While much recent press coverage of mobile payment has revolved around the retail space, it should not be forgotten that other areas – such as couponing, money transfer and ticketing – are also gaining strength.
Mobile ticketing is a case in point. Less than two years ago, there was barely any mobile ticketing activity in the US. However, one of the earliest key deployments – by Masabi for the MBTA in Boston in late-2012 – rapidly saw quite startling levels of adoption : in just 7 weeks, the MBTA found that 10% of its ticket sales were occurring through its app for iOS and Android; by mid-2014, that figure had risen to 27%.
More recently, GlobeSherpa’s deployment for TriMet in Oregon (launched September 2013) has achieved an even more impressive 29% adoption rate, while at the New Jersey Transit (ticketing launched December 2013) adoption is around 13%.
The success of these deployments have demonstrated that there was a pent-up demand for mobile ticketing; an expectation that, since you could use your smartphone to look at pictures of dancing kittens on Facebook, to watch episodes of Breaking Bad, to check the price of an Xbox 360 in-store against various online offerings, to buy the groceries, to store and redeem your mobile coupons and – occasionally – to call another human being, you should be able to perform pretty much any other communicative and transactional activity on it, including the purchase of a ticket for the 0743 to Basingstoke.
So mobile ticketing continues to advance in the US, as it does several thousand miles across the globe. In India, Vodafone has just announced a partnership with Bharat BPO, the official Rail Sampark partner of IRCTC, under which its users will be able to purchase railway tickets via the M-PESA payment system. The 139 Railways Reservation app can be downloaded to both smartphones and featurephones and enter their MPESA PIN number to authorise the transaction. The app also provides refund information (cancellations are refunded to the M-PESA wallet), train status, and seat availability. While there have been J2ME-based mobile ticketing applications available in India for several years, this is the first to integrate M-PESA payment functionality, although it should be observed that, with 300,000 active users across India, Vodafone M-PESA is currently dwarfed by rival Airtel Money (1.7 million users). Nevertheless, the hope for Vodafone will be that, by providing another use case for M-PESA, it will be able to increase the scale of both registered and active users.