passenger friction. MSC Cruises’ MSC for Me app allows guests to book services for restaurants and excursions, enjoy personalized recommendations, and check-in via mobile, among other activities. Meanwhile Royal Caribbean International has implemented a new mobile app that allows passengers to better control their cruise experience before and during the trip, and offers capabilities for e-commerce, itinerary planning, conflict management and other options. Both cruise lines also offer RFID-enabled wristbands which can be used to pay for purchases while on board.
Dream Cruises and Star Cruises, brands under the Genting Cruise Line division of Genting Hong Kong, recently sought to provide a fully digital system that offers a hassle-free check-out process to passengers on board its ships. With the company’s Quick Pay Self-Checkout System, developed in partnership with Wirecard, passengers can avoid the long lines and settle their bill via their smartphone, as well as set up pre-authorized spending limits, manage accounts for friends and family, and monitor consumption during the trip.
As Jörg Möller, managing director at Wirecard explained, “It’s exciting to see how much the travel and mobility industry is in motion –– and as in all other sectors, those providers that offer the best customer experience made possible by connected, customer-centered and fully digital solutions will prevail.”
Wirecard uses transparent and secure systems mitigate the complexity of payment processing for businesses in the travel industry. To learn more about how you can partner with Wirecard to enhance your digital payment solutions, click here.