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Case Study: HOPS Point of Sale System

A custom Point of Sale system for heritage railway operators selling tickets, events, and gift shop items

Screenshot of the HOPS Point of Sale system's ticket selling screen

HOPS is the leading management and compliance system for heritage and preserved railways. It provides online tools that accommodate all aspects of railway data storage and processing.

HOPS PoS is a bespoke Point of Sale solution for use in railway ticket offices. It was developed by Heron Web in 2022, following a series of successful projects delivered to HOPS in previous years.

Heron Web built the frontend Point of Sale application, typically used on touchscreen kiosk devices, and the server-side systems for searching product inventory, tracking basket contents, and completing the checkout process.

Travel Tickets

HOPS PoS is purpose-built to give heritage railways the versatile ticket sales system they require. All sales involve an extensive list of variables, such as your departure times and stations, the type of journey you're making, the class of carriage you'll ride in, and the fares you're eligible for:

No existing point of sale solution offers this flexibility. With HOPS PoS, railways are able to accurately model the unique nuances of heritage travel tickets. They also benefit from seamless use of the data they're already storing in HOPS, including details of train timetables and operating days.

Because of the number of ticket permutations potentially available, a "favourites" screen is provided. This permits quick access to the railway's most frequently sold combinations as one-tap shortcuts.

Screenshot of the HOPS Point of Sale system's "favourite tickets" screen

The system incorporates support for seating reservations, allowing customers to reserve specific seats within carriages when required. All availability data is updated in real-time, ensuring seats cannot be double-booked and that no tickets are sold for trains that have already reached capacity.

Screenshot of the seat reservations interface in the HOPS Point of Sale system

Event Tickets

HOPS PoS is also used to sell tickets for special events and on-train experiences, such as afternoon teas and dining trains. A dedicated interface surfaces these items, letting the operator quickly find the event that their customer is attending.

Screenshot of the event sales screen in the HOPS Point of Sale system

Events can be configured to collect information from the customer through a series of custom questions. In the case of a dining train, the railway needs to be aware of any food allergies, for example, while driving experiences will require the participant's name to be known. The operator inputs the customer's responses before submitting the sale.

Screenshot of a customer questions prompt in the HOPS Point of Sale system

The questioning system offers exhaustive options for configuring the context in which a question is asked. It can facilitate questions that must be asked once per-order, once per-unit of an item (when a plural quantity is ordered), and once per-person (when items such as family tickets apply to more than one railway visitor).

Complete Sales Experience

HOPS PoS offers a comprehensive selection of sales features. It can be used to sell miscellaneous products, such as gift shop items, and operators can accept arbitrary donations from customers.

The system supports issuing gift vouchers with both pre-set and custom balances. Customers can redeem their vouchers against their orders, as either full or partial payment.

Screenshot of the gift voucher sales interface in the HOPS Point of Sale system

After recording a successful sale, the application automatically prints a receipt for the customer:

Screenshot of the HOPS Point of Sale system's sale confirmation and receipt screen

Technical Implementation

HOPS Point of Sale is a progressive web application. It's delivered through web browsers but can be installed to a device's operating system to enable offline launch.

A PIN code mechanism is enforced to prevent unauthorised access to sales terminals. Operators are required to login with their PIN before they can record sales.

The entire system builds upon the broader functionality of the HOPS Heritage Railways platform. It integrates with and supports other HOPS components, including a brandable public sales website also developed by Heron Web:

Screenshot of purchasing a railway travel ticket using the HOPS public sales website that's brandable for individual railways

Adoption of this site allows members of the public to purchase the railway's tickets and other items online, using the same inventory and availability data that PoS presents to staff in ticket offices.

Screenshot of the checkout interface in the HOPS public sales website that's brandable for individual railways

Most technical challenges encountered with the system related to basket management and its interlocking with item, train, and seat availability. A claim-based model was implemented, whereby items added to a basket are immediately counted as unavailable.

Baskets have a fixed lifetime; sales are always accepted if the checkout process is completed before the basket expires. The items cannot have already been purchased within another order because they are reserved within the basket. Once the basket expires, the order is invalidated and its items returned to sale.

HOPS Point of Sale is a bespoke commerce system built to the distinct requirements of heritage railways. Heron Web can deliver the custom software solutions that you and your clients need to succeed. Please contact us today to discuss your next project.

HOPS Point of Sale is commercial software available to heritage railway operations and related organisations, as part of a HOPS subscription. The system is in active use at major lines. Screenshots in this case study were captured in a demonstration environment but are representative of typical usage. Heron Web cannot support end users - please direct sales and technical enquiries to HOPS.