VR Matkalla — Your personal guide to carefree train travel

Once upon a time there was VR, a Finnish railway company that has arguably made the nation as emotional as its ice hockey team did in 2011. Since the rise of the smartphone, the people of Finland have yearned for an improved digital experience which in June 2019 finally made its way to their pockets.

The new VR Matkalla is a train travel application that goes beyond ticket sales — it is any passenger’s guide to train travel in Finland. The application is a transformation from a ticket wallet to a personal service that puts the passenger in control of their own journey and brings them peace of mind on travelling with VR. From purchasing to arriving at your destination, the application makes it easy to select a connection, stay on top of your upcoming journeys, and when in train — knowing where you are.

The smooth and simple to use app is currently serving over 235,000 registered users in three different languages: Finnish, Swedish and English. VR Matkalla can be downloaded from Apple, Google and Huawei stores.

#yhteisellämatkalla  — Co-creating a new era

Travellers want to be increasingly independent, and while the choices in assistive technology are growing, providing a seamless user experience has become the key in service differentiation. At VR, it is believed great products are made by great teams, and so a bunch of brilliant minds were recruited across design and development to work with VR’s business team in a multi-vendor environment. The bold new brand design provided a baseline for us to create a service that would delight with its looks and motion, and be of help in every moment of the journey.

"Perfect! All the problems from previous versions have been fixed and everything just works as it should. Thanks!"
— Google Play review

As the train is welcoming every passenger of any age with kids, pets, bikes and wheelchairs — we took every new feature prototype to train for the passengers to interact with and give feedback on. Our goal was to understand where the needs and pain points were and how the application was responding to them. We listened, tweaked and tested again.

Seat selection was one the trickiest to solve. This feature went through seven prototyping rounds until we found the best interaction pattern and color contrast combination.

What we learned our customers were happy with, was then developed and tested — naturally in agile manner. To catch the bugs that may have slipped our meticulous quality control, we recruited a pilot group of 300 customers that have access to new features in beta stage. This way we learned if the prototyped design when evolved into an app functionality would work smoothly in the customers’ daily lives.

Why we love this project

“It has been an interesting and rewarding journey with VR to build the app from scratch and watch it grow month by month.”

— Jouni, Senior Developer

“VR understands the importance of design, motion and accessibility in a mobile application. Developing a project where these aspects are prioritised is very motivating, since the application can then reach a high standard.”

— Joakim, Senior Developer

“In addition that the application is well designed and developed, it has a big impact on the lives of train travellers. The whole team works together to continuously improve the quality of the application.”

— Miia, Tester

“It’s a pleasure to be co-designing a product which strives to have the smoothest user experience, and on top of this, has green core values.”

— Sari, Designer

VR Matkalla is there when you need it

VR Matkalla streamlines your travel experience. The app is designed to consider every type of customer, whether they want to fast track a purchase, carefully select their seating or simply never miss another train.

“It is exceptionally easy for me to read this text on green though most often it’s very hard for me. It’s great my disabilities have been considered in the design.”
— A red-green color blind customer about a prototype

To guarantee inclusivity of the experience, we’re collaborating with Annanpura to ensure accessibility for every minority. Screen reader support is well on its way in the caring hands of a dedicated developer, and the application visuals pass the WCGA 2.0 AA standard. In 2020 we look to release a fully accessible app that enables customers with disabilities to have an accessible journey from start to finish.

The color and text contrast passes WCAG 2.0 AA standards for large and normal text.

Purchase made easy

Trying to hit ‘pay’ while catching a train — sound familiar? We learned from the customers that shopping happens in every kind of moment and place. That’s why we have tested the purchase funnel with customers already over 100 times. In addition VR Matkalla grants a long term wish combining commuter and long distance trains into one application, so you can buy single or multi-ticket on the go.

"The easiest way to buy tickets to trains. The experience is getting better and better with updates!"
— Google Play review

The time in train should be time for you to spend the best way possible. So to ensure the best seating for you, we’ve also incorporated the first ever in-app seat selection that enables easy selection of any seat to you and groups up to nine passengers. Wagon map feature helps easy seat finding for all including families who enjoy time in play wagon or commuters who’ll need time uninterrupted in a work cabin.

A weekend get away with your valentine? Hop on a train and start enjoying the quality time already in the all new Extra class.

At the right place in the right time

A carefree journey starts from being at the right place at the right time, and knowing if the train is departing on time. VR Matkalla keeps you up to date making sure you don’t have to worry. The app will notify you 30 minutes before departure time, 10 minutes before transfer time and immediately if your train is late from schedule. Just one example of how some code magic can in an instant improve a traveller’s life.

You can keep up to date on the journey progress by checking the next station or the whole stop map from the application. The app shows the services available in the train and tells a foodie what the restaurant wagon has to offer at a discounted price.

Journeys and tickets safe and sound

No more printing or taking screenshots of the ticket. The new VR Matkalla keeps your tickets safe even when low or no internet connection taking stress off from ticket inspection. All your upcoming journeys, tickets and receipts are saved in the app. For a smoother purchase, the app also remembers your payment methods.

And if you are a careful planner who also enjoys flexibility, the multi-ticket is a product for you. Multi-ticket allows customers to reserve a seat from a train and in case of changes, cancel 30 minutes before departure — without extra cost.

Results

During three months we went from zero to 100,000 active users, and simultaneously grew in-app single ticket sales by 385% in comparison to last year. All this without any bought marketing — and we had just begun. Now we have already doubled the user base and still haven’t put a dime in advertising.

We also knew, we’d always miss something, a bigger idea or a smaller detail. To capture these, all customer feedback is collected, sorted, analysed and compared against the development priorities. And from this pool of ideas, we’ve already implemented features such as journey plan, saving payment methods and direct payment methods like Siirto.

The first pieces are now in place and the application is downloadable for both iOS and Android devices. And by entering customers lives one value proposition at a time, means we’re creating value not only on a feature level but also in how people are involved in the service they use. We want customers in train to have moments of joy when they realise that something they ideated or gave feedback on is there and they helped us in making it come to life.

Key partners

Team

Meri Raelahti, Lead Designer, Nordkapp
Sari Kukkasniemi, Designer, Nordkapp
Maria Lomakina, Motion Designer, Nordkapp
Panu Korhonen, Head of Design, VR Group
Vanessa Lehtinen, Head of Digital Services & Marketing, VR Group
Jouni Kontinen, Senior Developer, PolarSpin
Petri Tolonen, Senior Developer, PolarSpin
Vasant Patel, Senior Developer, PolarSpin
Mark Voit, Senior Developer, Futurice
Joakim Kronqvist, Senior Developer, Netlight
Miia Oksanen, Tester, VR Group
Tuomas Heikkilä, Product Owner, VR Group
Riitta Oja, Product Management, VR Group
Jutta Kupias, Content Strategy, VR Group

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