A far-reaching study conducted by Accenture across 8 European countries revealed that significant numbers of train riders would buy their tickets via Google or Amazon if they could. Google leads the way in the minds of riders as the best potential source for finding train tickets as 55% overall and 45% for Amazon. Facebook came in at a distant third, but this may evolve over time as Facebook looks to expand more into social and e-commerce. In France, these numbers were lower, with 49% saying they’d be fine with purchasing tickets on Google, 45% on Amazon and 18% on Facebook, which can’t be welcome news for SNCF who have been actively trying to increase the prominence of voyages-sncf.com.
Another important point the study clearly proves is that the internet has become an integral part of the buying process for train riders. 71% of French riders stating that they purchase their tickets online and 17% via mobile, undoubtedly presents an extremely interesting opportunity for the two internet giants. Google already offers a flight finder in some markets which wouldn’t be much of a stretch to extend to trains. As Les Echos pointed out, one big obvious risk for SNCF if the internet giants decide to venture into this business and become major channels for rail tickets is that with their size and buying power, they could negotiate cheaper ticket inventory, ultimately squeezing SNCF’s margins. This would undoubtedly be a welcome development for riders, but a real headache for SNCF which is still trying to ready itself for the eventual opening-up of France’s rail market. With 68 million tickets sold on voyages-sncf.com last year (of which 4 million via smartphone), SNCF can ill afford to have anyone significantly eating into their online revenue.
It’s important to note though that while a signficant proportion are ready to look elsewhere to make their ticket purchases, French riders are still, for the moment, more loyal to their local train operator (SNCF) than other Europeans. A whopping 71% of Italians and 76% Spaniards seem ready to jump ship from their current local options to Google and 66% of British would consider moving to Amazon. Perhaps this is one bit of consoling news for SNCF.