Zipcar Rewards — Design & Business Case Study

Designing a system to encourage college students to use Zipcar — UW Dubstech UX Jam

Josh Nelson
Jan 23, 2019 · 10 min read

I recently had the opportunity to sit down at a UW Dubstech UX Jam at the Unversity of Washington. We were tasked with a method for encouraging college student platform adoption as well as encouraging usage across the entire platform. Here’s the strategy I helped develop alongside my peer Japjeet Narang within the two hour UX JAM.

You can check out UW Dubstech here: https://www.facebook.com/Dubstech/


Introducing — Zipscore

Zipscore is a rewards-based system designed to encourage repeat use of the Zipcar car rental platform. Our team decided to focus on existing users rather than strictly chasing down methods for attracting new users. Our extremely limited timeframe for this project limited our ability to research and verify the existing usage statistics, but our general understanding of business and marketing strategies led us to believe the rather than spending money to potentially convert new users, our best bet for a high return on investment was to encourage existing users to come back with a great frequency to develop a stronger brand loyalty and improve organic member referrals through higher usage rates among college students.

The fundamental concept behind Zipscore is based on the concept of credit scores, where individuals work to build up a credit score based on a wide range of variables that work together to paint a picture of an individual that is trustworthy and capable of paying back money lent.

Primarily for college students, Zipcar’s current value proposition is that it can offer a significantly more cost-effective method for low to moderate vehicle users over the short and long-run compared to car ownership where insurance payments, fuel expenses, vehicle maintenance & car payments can be a prohibiting factor to vehicle mobility. Additionally, Zipcar currently provides a student discount to lower the cost of entry and use of their platform. This Zipscore system builds on top of that system.

Zipscore is made of the following components:

Below is a detailed breakdown of these components.


1 — Behavior & Use based tracking.

Currently, there are insurance companies that offer discounted rates for individuals that are willing to plug a device into their car that tracks and monitors key metrics such as braking habits, cruising speed, acceleration… etc.

To name a few:

We envisioned with our system that Zipcar could develop an app-based system that sync’s with a built-in Zipcar component to provide tracking of these key metrics as a means of developing a comprehensive and holistic Zipscore. These would be combined with other metrics that Zipcar already tracks such as the cleanliness of the vehicle upon drop off, payment… etc.

After each trip, the individual would be provided a score based on 4 groups to keep things streamlined. These groups mirror the grouping system developed by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. https://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings

These individual trip scores would be combined with the other metrics Zipcar would track and together form a Zipscore.

By making use of an integrated map-based system Zipcar could even track and monitor phone-based distractions while the individual is driving. Tracking the number of times during a trip that the phone switches to different apps, and cross-reference this information with the speed of the vehicle.

The dashboard for the Zipscore would focus on these three elements:

Upon visiting the dashboard an individual is able to review their current Zipscore, and then click to see a more detailed breakdown of the individual metrics under consideration. This way an individual can work on developing better braking or acceleration habits.

For Zipcar, the Zipscore also acts as a method for encouraging safety more gentle use of their vehicles which can help reduce maintenance costs. So not only can they encourage more usage, but pay for discounts through the money saved through a reduction in vehicle maintenance.

Furthermore, Poorly rated drivers could actually be penalized or placed into probation periods with mandatory “micro-education” tutorials required prior to acquiring another Zipcar. Additionally, Good rated drivers would be able to access perks such as more select vehicles that have more luxury features.


2 — Gamification style discount badges.

The next component is inspired by Fitbit’s badge system that rewards individuals for taking a certain number of steps, or stairs within a day or within a period of time. We took inspiration also from systems built into the gaming world such as Halo’s reward system for expert use of select guns or vehicles within the game.

The discount badges would be broken into four categories that mirror the Zipscore — Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, Good. The goal here is to encourage individuals to maintain a higher overall score in addition to building for specific badges.

Here are some basic examples for each rating.

The idea is to incentivize the use of Zipcar’s platform and reward people for good driving and membership habits. This has the effect of not only rewarding good drivers but also providing drivers a goal to shoot for with each drive.

Badges are only accessible through achieving the rating that they are associated with but can be earned even if a driver is not currently within the select rating.

For example, all drivers start at the Poor rating, assuming no driving history. However, they are still able to earn badges that sit within the Good rating but are simply not able to apply the discount until they work their way up to a certain rating. Badges themselves cannot be lost, but your Zipscore can drop in rating if your driving habits begin to become sloppy over time.

Now assuming that their first drive in a Zipcar is perfect, they can jump from Poor to Good immediately, but not be able to make use of badges which are earned separately from the ratings. Badges themselves can have multiple levels. For instance, if a driver reaches a Good rating and then qualifies for a 1.5% discount badge, they can subsequently over time bump that discount from 1.5% to 2%, and from 2% to 2.5%… and so on…

Here are some example badges:

Badges can be stacked on top of each other providing significant savings for long-term heavy Zipcar users. In addition to this, badges can unlock discounts outside of Zipcar such as corporate alliances such as the Chevron badge, in addition to the university discounts for students that can help encourage use.

Badges allow Zipcar another method for reaching out to corporate partners who would pay a fixed upfront fee and recurring fee to sponsor a badge.


3 — Parental Historical Tracking & Controls.

Often when students come to a university they have parents that help afford them certain things, such as housing or even paying for gas or making car payments. Through the use of the Zipscore system, parents would be able to better keep tabs on how their student is driving to keep tabs on whether or not they are doing a good job. If a student continually receives poor ratings their parent could provide limits on the system such as when they can use Zipcars, or even pause it for a set number of days.

For example after a trip, if a student receives a poor rating their parent could have their account set up to receive a text notification so that they can check in with their student and ensure that they are okay.

However, most parents would probably be interested in a weekly or monthly reporting that would also include an invoice that they could pay directly to Zipcar. This report could include the number of trips their student took, and how they did across various metrics in addition to their rating and any badges earned during that period.

Additionally, by setting up a parental system within the app to sponsor their student through college with Zipcar, parents could subsequently sponsor their own badges or add on top of existing badges a direct monetary reward to provide their student with discretionary spending. For example: If a student earns Good Driver Level 10 — the student’s parents could send a $500 cash reward to their student.

Zipcar could set this system up with a simple 1–2% fee or even a fixed amount for an additional revenue stream.

Parental controls would not be required for all students but act as a volunteer method for accountability. However, once established a student would not be allowed to opt of until they are no longer a student at their selected university.


4 — Corporate sponsorship rewards.

One of the big selling points of this system is also the accruement of reward points for redemption as select sponsors. This concept was created based on reviewing existing credit card offers such as the Barclay card with Apple Rewards.

Our system would be based on mileage. After driving 1,000 miles a Zipcar member would select a corporate sponsorship reward. This would be an additional method for encouraging usage of the Zipcar platform and could be set up based on the average Zipscore an individual achieves across those 1,000 miles. Example:

If the user averages a Good rating over the course of those 1,500 miles than it would be bumped up to $25.

This system provides yet another reason for students to make use of Zipcar as they are able to collect rewards and discount on items that they need for school, or simply for additional spending money.


5 — Zipscore insurance & corporate alliances.

Lastly, we wanted to take the Zipscore concept a little further and set it up as a method for establishing a long-term value for Zipcar users which would appeal to college students.

One issue that we identified is that without having a car for years there is no means of proving that you are a responsible driver and thus should have a lower insurance rate when compared to a true beginner. With Zipscore all Zipcar members when they get to the point of buying their own vehicle could use their Zipscore and use it as a means of acquiring Good driver discounts immediately from the beginning with insurance companies.

For instance, if a student driver over the course of 4 years has driven 25,000 miles, maintained a Good rating, and has a Good rating across all key metrics they would be less of a liability for an insurance company than someone without any driver history. Zipscore allows students to prove that they are good drivers.

This, of course, would be another means of Zipcar to partner with large corporate insurance agencies and receive revenue as part of an advertising partnership.


Closing Thoughts

To say the least we only had 2 hours during the UX Jam session (realistically about 1.5 hours) to come up with a solution. It’s part design, part business, part marketing…. part everything. It was truly exciting to see what we were able to come up with in such a fast passed session and I’m looking forward to participating in more of them in the coming weeks.

Please let me know what your thoughts are and what you think of Zipscore.

Var City UW

Empowering the University of Washington’s Computer Science, Informatics and Human-Centered Design community

Josh Nelson

Written by

Product Designer @ Facebook || Founder of the Project Cobalt.

Var City UW

Empowering the University of Washington’s Computer Science, Informatics and Human-Centered Design community

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