What started in the late forties by the tenants of a housing cooperative in Switzerland, has now reached the masses. Anybody you talk to today has heard of Uber, Zipcar or car2go. And the revolution has only just started: The industry is evolving and changing at a break-neck speed. New entrants to this market turning their focus to the customers and technology to define their business models and innovate how we get around. This article explores three trends that will shape the future of the shared mobility industry.
1. There is a big shift in who enters and shapes this space at the moment
Just like news, people demand mobility, the ability to move anywhere freely and easily, to be at their fingertips any time of the day. They expect the services to be tailored to their specific needs and expect them to change fast like everything else these days. Public transportation bodies and vehicle manufacturers, grown over centuries are saddled with expensive union contracts, infrastructure, delivery logistics and overhead.
Entrepreneurs with a strong business background, such as Travis Kalanick, David Black or Greg Moran, have realized the opportunity that this presents: they can bypass these hurdles with agile structures and build smaller and more specialized services, often targeted to serve a very specific customer group and need. Which leads me to my second point:
2. Mobility as service – the consumer is the focus
What Grush Niles calls Transportation as Service, I call Mobility as Service. The focus of shared mobility, unlike transportation solutions, is offering a service to the consumers, not to provide infrastructure that transports them from A to B.
Regardless which area we look at, products today have a higher service component than in previous decades. Gone are the days when engineers analyzed a city and its requirements, then build a transportation model that then is implemented over 10 years with a mega budget, but consumer needs are varied, they depend on cultural, educational, financial and social background. Which is why mobility is starting becoming fragmented, just like the news industry.
Entrepreneurs are able to capture the need of one demographic really well and then tailor the service to that group. There are taxis offering services to only women in the Gulf region or India either because of safety or cultural preferences. There are carsharing operators that are delivering services to employers as part of a staff retention program.
3. Technology with customizable user experience
With an increased focus on the needs of specific user groups, the demands on customizations of shared mobility software or hardware solutions are getting louder. Many of the shared mobility solutions are off-the-shelf products and in the past a carsharing operator in the United States looked very similar to one in Germany. The past years the focus for telematics, software and hardware specialists was on solving some of the technical challenges to connect thousands of vehicles to the cloud so they become shareable.
While there are still a lot of challenges on that front, such as security or scalability, there are new demands on the user experience. Players in this realm need to ensure that they have someone on the team that can bridge the gap between engineering and design. Many of the large shared mobility players are now hiring UI (user interface) or UX (user experience) experts focus on customizing the user experience.
Shared mobility has become a business model and has moved past the dreams of a small environmentally focused group. Entrepreneur with strong business acumen are entering the space and turn their attention towards the consumer. This is a good thing because it will ensure that the industry keeps innovating, serves the need of larger groups and will ensure that the industry is here to stay.
How can shared mobility operators make the experience better for the customer? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.