The limousine industry should take a cue from the airline and hotel industries, and start building a technology-based consortium.
I have spent the last year and a half immersing myself in all things related to our industry in mobile technology. This includes facilitating mobile technology panels at the last four LCT events.
To prepare, I interviewed some of the brightest minds in tech and some very smart technology people in our industry. Last summer, I co-authored a white paper on the subject for the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which was preceded by an extensive research study with questions taken from both our industry and the corporate travel population.
I believe I’m in a good position to express my opinion on what the next step should be for privately owned chauffeured car services: I urge you to be careful about overly focusing on Uber. Their technology is slick to be sure, and much of it can and will be replicated to benefit the private sector (you), but mostly it’s their branding that has made them hip to the consumers and has enabled them to raise so much investment money.
How Limo Operators Can Compete With On-Demand Mobile Tech
In my view, they’ve made raising cash so easy that I am confident there is room for more players, and that’s where this industry should focus its energy. This requires a consortium of limo service owners by marketplace, and that group will need to partner with a tech company that knows how to speak the language that attracts private equity.
Remember, Uber is raising money because they’re a tech company, not a limousine service. We want to appear in the same light. There’s not enough money in this industry for a consortium to go at this alone. The consortium will have to get the ideas and business model on paper. Then the tech company will have to take that and the branding strategy to the investment community. The spend will go to the marketing and branding.
Many operators are asking me about proprietary apps. I think that in the short run proprietary apps with your own brand are fine. In the long run, they will become obsolete. The consumer best responds to simplicity. Watch the hotel industry with global brands such as Starwood. Watch the airline industry with global brands such as World Wide Alliance. If we appear fragmented, we’ll be shooting ourselves in the foot.
If the rest of the travel marketplace can form alliances, maintain brand identity, and protect client information while expanding their businesses and growing their revenues, so can we.