Voyages-sncf.com is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year and what a fantastic fifteen years it has been. The company now employs over a thousand people selling trips to 30 countries, has 2,200 computer servers, cloud technology and other digital architecture. There have been some extraordinary business achievements in this time. In 2014, for example, the group reached a record turnover of €4.2 billion with a growth of 3.7% over 2013. So in just one year the group sold 78 million rail journeys … meaning that in the fifteen years of existence they have passed over 600 million journeys, which is staggering.
Voyages-sncf.com entered the UK marketplace in December 2013 when Rail Europe was rebranded to take on the brand identity of its parent company. The UK business is substantial and growing fast. Operating from its main location in Kent and its shop in Piccadilly it distributes the offers of all major European rail carriers (Eurostar; SNCF; Thalys; Deutsche Bahn; Trenitalia and RENFE among them). It has a strong B2B operation reflecting the growth in interest from travel agencies and tour operators who are increasingly offering rail inclusive tours and it sells direct to consumers via offline and online channels – with bookings through online channels growing at more than 25% year on year.
A key player in the French tourism industry, the Voyages-sncf.com group has played an important role in the technological revolution over the last 15 years, highlighting a quantum shift in user behaviour which has seen the landscape change considerably – as an early user of social commerce for example. Today around 50% of online traffic is via mobiles and tablets and 25% of transactions are made via these devices.
Voyages-sncf.com has always been audacious in business, right from the word go when in 2000 it set up in France as a web only venture. Another example was the inclusion of taxes in the fares shown to the European customer as of 2006, no other company was doing this at the time. Again in 2009 the heavy investment in mobile technology or in 2011 when it transitioned to 3DS that many thought would collapse any company utilising this payment model.
This success of their business model has enabled Voyages-sncf.com to re-invest substantially. In the last year, for example, investment in mobile phone technology and international development was key, so much so that bookings made through mobiles rose to 37% of the total volume of sales in Europe and 2015 will see the opening of a first office in China and development of the B to C site in Russia.
Voyages-sncf.com is always keen to involve end users in the development of their product and enrichment of their business mode, and thus ensure they are in tune with their customers. So for 2015 a new homepage on the website is to be launched in September and a new style results page has already been tested by 18,000 people, 75% of which came back with very positive comments. One particular favourite addition to the site is the opening of a chat room where customers may exchange comments, tips and ideas between themselves so that there is a more informed booking procedure.
Voyages-sncf.com is seen as an important digital partner as they have this wealth of expertise in maximising the tourism message through all of their markets worldwide. To this end the Regional Tourist Authority of Paris-Ile-de-France signed an agreement with them at the end of last year which has been rolled out across Europe and terminates in France this month.
So Voyages-sncf.com is looking forward to the next fifteen years and more as it has never been more successful. Voyages-sncf.com will continue to renew, reinvent and take on the challenges of redeveloping its client experience.