How to Start Selling on the Subway

Transit-takers are a huge captive market, but tapping into commuter commerce will require retailers to get mobile

Written by Murad Hemmadi

A new study fromPayPal Canada and Ipsos reveals that 14% of commuters use their smartphone to shop while in transit. However, far more—three in four Canadians—would consider buying a range of products if mobile shopping options were more easily accessible.

The survey, which has dubbed the trend “commuter commerce,” reports that those engaged in the behaviour spend an average of $529 per month and purchase everything from movies, games or concert tickets (62%), clothing, shoes or accessories (62%), and gifts for family and friends (55%) while on the move. Seven out of 10 of those surveyed said they would like to browse their favourite shops on their phones during their commute, while 69% agreed that shopping while commuting saves them time.

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The study states that, “given the spread between current commuter commerce users and those receptive to it, the proportion of active commuter commerce users could increase five-fold if mobile shopping options while commuting were easily available.”

When asked what’s holding them back from shopping while commuting, 45% of those surveyed cited poor or limited cellphone reception and the lack of WiFi on public transport as deterrents. Four out of 10 added that they were concerned about security and sharing their credit card details.

Canada’s transit infrastructure is slowly starting to include more and more mobile connectivity options. In Toronto, WiFi is currently available on platforms, concourses, walkways and stairways at 15 subway stations, with plans to expand the service to buses and streetcars in 2016. Vancouver also experimented with free WiFi on select city buses in 2014 as part of apartnership with Telus.

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With more WiFi options on the horizon, PayPal is predicting the trend is poised for growth. “When paying with PayPal, people don’t need to enter shipping and billing details to shop from their phones on a crowded streetcar; which is a great fit for commuters,” saidKerry Reynolds, head of consumer marketing at PayPal Canada, in a release. “PayPal predicts that whether it’s gifts or groceries, commuter commerce will boom in Canada as savvy commuters use their time efficiently to shop from their smartphone while on the move.”

According to the survey, two in 10 Canadians use public transit more than 3 times a week. Currently, most commuters are taking advantage of free WiFi by texting (67%), checking social media, talking on the phone or listening to music (44%), playing games (41%) and catching up on the news (38%).

This article originally appeared at Marketing Magazine.


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