A Considered Digital Future for Car Rental
By Sonny Hawan , 20 March 2019
In an industry present for decades, car rental companies and especially the multinationals have undoubtedly weathered a generational change before. Not so long ago online reservations overtook all other booking channels and web development and aggregator sites were the new focus. However, the current mobile era may present a more challenging need for adaptation, as disruptive mobility companies threaten to play a leading role in the demise of car rental.
The future is divided into those who still predict continued annual growth for the sector and those who feel even industry giants will be “out digitised” by new tech start-ups.
As a company who have connected and spoken with hundreds of rental companies, Wyoming have reflected on what’s ahead and the fundamentals of vehicle rental survival in a digital age.
A tradition of competition.
The arrival of multiple disruptive companies that fit every niche within car use suggest a new hyper competitive arena for car rental. Ride hailing, car clubs, vehicle sharing platforms and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) apps present efficient and affordable alternatives all preaching their own gospel of tailored User Experience. How can RaC companies realistically keep customers from being drawn away from traditional rental? Perhaps the answers are within that tradition.
After all, having to compete for customers is nothing new in vehicle rental. It was the first discussion point within most of our conversations during a recent research and user recruitment project. What are your neighbours offering and at what price? The backbone of these successful start-up businesses has forever been engrained within good car rental strategy - service, efficiency and affordability. Do those things better than everyone else.
In god we trust; all others bring data.
This history of competition has gifted RaC companies perhaps the most important weapon on the battlefield of UX and product delivery. Data! And unlike the encroaching new comers they surely have it in volume from years of operating. If companies are going to adapt and create new revenue opportunities, making the best decisions will lie with better data use. What can just these few examples tell companies about their customers?
- Vehicle preferences and associated demographics. Does this differ location to location?
- Popular routes, preferred mileage options and one way vs return to same location break down.
- Booking duration and how this relates to car selection and leisure or work rentals.
- Peak booking times in the year, forecasting sell outs and when to offer promotions at slower seasons.
However, as with most industries and given the longevity of car rental there are likely to be a myriad of systems, software (often legacy),third party booking channels and incompatible source of this data to get to grips with. And this initial extraction of data is just the beginning.
What volume and at what standard of usability is the company data?
How is the company currently overcoming the challenge of incompatible data sources and formats?
With the correct insight will that data tell analysts why, where and how customers prefer to use current services?
Can that information point towards what disruptive products customers will be attracted to?
Perhaps most importantly – do companies have the budget, resource bandwidth and expertise to deliver a new service accordingly?
Wyoming’s recent work with the world’s largest car rental booking site developed from exactly this type of analysis. Rentalcars.com became the global leader in online rental services and in doing so recognised new developing trends in their own customer search data. An increasing customer demand specifically for shorter rental durations in urban areas presented a new opportunity for the broker site away from their primary airport business.
Opportunity is only as good as reaction.
This new opportunity to meet their customers changing needs meant a disruptive move in the world of car rental aggregator sites – opening the doors to the independent car rental market and welcoming suppliers already well placed to meet this increased downtown booking demand.
As the broker site was unsuited to refactoring in order to connect to hundreds of independent management systems, a new innovative digital tool was needed.
A large scale digital transformation project and 12 months of researching, designing and refining resulted in Marketplace, a web application portal that would provide independents access to the Rentalcars.com site.
Wyoming were responsible for the discovery phase that included holding multiple workshops with cross- functional teams to try and tease out approaches, data processes which had to be adhered to and identify business processes which needed re-factoring.
Further, we embarked on multiple phases of user research for the client that resulted in confidence that the scope was accurate and early stage adoption would be successful.
Marketplace MVP was launched in the UK in 2017 and Wyoming were pivotal in a 12 month user recruitment drive. The 12 - month registration targets were exceeded within the first 4 months post-launch and the application is now live in 32 countries.
So for rental brands beginning to think about the possibilities or creating user centric applications, a carsharing offering, car subscription service or even a peer to peer marketplace - what does this type of innovation take and should it be undertaken by vehicle rental companies?
It takes data and adaptation, which isn’t easy when you don’t have a start up infrastructure. But by combining responsive business strategy with analysis of user habit, car rental companies can develop customer centric offerings of their own. In doing so they position themselves inline with the general disruptors of the automotive sector. They have an opportunity to widen their customer base to the increasing number of non car owners and mobility users – instead of losing them to the new breed of competition. If your company have recently come across a data or digital challenge or perhaps has recognised a potential opportunity that needs the industry expertise and resource to come to fruition, contact us here.