Why shared-mobility providers need to move forward with marketing tactics
In the past few years, the arrival of on-demand micro-mobility services has reshaped how we get around in cities. The diverse options give consumers more choice and immediacy of mobility, but on the flip side, this swift development has often overwhelmed cities; as these markets rapidly develop, the growing number of vehicles (bikes, scooters, mopeds) crowd the sidewalks, and are often misused and battered.
The city of Paris, for example, had to step in and limit several aspects of shared bikes and scooters scooter use and distribution in the city. Officials have banned the possibility of riding and parking these vehicles on the sidewalks to try to alleviate this problem.
Gone are the days when operators could display dozens of scooters or bikes directly in front of subway stations or tourist attractions. Now shared vehicles can only be parked in areas initially designed for private bikes and mopeds. Otherwise, they are (supposed) to be impounded.
The city of Paris is planning to repurpose around 1 000 car parking bays into specific parking for shared vehicles. But meanwhile, parking docks are flooded with different mobility options — and most of them are barely visible.
As most cities are adopting similar regulation, this poses a major problem for operators who have relied on the street visibility of their vehicles to attract new users. These novel vehicles advertised for themselves — people saw them, were amused by them, and wanted to try them out. During the Micromobility Conference in Berlin on Oct the 1st, CEOs of several operators (Wind, Tier, Circ) insisted that the beauty of their business was that they don’t have to spend anything on customer acquisition.
But this is no longer the case, at least in a mature market. As a consequence, operators will have to change their marketing strategy: street-marketing tactics have to be backed-up, completed, and replaced by digital visibility, not only on their own apps but mainly on third-party apps and sites.
It’s clear that in order to better reach customers and significantly increase the digital visibility of vehicles, shared mobility operators are going to have to integrate their platforms and provide access to their data. Cooperation between shared-mobility operators and navigation applications would allow millions of potential new users to view vehicle availability and location, and will accelerate the adoption of shared mobility and new users.
Some companies are already working together with big transport companies (Circ with Swiss Federal Railways, Cityscoot with RATP and SNCF in Paris), whereas others are featured on third-party transportation apps, such as Tier with Jelbi (Berlin), Dott with Mappy (Paris) or Freebike with Citymove (Prague).
Lime has established visibility on both Uber and Google Maps, an industry first. Google Maps users can access Lime in both the “walking” and “cycling” tabs, in addition to finding nearby scooters in the “transit” tab. The app will display helpful information like distance, price, and battery range, as well as the most efficient walking route to each vehicle.
Independent operators should not limit the number of partners they are working with. They should be visible on as many apps and services as possible, in order to compete with “Mega Apps” like Uber, Lyft or Meituan which will always prioritize their own mobility services or partners (Jump and Lime on Uber ; Lyft Bikes, Citi Bike, Capital Bikeshare and Bay Wheels on Lyft ; Mobike on Meituan).
In a recent interview with The Verge, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that he wants Uber app (where users can now also find real-time subway, bike-sharing, and scooter information) to become “the Amazon for transportation.” It would be better to avoid having one company holding that much monopoly in the market as mobility options would be negatively impacted. Instead, we should make shared-mobility services open to all, on all applications and services, for the greater good.
Companies like fluctuo, by aggregating the data from multiple shared-mobility operators, can facilitate this by alleviating technical and legal hurdles.
Julien Chamussy is co-founder & VP marketing of fluctuo, an independent third-party data aggregator specialized in shared-mobility services (bikes, scooters, mopeds).
Thanks to Annie Butkiewicz for editing and proof-reading this article