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All aboard for voice commerce: Virgin Trains sells tickets through Amazon Alexa

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Virgin Trains has become the first train operator in the world to sell its tickets through Amazon Alexa and joins a growing roster of brands selling on Amazon, lured in by the ‘zero user interface’ of voice commerce.

The innovative collaboration will enable rail travellers to book Advance Single tickets and to sort their trips with one simple voice-based transaction via an Alexa-enabled Amazon device, including Amazon Echo. Payment will be completed through Amazon Pay.

The launch follows the unveiling of the Virgin Trains skill for Amazon Alexa in November last year, which allows customers to enquire about rail information by asking Alexa.

“We’re thrilled to offer customers a completely new way to buy train tickets,” says Giulio Montemagno, Director, Amazon Pay EU. “With Alexa and Amazon Pay, Virgin Trains customers can now search, select and buy train tickets entirely through voice. This is a first-of-a-kind service that will make it easier than ever to find and book the ticket you want, even when you’re busy doing something else – all you need to do is ask Alexa.”

The Virgin Trains skill for Amazon Alexa is part of a host of digital projects that will offer Virgin Trains passengers the most innovative and forward-looking customer experience, whilst providing a comfortable and smooth journey from beginning to end.

“We’re very excited to be the first travel company in the world to sell tickets for both Virgin Trains on the East Coast and West Coast through Amazon Alexa; it’s just another example of Virgin Trains leading the way in digital innovation within the rail industry,” commented John Sullivan, Virgin Trains CIO .

“From finding train times online, to arriving at your destination, we want to make every journey with Virgin Trains amazing, and our collaboration with Amazon is a great example of this commitment to putting the customer first.”

To celebrate the announcement Virgin Trains on the West Coast are offering free First Class upgrades to any passengers named Alexa travelling on their routes between May 3rd and June 15th 2018.

Commenting on the move, Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Salmon, says: “While Heathrow Airport and Jamie Oliver utilise Alexa for checking departure times and browsing recipes respectively, Virgin Trains has now taken this one step further by allowing customers to directly purchase a product without a screen. And brands and retailers should take note. The more popular Amazon’s Echo and other voice-activated devices become, the more consumers will actually want to make purchases using these devices. This, coupled with the fact that consumers are increasingly craving convenience over the brand they purchase, points to a growing necessity for a bigger choice of purchasing options.

This isn’t a total first for voice and transport: German bus company Flixbus has already started selling tickets using voice for its buses over Google Assistant in English, French and German. Since March 2017, the international FlixBus route network with over 250,000 daily connections has been available in Google Maps via the Google Transit feature. 

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