Brands in motion
Mobility is on the move – from a once-narrow industry category to a pervasive platform open to all brands
The world sat still for several months in 2020, radically disrupting many industries. Consumers slowed down and reinvented their lives to live a more local experience; virtual work became the norm, and delivery and kerbside collection standard practice. Mobility – the movement of people and goods – is the key to helping businesses turn these new challenges into opportunities.
We think mobility will evolve from being a narrow category of transportation products and services to become a pervasive platform, within the next few years. Moreover, we believe all companies can become mobility brands and that the platform will impact all kinds of business models and brand experiences – from shopping and delivery to entertainment, healthcare and travel.
Mobility’s impact on key sectors
Survival of the savviest
But only the savviest businesses will prosper. A post-pandemic opening of the economy will accelerate opportunities for forward-looking businesses and brands to leverage mobility to create new and different experiences that set them apart.
All companies, not just those that move people or goods, need to rethink their business to capitalise on new mobility opportunities. To realise such opportunities, businesses must understand the gap between their current vision and the expectations of consumers.
To this end, we spoke with chief innovation officers, chief marketing officers, growth leads, and customer experience specialists across four industries – entertainment, retail, telecom and transportation. Together, we explored our hypothesis around mobility as a platform and assessed their industries’ locations on the adoption curve.
We also surveyed more than 300 United States consumers. In doing so, we measured their expectations, anxieties and preferences related to mobility and assessed new – or planned – behaviours, including their views on what products/services should remain after COVID-19 and how quickly they had adopted new habits and technologies. We also carried out 30 qualitative interviews.
Our research showed that conditions are ripe for the expansion of mobility. Consumers are in a state of evolution – trialling, trained and ready to adopt new products and services – with COVID-19 having been a powerful accelerant. Even consumers who haven’t experimented with many new activities during the pandemic have benefited from a mobility experience. The more adventurous ones, meanwhile, expect rapid innovation, with 67% believing the mobility-linked activity they want to try most is already available – or will be within two years.
Consumers are open to all types of companies providing mobility experiences. When asked what brand would be most likely to deliver the activity they particularly want to try, Amazon, rather than a traditional mobility company came first, followed by Uber and Apple. Interestingly, people with specific post-pandemic needs and anxieties opted for particular brands.
For instance, 9.8% of those who chose Amazon miss family most but will continue video conferencing (14.9%) and exercising online (15.7%). While 10% of those who picked Nike most miss socialising, going to school/work and exercising outside (both with 8%).
Consumers’ needs and anxieties give brands pointers to what services could delight them: using public transport (46%) and attending concerts (40%) were respondents’ greatest concerns, creating opportunities for those who can alleviate those worries. And brands have, indeed, accelerated mobility innovation in response to demand: Airbnb offered virtual experiences such as dance and cooking classes, while beauty brand Sephora increased Q&A content on social media and armed beauty advisors with apps that allowed virtual make-up demonstrations. 1,2
Privacy comes first
Our research shows a shift in consumer perceptions of what matters. People who’d tried more than 10 mobility activities care less about trust, cleanliness, and comfort and more about safety, value, convenience and transparency. Privacy is paramount, being considered the most important attribute when choosing a product or service.
Post-COVID-19, people say their privacy concerns will only grow as more information is collected to track and trace movement, and to stop the next pandemic. Businesses may have access to more data in future, but they will need to use it wisely to avoid dehumanising or alienating their audience.
The evolution of mobility is shattering category boundaries and competitive sets. Forward-looking brands know that any company with the ability to offer a better experience is a threat. One executive told us: “Our airline spends more time thinking about players such as Disney, than we do our direct airline competitors. The future of travel is for tech companies, it’s going to be about the marriage of new experiences.”
Mobility companies steam ahead
Business leaders are eager to react to consumer demand and recognise that the world’s top companies are experts in mobility. An automotive executive said: “Look at the top 10% of the S&P 500, the companies that have performed really well ... they are all mobility companies. Amazon, Uber, Tesla, even Apple have mobility strategies that are so advanced, I would argue they are mobility companies.”
While many business leaders consider mobility an imperative, levels of readiness and investment vary dramatically. Most traditional mobility companies are a step ahead. Toyota, for example, is injecting $500 million in Uber and expanding their collaboration to increase autonomous vehicle ride-sharing, while GM is investing $2 billion to grow electric vehicle manufacturing in the United States.
In contrast, many other companies – both inside and outside transportation – are just awakening to market changes. One entertainment marketer told us: “I’ve been hesitant to invest in VR because the shared human experience seems like the best part of a live event. Maybe I need to get over my GenX fear and start seeing this as a real way that people are going to experience live events.” As often, on the adoption curve tech players are the ‘forward thinkers’.
Capitalising on changing demands
Some brands have adapted quickly, leveraging mobility and contactless purchasing. Physical proximity was common in fashion, luxury, food and beverages, but the pandemic has made contactless, or no human touch, the norm. Astute retailers are already seeing big returns on smart devices that enable shoppers to ‘try on’ clothes digitally, minimising risk. 3
Last-mile delivery has also exploded: Drizly, an alcohol marketplace and delivery service, saw nearly 1,600% year-on-year growth in new customers.4 We expect these new habits to far outlast the pandemic.
We believe all companies can become mobility brands and that mobility will impact all kinds of business models and brand experiences.
Contactless payments and experiences are giving rise to the idea of frictionless commerce: with barriers to enabling or fulfilling purchases being identified and removed. Most new mobility innovations that consumers are willing to try involve removing friction from existing experiences, such as moving from a face-to-face medical appointment to telemedicine, to avoid scheduling, waiting times and contact with sick patients.
Partnerships will be key in the new mobility environment. As the competitive landscape widens and threats appear from every sector, opportunities for non-traditional partnerships will multiply. Forbes dubbed 2020 ‘The Year of the Brand Mashup’, noting that aligning two brands from different industries can drive exponential impact.5 Toyota, for example, is combining autonomous vehicles and retail into futuristic pop-up shops in partnership with Uber and Pizza Hut, and Epic Games partnered with Travis Scott to usher in interactive virtual performances.6,7 But consumers want their local businesses to come out on top, supported by larger players who put community needs first. Business leaders point out that synergy in brand purpose is key.
15 December 2021
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