Summary: Digital Carshare Experience from the Physical to the Digital by Our Founder, Sandra Phillips

digital carshare

There are over 4.5 million car-sharing members worldwide and more than 8 million users are members of the largest taxi-hailing provider, Uber. Blablacar, the largest carpooling provider, claims to have more than 20 million members worldwide. Additionally, there are over 500 bike-sharing systems worldwide: there are more than 127 providers in China alone.

What follows is a summary report of how innovation has supported the user experience and enables an even more widespread adoption of shared mobility services. The article will highlight three ways that technology has and will shape the customer experience in shared mobility.

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1. Simplification – move it to the user’s smartphone

Booking and accessing cars, bikes, or electric scooters is as simple as downloading an app and registering with the shared mobility provider. We saw this changing as early as the mid-2000s when more advanced telematics systems allowed for the first free-floating car-sharing services, but the seismic shift in customer patterns didn’t happen until the physical truly overlapped with the digital.

Even the on-board experience is shifting to the shared mobility app. BMW’s DriveNow experience has integrated the onboard experience into the native navigational system.

This integration allows for a two-step security (entering a pin that is associated with the account), reporting damage or cleanliness issues, and navigational purposes. In the past two years, two trends have shifted the onboard experience to the member’s smartphone. Many automakers are opening up their operating systems to allow third parties to develop apps.

Now, an entire generation has been raised in a “phygital” shared mobility culture where anything is accessible, whenever, and wherever.

2. Stability, reliability, and speed: three key elements to great user experience

Technology has driven the change in shared mobility and there are multiple components that allow a system to run successfully. From the cell phone carrier that powers the telematics system in each car to the text messaging service that confirms a reservation, there are multiple players needed for a successful booking. In fact, the systems are so complex these days that outages are inevitable.

These days, the most loyal users will complain if the app takes more than 30 seconds to unlock a vehicle. Everybody else will simply abandon the service and look elsewhere. For some users, being served quickly has such a value that they are willing to pay more, as Uber’s success with surge pricing has shown. During peak hours and when Uber cannot meet the demand, they increase prices, oftentimes to the multiple. This helps Uber incentivize more drivers to be on the road during that time and meet customer demands.

3. Not perfection, but continuous improvement is the foundation of great user experience

Combined with an increasing digitalization, development has become more agile and experimentation is part of the process. Many companies embrace the minimum-viable-product (MVP) approach to launch their new mobility services. The approach is well known from cash strapped startups. They release a product that allows their team to learn as much about their customers with the least amount of development effort and cost. Yet even large and century old players such as BMW or BCAA embrace the MVP approach these days.

Once the service is released, the test-and-learn approach to new customer experiences continues. It gives companies an opportunity to test new features on a small scale, then measure results and gauge reactions before rolling them out to a larger audience.  In fact, Blablacar, the world’s largest carpooling operator, has embedded this approach into the company’s value system. Through “Fail, learn, succeed”, Blablacar embraces the fact that they may not have the perfect solution at first, but through continuous, accelerated iterations and a focus on the user experience, their service is improving.

Forrester’s 2013 report found five key ways companies are reducing the ouch-factor in transactions:

  • Automate repetitive or mundane tasks: ReachNow allows members to register through the app without having to visit a retail location.
  • Eliminate outdated steps: car2go has eliminated the need for members to refuel during their trips, the infield operations team now deals with that.
  • Focus on experience high-points: Evo allows members to enjoy Toyota’s experience without any additional screens inside the vehicle.
  • Increase transparency: Uber provides regular updates to members as to how far away the driver is and how much longer the member has to wait.
  • Introduce new experience models: Integrated mobility is the next way to introducing shared mobility to a wider audience. A step in this direction is Ubeeqo, a service that combines car-sharing with counterless rental as well as a taxi service, providing members with a first and last mile solution regardless of the time of day or need.

Shared mobility providers are designing new ways to meet our mobility needs: they are building new ways to move us around that weren’t there before. And they are finally framing the user experience in human terms instead of technology alone. Constructing the path can be a lot of work, but it is work that is wasted if it has no value for the customer.

Questions about this article by our Founder, Sandra Phillips? Contact us here.

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