What was the last mode of transportation you used? Do you find yourself thinking twice about how you want to get from Point A to Point B, given the changes that we have been going through in the last months? Is safety a key concern for you as you make this decision?
Chances are, you answered yes to the last two questions.
Within the last months, we have seen great changes in movement locally and internationally. With the efforts of governments to #flattenthecurve, people were encouraged to remain at home for an extended period of time. This resulted in great impacts on both the travel and mobility industry, including FREE NOW, where our business is heavily reliant on individuals using our service to move from place to place. Due to current travel restrictions, the decision to go abroad and travel further distances is not made as easily as before. In addition, the level of trust in meeting one another again is proven to be requiring time to rebuild. This however is happening earlier in some countries, compared to others.
In line with this, we wanted to understand such changes further. How have travel decisions been impacted by COVID-19 and what can we predict from the mobility habits of our customers? We investigated these questions by sending out a survey to our users who had been active on our app in the past 6 months. The sample size consisted of approximately 15,000 passengers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Romania and Greece.
So, what can we learn from this study?
Individual transportation modes are on the rise
During the crisis, passengers mostly switched to individual transportation modes such as their own bike, own car or walking. Users claim that they will switch more to ‘individual transportation’ modes in the future which will also include sharing options (e.g. bike, scooter, etc). Trust in public transportation is quite low in most countries and people prefer transportation modes where they don’t get in contact with other people. Notably, cost remains an important decision criterion, which could eventually be a pull factor into transport modes which are currently considered to be higher risk.
There are a variety of reasons why customers would choose /not choose to use our service again
Overall the two most important reasons why passengers anticipated using our service less is because they won’t travel as much for business or move around as much as before.
- Ireland is the country in which significantly more passengers — both business and leisure — anticipated to use our service less after the end of the lockdown compared to other countries.
- The data suggests that usage of our services for business purposes will be affected greatly in many countries, compared to leisure usage.
- Countries with a high business share such as Germany and Austria who account for 60% of those who indicate their preference to use our service less, state that they will be traveling less for business purposes
On the other hand, there are several reasons why our passengers intend to use our services more.
- It is safer than other transportation modes (there regional differences to this, however)
- For people in Germany, the reason to use a taxi / private hire vehicle is that it is faster than other transportation modes.
- In Spain on the other hand, the majority of passengers who are using our service after the COVID-19 lockdown, report that for them we are a cleaner option compared to other transportation modes.
Hygiene/safety is a major factor to win back customer trust
As highlighted above, given the current situation safety of the journey and cleanliness is a key aspect when choosing a taxi / ride-hailing provider in almost all markets. Hygiene and safety concerns are especially relevant in countries that were hit hard by the pandemic. For passengers in other countries, hygiene is less important: Especially in Germany, Austria and Poland we see significantly less strong reactions to such statements.
Lifestyle and travel behavior as predictors of FREE NOW usage
Prior to COVID-19, going out (e.g. party, concert, theatre, or other events) was the occasion that passengers used us most for in almost all countries. Our business would be highly reliant on easing of restrictions for such activities if passengers do not use our services for other events. However, we are seeing an increase in other use cases: For passengers in the UK, France, Portugal, and Poland specifically, we see that ‘visiting friends and family’ is the second most important reason to use our service, which has the potential to increase even further after the lockdown.
Also, it might come as a surprise that French and Italian users were reported to be significantly more likely than those in other countries to travel as often as possible after the end of containment. But perhaps it’s not that big of a surprise considering the fact that they were hit hard by the pandemic and subject to very strict restrictions.
Have you seen some of these trends come to life in your day to day interaction? As restrictions ease all over the world, we are confronted with making greater choices on how we want to move about and what we consider to be important when making these choices. What do you think about this? What would you expect to find as a safety measure when choosing to take a taxi/car around? At FREE NOW listening to our users’ needs/expectations is a key driver in our decision making processes. In the current context, as a first step, we have put safety and security at the center of our activities by providing screens dividers for our fleets. As we listen closely to the needs of our users, we will continue to adapt accordingly.