Key to successful mobility services: know your local market

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What does food and moving around have in common? We do both on a daily basis and want the best quality knowing the farmer cares about the same things we do. We have changed how we eat quite a bit in the past few years: In 2014 we bought 29% more local products because we trust that it is better quality. Buying local has turned into a powerful category in the food industry and I believe understanding your local environment and audience are also keys for successful shared mobility projects.

Historically carsharing was a very local thing: Mobility in Switzerland, the oldest station based carsharing organisation was founded by eight citizens who shared one car among themselves. Zipcar started to make carsharing a global movement in 2006 when they launched their service in Canada and the UK. Today there is a handful of global players and a plethora of local ones. The biggest advantage of a local one is that they know their environment and their audience really well.

Know your environment

We all know that driving standards are different depending on the country: while you can drive on the left in the UK, this is not acceptable in Germany. The same goes for driving eligibility for carsharing members. While it is perfectly ok to do a visual check of the driving license in Germany, operators have to check the driving history in Canada. Even more locally organised are parking regulations because the jurisdiction is on a municipal level. Vancouver allows a resident to obtain a parking permit to park in their neighbourhood 24 hours. In Toronto, you can only park your vehicle outside your house at night with the same type of permit.

Know your audience

People prefer things merely because they are familiar to them. Depending on where someone lives, a person has distinct preconceptions and ideas about safety, convenience and reliability of transportation. While anybody takes a train or tram in Switzerland because they believe it’s the most convenient and reliable way of getting from A to B, North Americans prefer taking their own car because it’s safer and more convenient. When you introduce a new shared mobility service, you need to understand and address these biases. F.i. you do not need to explain a carsharing member in Switzerland how carsharing works, but you will have to convince them that it is perfectly safe and reliable to open a vehicle with a Smart Phone. Conversely, Canadians don’t understand carsharing and are quite hesitant in getting into a Smart car.

These are only a handful of examples where local knowledge is essential. Shared mobility offers a service and not a product and if you want to be sustainable in the long run, you must win your local audience’s trust. And that only works by understanding their needs and adjusting your offer.

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