Sampo’s Blog: What Segmentation of Mobility Customers Tells Us About The Future

By MaaS Global • December 9, 2020

By Sampo Hietanen and Esa-Pekka Nykänen

MaaS disrupts, not only how people get around, but also how they are understood. Traditional traffic planning sees transportation as a huge machine that moves people where they need to go. When you add a service layer on top of that in a world where individuals expect to be served in a way that fits their lifestyle, we start talking about something almost other-worldly to your traditional traffic engineer. Humans.

Two years ago, at MaaS Global, we conducted what was for us a massive study on people’s needs and identities as mobility consumers. The research and the following analysis was made with TNS Kantar in Helsinki, Antwerp, Birmingham, Vienna, and Sydney. What we have, we believe, is a ground-breaking study in the world of transportation.

The automotive industry of course routinely conducts psychographic studies to understand the emotional and often subconscious motivations of customers. One might argue that a lot of their success is based on findings from these studies. But their scope is limited to cars. On the other hand, established transportation authorities and operators have traditionally had rich quantitative and statistical data to guide their routing and service development. Recently many of them have started using service design and even psychographic segmentation to improve their services. Their efforts are focused on the city they operate in, or at best the country level, and they usually approach the customers’ needs solely from the point of view of public transportation.

To our knowledge, ours is the first statistical undertaking combining psychographics, consumer archetypes, and mobility behavior in a multimodal context and on an international scale. Based on our research we segmented our customers into groups, not only according to their current behavior and concrete needs but according to their tastes, values, lifestyles, and openness to change. The study is both a look at how MaaS forces us to adapt to new perspectives to people on the move, but also a look at how the inevitable triumph of MaaS will progress.

Everyone in transportation is interested in commuting so let’s begin with commuters. Are they a target group? Yes. Are they a segment? No. A traditional traffic planner builds a bus line to service people commuting from a suburban area to the city center. Target group served. Box checked.

This approach fails to acknowledge the different tastes and preferences of commuters and forces them all into one mold. The result is a world polarized into good public transport commuters and bad private car commuters. If we want to get beyond this division and build attractive MaaS, we must go the extra mile and add flexibility and personalization according to the segment’s preferences. Our research tells us that the winning formula seems to be situationally adaptive mixed modality.

And while we work on this we must keep in mind that change takes its time. When you slice a population into segments, what you usually get is a bell curve. In one end there are the curious ones, in the middle, you have the somewhat slow majority, and in the other end folks that are not very open to change. Even if you are aiming your new service at everyone, you have to start with the curious ones and progress with determined patience.

Also, our segmentation follows this curve, and now, still, at the beginning of our MaaS journey, we are focusing on two groups that are most open to change. We call them Urban Mobility Seekers and Conscious Urban Dwellers. Both love new digital and sustainable services, but for the former group experienced comfort and lifestyle fit rules, while for the other the sustainability angle is the decisive one. These are the groups that will lead the revolution but for slightly different reasons and therefore they have to be addressed differently in mobility offering, interface design, messaging, and pricing.

Once we are strong in the first two segments (for example in Helsinki half of our current users belong to the eco-conscious segment, while they make up only one-fourth of the general population), we will start speaking to the third segment we call Affordable Transition. They are not emotional about their mobility choices, they simply want to save time and money. While we can offer that too, right now that is not the spearhead of our argumentation in most places. The late majority and the laggards, as they are called in marketing lingo, or The Settled Suburbia and The Car Loving Suburbia, as they are called in our vocabulary, will follow in 5–10 years when MaaS has become mainstream.

What we’ve been describing here is just the surface of our study, but it already illustrates why treating all individuals as commuters and approaching them with the same package and communication makes little sense. With the whole data set and analysis in our hands, we can make both informed strategic and tactical choices.

Our strategy is to get one million car owners to switch to Whim by 2030. The cars themselves are not our enemy, but we see replacing them as the ultimate measure of our success. To reach this, we must appeal to the game-changing groups first, but to do this right it must be a two-way street. We must catch their interest but they must teach us how to do things right. This way, together with our early-stage customers, we can build a consumer experience so good that it ultimately makes car ownership redundant both psychologically and pragmatically.

The fundamental takeaway from all of this is that while regulation and new technologies play a part in the mobility revolution towards more sustainable and less space-consuming options we should not overlook the human mind. Both conspicuous and conscientious consumption has to be seen as human traits and used as pathways to the future. Instead of overriding them with universal solutions, we must appeal to them and see them as locks that can be opened with the right keys. They are the keys to the future.