Capturing Commuter Commerce – Online on Train Lines

(13 Feb 2018, BWCS Staff)

The spending power of the UK’s growing band of train commuters has been highlighted by some new research from KBH Media. The London-based, on-board advertising specialists found that 88% of train passengers use their smart-phones at least once during an average journey – with a third of all riders checking their device “every couple of minutes”.  This modern phenomena, coupled with the increasingly improved WiFi on trains and the number of retailers investing in properly mobile-optimised sites and apps, has led to a boom in ‘commuter commerce’, KBH argues.

In terms of purchases made whilst travelling on the rails, the study shows that 73% of rail commuters are using their mobile, laptop or tablet to browse for items to buy. The good news for retailers is that over a quarter of commuters (26%) actually make a purchase during their journey. This seems to indicate that there is a large and growing market for goods and services among the huddled masses shuffling to and from their homes and places of work.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular items purchased by train travellers turn out to be fairly low cost - clothing/footwear items were bought by 39% of rail travellers who made a purchase, this was followed by groceries (33%). However, tickets to concerts and other leisure events also figure highly among buyers’ preferences – 26% of all commuters having bought them on the train.

More surprisingly though, is the finding that 15% of commuters admit to buying holidays, while 9% say they have even bought cars, or car related purchases, during their journeys – presumably when the trains were running slower than normal and alternative forms of transport seemed suddenly more attractive. Less surprising, is the fact that 18% say they have bought tickets for further travel.

The trends seem to highlight a significant opportunity for brands and retailers to sell to a captive audience for a limited period at the beginning and end of their working days. During this time, it appears the commuter-consumer’s mind is likely to focus on what to do with their leisure time largely as an antidote to contemplating the day ahead, or to try to forget the work recently left behind. Of course, KBH points out that this offers a good chance for on-train advertisers to interact with the leisure-hungry, or just hungry, workers packed into the trains. However, it also reveals a wider opportunity for online advertisers to target commuters on specific routes with carefully thought out campaigns.

As the study points out, the market for commuter commerce in the UK is estimated to be worth around £9.3 billion a year (Zapp/Cebr 2015). Furthermore, this figure which could increase significantly in the future as better wireless connectivity takes hold and advertisers become more savvy in their efforts to target the train travelling public.

KBH’s study can be accessed here

As ever, on-board WiFi, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi services, advertising and on-train entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference - Train Communications Systems 2018 ( ). For more information please contact

This year's Train Communications System Conference will be sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, 21Net, RADWIN and BAI Communications.




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