How did Voyages-SNCF prepare to transport millions of Euro 2016 fans?
It is a busy summer for French rail operator SNCF. With 30 million passenger journeys expected to be made during the course of Euro 2016, the country’s network will be put through its paces as fans travel between the 10 host cities following their teams.
Asides securing match tickets and booking accommodation, transport is arguably the most important element of the trip a supporter must organise. Enter voyages-sncf.com, the UK trainline equivalent of the French railways. Last year it turned over €4.3 billion, selling 82 million transport tickets to 12 million international travellers.
Its app and 15 European websites, powered by 3,000 servers, have helped thousands of fans book their travel itineraries based on fixtures and venues for their teams, and CEO Franck Gervais is well aware of how big an opportunity Euro 2016 is.
“We are extremely excited because this is a positive and festive moment for France, for sport and for SNCF because millions of people are travelling around France from city to city, with up to three million fans in each host venue,” he says. “It is a brilliant opportunity for voyages-sncf.com to show how easy and pleasant it is to come to France and travel within France by train.”
To accommodate the millions of extra tourists, SNCF has massively increased the number of trains it is operating.
An extra 1,100 trains will be running during the tournament which equates to a 30 percent increase in capacity on the network, a feat hardly imaginable in the UK and many other European countries.
“This is the easiest way to come to France,” Gervais adds. “The French rail network is the best and strongest in Europe, with easy connections from town to town and suburbs to towns. There are numerous options we offer, including Eurostar, regional trains and buses depending on which country you are arriving from. Whichever team you are supporting, you can get here by train or bus.”
Supporters have also been able to book tickets much further in advance then they would normally to help plan their trips as painlessly as possible.
“Normally you can only book trains up to three to four months in advance but for this tournament we have allowed customers to book more than six months before it begins,” Gervais explains. Indeed, groups were able to book their tickets as early as September 2015.
As well as setting up dedicated webpages for Euro 2016, a huge marketing push has been a major focus of Voyages-SNCFf’s preparations.
More than 50 million Europeans were sent newsletters outlining the ease and cost effectiveness of travel by train, while important partnerships have also helped to drive traffic and bookings.
Gervais explains: “We have used specific partnerships to amplify our communications on and offline. SNCF is the official transporter of UEFA which means that when tickets have been booked through them it communicates to customers that Voyages-SNCF is the best way to book transport for Euro 2016.
“We have seen peaks in traffic and our aim is to make this the most popular event of the year. SNCF has been making this objective very clear across all of the business and my role as head of ecommerce is to showcase Euro 2016 and France to our customers, and how easy and cheap it is to book a train or coach in advance via voyages-sncf.com.
“We want visitors to remember one experience they can recall in conversation beyond the football – the seamless way they travelled to the matches and between host cities.”
The host cities themselves are also key marketing partners. Voyages-SNCF has 30 partnerships with towns and regions across France, offering discounted entry to attractions when train tickets are purchased.
There will still be plenty of work to do beyond the final whistle on July 10 when the tournament ends. Although the huge influx of train travellers seen throughout the month is no doubt a big boost to business, the real success of Euro 2016 will be judged on how much repeat custom Voyages-SNCF can generate.
Using the data and knowledge gathered about where visitors have travelled to and from during Euro 2016 will be key to successfully targeting customers for return visits.
“We must retarget all of these people and ask whether they have experienced everything they can in the country and towns they stayed in for the tournament,” Gervais says. “We can show them content and ask if they managed to see everything these places have to offer, and offer them a trip back using our services.”
Showcasing what France has to offer as a destination, asides being the venue for Euro 2016, is what Gervais believes will make voyages-sncf.com the digital leader of transport ticket distribution in Europe.
“The first step is always to inspire the customer,” he adds. “The second is to provide a fluent experience on the booking. If these steps are fulfilled then more Europeans will travel to France. We have 85 million tourists a year visit France and we want to get this up to 100 million by 2020. There is massive potential to grow and Euro 2016 provides a fantastic opportunity to show off our country.”
Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.
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