How we launched “Free floating” for Zipcar

Launching a new service and mobile experience, for a well established business, through agile methodologies.


🚘 About Zipcar

Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Antje Danielson and Robin Chase and sold to Avis Budget Group for approximately US$500 million in cash by 2013. As of 2016, Zipcar has announced that they have 1 million members across the 500 cities and 9 countries they serve, and offers nearly 10,000 vehicles, becoming one of the world’s leading car-sharing networks.

📱The Existing Product

Members can reserve vehicles with Zipcar’s mobile or web apps, at any time. The Android or iPhone apps can be used to locate a Zipcar as well as to unlock the doors. The traditional Zipcar pricing model is based on a one-time application fee, an annual fee, and a reservation charge. Fuel, parking, insurance, and maintenance are included in the price.

⚡️ The Problem

With the rise of the new “free floating” car-sharing model, and committed competitors, Zipcar had to step-up its product offering, and make sure it keeps its leading position in the market it already owns.

🤔 The challenge

Launch “Free floating” for Zipcar, while growing and supporting the current “Round Trip” and “One Way” services for the already existing members.

In other words, we had to launch a new service to market, while making sure the existing business model is maintained and pushed for growth . One important thing to be understood here, is the complexity of Zipcar’s product. In order to have a functional system, there are four big components that have to be considered:

  • A digital platform that enables members to easily access the cars, through its native mobile apps and website.
  • A fleet of cars equally spread across the city for easy access and convenience. Anywhere, anytime.
  • A functional “brain” installed inside the car to assure a seamless connectivity between the members, the car, and the platform.
  • A functional backend system that allows Zipcar employees to maintain the fleet, and to offer customer support.

🌟 The Solution

Enter one market Zipcar has not touched yet and launch “Free floating” as a stand alone mobile app and web service

Going down this path has given Zipcar a safe learning curve which has no impact on the existing service, members, and markets. It also helped securing our entry in Brussels. Integrating the new service within the existing product would’ve taken a much longer time.

Speed has been an important factor in accessing the limited permits, offered by the City to all the “free floating” businesses targeting Brussels in 2016.



The best way to understand what you’re dealing with, is to start off where others have already succeeded. This means, learning from your competitors. Don’t forget that this is how the world evolves — we learn from each other, and build on top of those learnings in order to pursue progress.

We spent one week in Berlin, interviewing and user testing our competitor’s product (both existing and new customers), highlighting their good and bad practices, and the sources of frustration for both the online and offline experiences. This exercise has helped us understand the following:

  • What are the most important features
  • What we can do better
  • What we should avoid doing
  • How we can position ourselves differently


In order to discover the first layer of your MVP, including user journeys, data flows, and supporting technologies, collaboration has to take place. Bring all key stakeholders in one room and start asking questions, sketch your ideas on a board and surface your challenges and solutions.

We made a good use of Google Drawings, to create a template everyone could collaborate on, during and after each discovery workshop.

Using Google Drawings, we were able to scale the document, print it , and stick it on one of the office walls. During the workshop, we were able to use Post It Notes to take feedback and later refine the Architecture and User Journey, by updating the files.


Once your research work has been completed, a lot of ideas surface, and team members come up with exciting thoughts and proposals. Take a couple of days and turn all these learnings and feedback into the best experience the product could offer. However, do remind everyone that this is just an exercise, and not what the team should move on implementing.

We spent around 5 days, exploring various interface directions and interactions without having any technical restrains in mind. There are a few good reasons why this is a good practice:

  • Enables User Testing with customers to Validate your Ideas and UI
  • Sets-up a base for the MVP (easier to cut down and simplify features)
  • Helps developers better understand what you’re trying to achieve
  • Boosts-up the team, and stakeholder’s excitement
  • The assets can be used as visual references across the team


In a similar manner to your competitor user testing, you should run a couple of sessions on your invision prototype, before you refine and pass it on for Implementation. This practice will help you validate any assumptions you or your team members might have, and further validate the very first version of your MVP — Alpha

In our context we were able to reach out to 30 Zipcar employees and run them past our clickable prototype. If you do not have access to such resource, you always have your friends and family that can help, just make sure you know how to speak to them.

Rob Fitzpatrick, the author of The Mom Test has some great insights on how you should approach communication in such cases.


By now, your product launch should’ve already happened, just not for everyone. Building a community around it since day one, will allow you to refine efficiently, until you reach a stable version ready for growth.

At Zipcar, we have split our product launch in 3 yearly quarters, following the 1st quarter that helped us plan and structure the process.

  • Q2 — MVP Alpha: Functional prototype covering the core journey which we have tested with a pool of 30 people, internally recruited from other Zipcar departments.
  • Q3 — MVP Beta: Refined Alpha + scheduled Beta features which has been tested with an additional new pool of 30 users, all whom have been externally recruited for the testing sessions.
  • Q4 — MVP Launch: Refined Beta + scheduled Launch features. At this stage you should have a fully functional product, which is stable and ready to support your planned growth strategy.


Make sure that once you have released your product to market, you are already plugged into your tracking tools. This will help you learn and understand your drop-off points, user behaviour and overall results. Measuring the success of your product through data, should become a habit for the team.

In Brussels, Zipcar has registered a positive and steady growth rate since launch, which has been monitored through Google Analytics. Besides GA, we have been able to further apply tactical usability improvements based on the use of . Hotjar helps generate heatmaps, record videos of your users interacting with the product, or create contextual surveys.

Overall, the use of data and user behaviour tracking, is a healthy practice aimed at identifying patterns to help improve your product’s UX.


To quickly summarize all of the above, remember one thing: Your Product never stops evolving, which means you should never stop improving. Keep on learning, and tactically improve the experience you offer to your customers.

🤓 Learn → 🐣 Discover → ✍️ Design and Prototype → 🔎 Test and Validate → ✨ Refine and Launch → 📊 Track the Results → 🌀 Repeat


All of the above was possible due to a great team that managed to collaborate in the most efficient way. Many thanks to Yannick Barriol for assembling and managing the product team, Brendan Quinn and Alex Yanez for being awesome product managers, Okapi Studio for helping us with the build of the pre-sales website, and everybody else who took part in the launch of Zipcar in Brussels.

👨🏾‍💻👩‍🎨👨🏽‍🔧👩🏿‍💻 👨🏻‍💼👩🏼‍🏫 👨🏽‍🚀👨🏾‍💻👩‍🎨👨🏽‍🔧👩🏿‍💻 👨🏻‍💼👩🏼‍🏫 👨🏽‍🚀👨🏾‍💻👩‍🎨👨🏽‍🔧👩🏿‍💻 👨🏻‍💼👩🏼‍🏫 👨🏽‍🚀

✍️ Written by Robert Surpateanu