Covid-19 put an abrupt end to one of the most promising growth industries ever: The pandemic led to a worldwide slump in usage and sales figures in the new mobility market. Is this already heralding the end of new mobility? On the contrary, says our mobility expert and Principal Jérôme Nonnenmacher. He thinks that the industry stands for a completely new form of brand management.

Jérôme, the coronavirus has put the brakes on almost all areas of everyday life at the same time – is this the beginning of the swan song for the new mobility? 

No, on the contrary: In the wake of the current easing of initial restrictions, the next step will be a major shift in demand towards private transport. Especially the inhabitants of the major conurbations are still looking for alternatives to public transport and the car. The golden age for new mobility and micromobility could thus be just getting started.

Is there any initial evidence of this?

Yes, absolutely. The Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, for example, only presented a new e-scooter worldwide at the end of April. So they believe in this future market and want to continue to conquer it. In addition, many suppliers were not and are not idle during the crisis and have drawn attention to themselves with very clever marketing. TIER, for example, launched a campaign in which members of system-relevant professions were given free rides. 

Why is marketing so important for the industry?

It’s like this: From a brand point of view, the e-scooters in particular are a real challenge as the spearhead of the new mobility movement – the same product benefits, almost the same design, the brand presentation on the road is completely left up to the users, and they are hardly suitable as status symbols in the conventional sense. Against this background, marketers should definitely take a closer look at developments in the industry. After all, the new urban mobility is a phenomenon from which legitimacies for other industries can be derived.

What are these?

First of all, it is remarkable that e-scooters bring together apparent opposites – they are sensible and fun; they correspond to the general zeitgeist and allow a maximum of individuality; the first providers want to act climate-neutrally in the future, but this does not lead to any sacrifices; they won’t win any design prizes, but are still hip. But above all, they stand for total spontaneity. No waiting times, no traffic jams, no lack of availability. The contemporary on-demand service – which users know from music (Spotify), TV (Netflix) and shopping (e-commerce) – is thus coming onto the streets for the first time. Whoever creates such a drastic user experience does not need the big classic marketing budgets.

What role does technology play here?

A very decisive one: In more and more industries, the first touchpoint is with the customer on the smartphone. No matter whether it’s banks, insurance companies or the entire retail sector. This is also the case in new mobility. But it adds two crucial components: on-demand use and access to electrified shared services. It thus combines three decisive success parameters for the implementation of new business models. And let’s not forget that e-scooter providers are above all gigantic data pools. Movement data, downtimes, trips per day, distance traveled, rental rate per square kilometer and, and, and. With the data collected via app or GPS tracker, the providers can control their fleets in the cities in almost real time – broken down into districts, streets and road sections. Hardly any other industry can tailor its services so precisely to usage and user needs as new mobility.

What do you think are the consequences for the established providers?

This can best be analyzed in the context of adaptation rates, which are growing exponentially in the mobility sector. While car-sharing providers needed almost five years for one million trips, some e-scooter start-ups achieved this milestone after only a few weeks. The speed at which new markets are developing is putting the established players under pressure. Automobile manufacturers, for example, have to react to this – adapt their product and service portfolio as well as their target-group approach. They are thus transforming themselves into mobility providers. But this requires two things: professional innovation management and fast action.

Disruption in the mobility market is therefore in full swing. So, in your opinion, are the new players doing everything right?

From the user’s point of view – and this is essential after all – a deficit is obvious.

All in all, the offers are still too granular, and there is a lack of overarching networking – for example, car sharing and bike sharing, but also urban services such as public transport. This is the only way to create a seamless connection that enables users to combine all offers individually on demand, ideally via a single interface. The basis for this could be new mobility platforms that combine all new mobility services per city. The technology company Trafi already has such an offer – but so far the corresponding app is only available for Berlin, and soon for Munich as well. Germany-wide coverage is still a long way off – and cities in particular are in demand here. After all, they have to integrate their offers here.