The world of travel and mobility is broad and entails anything that brings you from A to B. In essence, travel and mobility touches every single person's physical and digital life. It is not a coincidence that many of our clients are in this field, because where the physical meets the digital is where fresk.digital thrives best. For us thriving is learning, and learning is sharing.
For this reason we started our Shared Mobility Research in the Netherlands and Belgium a year ago. We leveraged our knowledge in the field of shared mobility, combined it with our proven way of working and curiosity and launched our first report: The state of shared mobility: Bike sharing in 2023 in January, followed by our second report in July: The state of shared mobility: Moped sharing in 2023. Both reports follow the fresk.digital way of working where we perform qualitative and quantitative research in real life in order to pinpoint something we call moments that matter. We believe it is our job as creators to do whatever we can to make sure that our creations are meaningful to people, so in our day-to-day projects we are passionate about building the right product right for our clients and their audience. For this research we mostly focus on enriching our knowledge of the field of shared mobility and give this knowledge back to you.
In our approach we translated insights into moments that matter from our desk research, field research (where we performed 16 field tests for 8 different shared car services) and our leverage point session into results, which we validated with 28 respondents in our market research.
Fasten your seatbelts and let's hit the road together!
Shared cars have been introduced many years ago, with the first project introduced in Amsterdam as early as the 1970s with something called the Witkar project. Though it did not really succeed at that moment, the idea did get a boost when in the 1990s the Dutch government started stimulating the concept of shared cars. They believed it to have great potential to contribute to the reduction of personal car use and the carbon emission. With their launch in 1995 it was Greenwheels that put car sharing on the map in the Netherlands. The actual use has been increasing since its introduction and we now see multiple brands available in our streets, with different rules of use and different options to choose from.
The global car sharing market has seen significant growth in recent years, and is set to reach $35.2 billion by 2030. In the Netherlands alone the amount of cars available for sharing has increased by 23% in 2023, this means there are currently 7.920 shared cars available today and almost half of these cars are electric cars (roundtrip, community based, free-floating en keyless Peer-to-Peer). This same source shows an increase in the amount of people who use a car sharing service in one year from 4% to 7%. In larger cities like Utrecht and Amsterdam this percentage is even higher. According to kennisplatform CROW, this growth has multiple reasons. Besides the fact that technology is improving rapidly and thus opening new experiences for people, a lot of people are more aware of the various options in mobility. At the same time, operators are equipping cities with larger fleets and municipalities are recognising car sharing as a valuable addition to pre-existing public transport infrastructure.
At the same time we see that though there may be more shared cars available today, this says little about the usage of these cars. The Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid (the KiM) explains that in recent years shared cars make up just 0,02% of all the car movements in the Netherlands, and that this percentage has not increased since 2014. So we are seeing more shared cars, but not more movements. The KiM cites cost as a reason to find alternatives for car sharing services by new users.
Digital solutions play a key role in the user experience of car sharing. A digital solution, like apps or booking websites, can be the connection between the user and the car, and can either stimulate or demotivate (frequent) usage. By looking at the service from a human centred perspective, pinpointing something we call moments that matter, we are able to really understand people and their needs and habits. Moments that matter are interactions and touchpoints in the (in this case) traveller's journey that have the biggest impact on their experience. When these moments are smooth and bring a positive and helpful experience to the user, it will silently enrich people's lives resulting in a connection with the product or service.
We conducted a qualitative study where we translated insights from our desk research, field research (where we performed 16 field tests for 8 different shared cars services in the Netherlands in 9 different cities) together with deep dive interviews with people that either do or don’t use (by choice) these car sharing services, and the analysis of 28 filled in questionnaires about the topic. Our participants either had their own car or did not own a car. They have been testing Sixt Share, MyWheels, SnappCar, Lynk&Co, ShareNow, Greenwheels, Check and Inqar cars in cities mostly located in the Randstad or surrounding cities: Amsterdam, Weesp, Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam, Delft, Utrecht, Zandvoort and Woerden.
Looking at shared car services, we have started our research understanding the differences in this service, we have defined 5 different types of car sharing:
Let's dig into them!
By combining field research, deep-dive interviews and the data from questionnaires filled in right after trying the car services, we were able to generate:
Car sharing is a service used by people who do not own a car, but there are also people who do own a car that make use of the service. Our research shows several scenarios for using a shared car:
User needs and priorities per scenario
We can group the recurring pains that our participants experienced during the tests as follows:
Next to points of improvement, participants were positive about many parts of car sharing:
One thing has been very clear from our research: the first impression is a very important stimulans whether to stop using (a specific brand of) car sharing or become a recurring user.
We have seen that first time use is a key moment in every traveller's journey; it can be the first time a shared car service is used at all, it can also be the first time a different brand is used for car sharing, you may know Greenwheels, and are now trying out MyWheels. First time use can also be that you know a brand, but use a different product, one of our participants was already using the Check moped sharing service and now tried the Check car.
Either way, every glitch or frustration that happens during the first time use will not be forgiven and demotivates a second, third or recurring time use. The customer has not yet committed to the brand or service, and has no hesitation to let it go if it does not meet expectations. This means that car sharing brands need to be ahead of the game and be aware of the moments that matter.
Our research has shown four moments that matter in car sharing, where the digital solution can be a main driver optimising user experience. It is where the main connection between the driver and the vehicle is made and can therefore be a great tool to improve experience.
The four moments that matter are:
Anticipate solutions to known issues
Understanding and acting upon known (and recurring) early obstacles is key to enhancing the user experience and ensuring a smoother transition in shared mobility. By leveraging user insights and preferences, digital platforms can craft personalised onboarding experiences, guiding first time users through the service functionalities, vehicle access and key features, and therefor easing their entry into the service.
It might even be interesting to consider adding a different flow for first time users. This might help them feel guided through the flow, anticipating possible issues, eventually resulting in less frustration for the user and service calls for the brand. Or fully utilise offline help and have a special hotline ready to answer any specific first time use issues to let the users feel supported during their first time use.
Enable proactive and contextual information
Informing the users with real-time updates on vehicle availability, nearby parking spots, tailored recommendations based on user behaviour or location, proactive notifications regarding traffic updates, or service disruptions, might further enrich the user's experience. This can ensure a seamless and informed journey with shared car services.
A nice addition might be adding a geolocation feature that notifies the user about the cars available in their area, any specific offer nearby, and the best locations to park the car. This same feature can notify the user in case the car they have reserved for an upcoming ride has been moved to another location, so they are pro-actively made aware that the car is not at the location they originally spotted the car and even give them the possibility to change or cancel their reservation if the new location is not convenient.
Even the implementation of interactive maps for navigation to pick up points can enrich the user experience, with information about how much time it will take to get there for example.
These kinds of proactive notifications would help the user feel guided and take some thinking tasks off of their plate.
Provide guidance before, during and after the ride
As mentioned earlier, liability has often been mentioned as a pain of car sharing usage by our participants. The surprise of the damage check and the feeling of not knowing if the checking process has been done right creates stress. Embedding more guidance within the service, such as step-by-step tutorials, easy access to FAQs sections and clear instructions for vehicle usage, makes the interaction with the shared car service more intuitive, efficient, and informed.
Applying some Design for Safety guidelines works well. For example, make sure that users are well informed about all the possible steps in the flow beforehand without surprising them with extra steps (like the already mentioned damage check). This will prevent them from feeling they have done something wrong without knowing it and keep worrying about possible fees that might be added after the ride is done.
No loose ends
Another stressful moment in the journey is parking. The ending of the trip is one of the most mentioned moments by our participants. There is a layer of liability here as well, users want to be sure to park the vehicle properly to prevent fines and ending the trip without issues that follow them later.
It might be interesting to think about giving the possibility of ensuring a parking spot, allowing users to reserve parking spots in advance or integrating partnerships with parking facilities for dedicated shared car parking spaces.
Another idea could be to integrate parking tips and guidance for the users in the service, making these notifications contextual to the moment of parking, offering local tips or insights about parking regulations or preferred areas.
Parking fees are also a recurrent mentioned pain, as it is not always clear to users if they have to take care of them or not. If users have to pay themselves for the parking ticket, enabling them to make payments directly through the app or facilitating cashless transactions for parking fees might streamline the overall parking experience, and reduce the amount of time needed to end the trip.
Through these digital interventions, shared car services can evolve into personalised, user-centred solutions, prioritising convenience and optimising the overall user experience. Because when everything clicks from the get-go, people are more likely to keep coming back for more rides.
It's not just about fixing problems, it's about building trust and making sure people feel good about using shared cars on a regular basis. Because when shared car services become as easy as hopping on a bike or catching a bus, that's when they become a real game-changer in how we all get around!
This research makes our shared mobility a trilogy... so far!
We have covered shared bikes, mopeds and cars. Parallel we published deep-dives like our recent article about scenario based design and parking HUB's. And we are not done with our deep-dives yet, we will continue to investigate, experience further and share these insights with you.
At the same time we have realised that combining all the results from our research, our knowledge from working with clients in travel & mobility and in datadriven digital product development is so valuable and complete, that we are able to share an overall view on the travel & mobility market.
That is why we are now focusing on our most complete insights report to this day, coming to you soon!