Zipcar Lays Out Car Sharing’s Mobile Future

Wed, 10/10/2012 - 5:47am
Maisie Ramsay

SAN DIEGO - For Zipcar, the term “mobility” has two meanings. The term encompasses both methods of transportation like its car sharing service and its customers’ use of smartphones and tablets.

And when it comes to the latter definition, Zipcar is ahead of the curve.

During a Tuesday keynote address, CEO Scott Griffith described Zipcar’s adoption of mobile technology and plans to expand its mobile app.

Nonmembers will be able to sign up for the service on their smartphone simply by sending in a photo of their drivers license and credit card, a big change from the days when customers had to physically go down to Zipcar’s office.

Griffith also described a smartphone dock set to be installed across its fleet that will serve as a “digital co-pilot.” Zipcar also plans to update its app with features that will inform customers of the respective fuel or battery level in its gas and electric cars, and allow users to rate the conditions of cars, reporting problems like scratches and dirty interiors. Customers will also be able to use the app to extend reservations and get invoices on trips.

Aside from standard enhancements to improve the functionality of the app, Griffith also outlined plans to allow Zipcar customers to download iTunes playlists into car stereos. He also mentioned location-sensitive deals that would pop up in cars while customers are driving around, such as a discount offer for furniture when a driver approaches an Ikea store. Those opt-in promotions could be a source of additional revenue for Zipcar.

Another out-of-the-box feature discussed by Griffith was an app that tells attendants at valet garages in New York City when to get Zipcar vehicles. The car sharing service makes extensive use of valet garages in New York and the app is designed to cut down on customer wait time.

“As you can imagine, the sky is the limit,” he said. “There is some incredible potential to make the user experience even better. Mobile is at the core of this, and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

Zipcar currently has more than 730,000 members and operates a fleet of more than 11,000 vehicles. It just expanded to additional campuses and is now available at more than 300 colleges and universities and plans to grow that number by the end of this year, making its service available to an increasing number of Millennials, a key demographic for Zipcar.

“It’s such an important demographic, but it’s a challenge for any brand,” he said. “They want mobile phone apps, social media as part of the user experience, they want to get customer service through social media.”

Millennials don’t equate freedom with cars, Griffith said, “they prefer 4G to V8. They don’t feel they need to be in the same room to get that level of interaction that the previous generation did.”


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