Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
There’s an industry image going through my mind that should be in yours by now, and frankly, a shared vision overall. It is of attractive people under age 40 holding smartphones along urban streets calling up black chauffeured vehicles via an app.
Except the app on their smartphones or tablets would not be the big U-logo “Uber,” but the best L-word in ground transportation: “LIMO.” That image of urban smoothies serenely gliding into Uber vehicles is one the taxi industry co-opted recently, with a marketing push for the re-launched “Curb” app. As you can see from the Curb press photo below, the taxicab industry is trying to fight back against Uber — from a promotional standpoint, which proves just as important as the regulatory one.
Now, look closely at the photo. What do you see in the background? A black vehicle! You can’t find a more revealing photo moment, worth more than any words. I interpret it this way: If those ladies can look like they really would get into a yellow cab, how much more appealing would they look getting into a limo vehicle? Not an Uber vehicle, but a real, live, licensed legal professional chauffeured car, whether it’s a Toyota Avalon, a Chrysler 300, or a Lincoln MKS. They certainly don’t look like they would just settle for any old pair of shoes, so why get around in a yellow cab?
Limo operators should sell image and client experience backed by technology, service and vehicles. Where is the limousine industry marketing push to associate a LIMO app connecting chauffeured service with the people looking for something better than a cab? With the long experience and expertise of the limousine industry, an app-based genuine chauffeured vehicle network would surpass those of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and taxicabs.
For this curbside vision to become reality, several things must happen in the chauffeured transportation industry — actions that have been discussed on these pages and at our trade shows and conferences:
Tiered services: We’ve said it before from the LCT pulpit, but the advent of TNCs should motivate limousine services to build tiers of fleet service; more economical, less expensive luxury vehicles with chauffeurs who practice superior techniques. Moving into broader client markets does not diminish the limousine industry’s image or compromise its quality. Instead, it pulls up ground transportation to a higher standard and introduces a new option to riders who haven’t considered it before. The next item underscores the point. . .
Go after the middle class: Sweeping technological changes since the 1980s have gradually democratized consumer access, disseminated luxury goods and services to the masses, and cultivated instant consumer appetites. Macro-productivity coupled with economic prosperity means many middle class people now live like the wealthy did a few decades ago. Even compact cars have power windows and advanced audio/radio. Chauffeured transportation services need to grasp this permanent and positive shift in the 21st Century information technology economy, and break well beyond the bread n’ butter high-end corporate travel and VIP/top 1% niches to survive. Despite economic headwinds this decade, the world is getting richer, not poorer, thanks to technology, free trade, global connections, and capitalist evolution. You have potential clients waiting to be educated and enlightened.
App development: Although the limousine industry is catching up with the technology, smart minds are working on viable apps. There’s not room here to detail them all, but for example: Deem will be beta-testing an app next quarter that outpaces and outsmarts the TNC ones in multiple ways, namely that it actually gives the corporate business travel sector what it needs and then grows it out to the consumer spectrum for the same excellent quality and reliability. The vehicles connected to it will not carry the baggage of doubt regarding insurance coverage, legal licensing, chauffeur training, maintenance, and background checks. When you call up a vehicle on this app, you’ll be getting the real thing at fixed price points and vehicle preferences of your choice — not the hurry-scurry crapshoot of whoever is roving in the area, in whichever vehicle, for whatever price is surging at the moment. Ditto for Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network, which will likely roll out by October a proprietary app for its vast global affiliate network numbering more than 700 companies. However, for these apps all to work long-term at the individual client level, the above mentioned vehicle tiers of all chauffeured transportation companies must connect in real time via an app(s).
Applying my vision, if I am leaving an appointment in downtown Los Angeles and hit the future “LIMO” app, I should be able to get a car from any of the reputable Southern California limousine services that have “networked” their fleet tiers. Best of all would be no price surges, a marketing advantage when considering users who want reliable rates.
The competition with Uber will play out on three fronts: Regulations, technology and marketing. As in any competitive race or battle, you don’t hinge your strategy on just one resource. Limo operators and their association leaders are pushing regulatory fairness. Technology vendors are working on the apps. Now, the savvy marketing and messages are up to you.
Related Editor's Edge blog post: Going After The Traveling Hipsters
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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