Operations

Driving Customers to Operators

Martin Romjue
Posted on February 10, 2010
VP Jeff DiMarco carefully vets all chauffeured transportation companies that do business on TransportationWorld.com.
VP Jeff DiMarco carefully vets all chauffeured transportation companies that do business on TransportationWorld.com.

A team of entrepreneurs has set up a Web site designed to simplify the way clients book chauffeured rides and how operators offer them.

TransportationWorld.com, launched on Jan. 4, matches clients with the most sophisticated chauffeured transportation companies nationwide that must be closely vetted before joining as an operator-vendor. The site does not function based on leads or referrals, but confirmed paid reservations only.

"The ease of operation enables us to scoop up the consumer that may not have been one to book online before," says Jeff DiMarco, the vice president of sales and marketing for TransportationWorld.com.

The Concept

Users select service based on vehicle type and zip code, and then are presented with the rates of operators serving the area. In most markets, TransportationWorld.com limits the number of operator/vendors to four, so as not to saturate the online market with companies of varying quality trying to outbid each other and drive down prices.

"We're not looking for the fly by night cheap operator, but prices will be competitive," says Guy Piccolo, CEO of TransportationWorld.com. "The customer can book a reservation and get a good price, and book in multiple cities."

Bookings drive business. Each time a customer books a ride, TransportationWorld.com gets a negotiated rate of commission. There are no additional fees or charges involved with the transaction, for either vendor or consumer, and no sign-up or marketing costs for operator-vendors.

Piccolo estimates that the top 50 cities in the U.S. will account for about 85% of TransportationWorld.com's business. The site eventually will cover smaller cities and regions to provide seamless booking for most destinations.

Screening Operators

The company relies on a comprehensive screening process to choose vendors, based on licenses, insurance records, safety, and quality of reputation in the industry, DiMarco says. "We are protecting both consumers and limo operators out there that are doing the authorized regulated business.

"The operator/vendors we have will be ones where we have an understanding and a significant amount of business back and forth, instead of [ones] fighting over cost and driving down cost and service," he adds.

To help select vendors and operators, Jeff's brother and site business partner, Steve DiMarco, a 25-year-plus operator who also owns Premier Limousine inHartford, Conn, can draw upon his extensive network of industry contacts and industry knowledge to help find and vet operator/vendors for the site. "He has a good personal relationship with many operators, and we have a solid understanding of the different markets," Jeff DiMarco says.

DiMarco travels to many prospective vendors to meet with them and vet their operations. TransportationWorld.com had signed up 65 operators as of December, and was considering another 30 at that time.

"We want to deal with the top operators in every city and sell a high quality product," Piccolo says. "We will know immediately through customer feedback if an operator is not doing what they're supposed to."

If a market brings demand beyond what four operators can routinely handle, then TransportationWorld.com will consider adding more in that market.

The fleet size of individual operator/vendors ranges from three to more than 100. The site allows operator/vendors to change pricing and rate structures and update fleet choices and services as needed. Booking and purchase transactions are direct transfers, with no fees or accounts receivable.

"It's my goal once we're up and running to cultivate a TransportationWorld.com vendor partner," DiMarco says. "It's very hard to do since each vendor runs its operation differently. [We] will have monthly vendor meetings by region to understand the business markets and see how we can enhance them in a uniform manner. I will also have business discussions about their specific market and rate strategies. TransportationWorld.com's ultimate goal is to grow net new business and solid long-term relationships with all of our vendors."

Corporate Connections

Through TransporationWorld.com, chauffeured transportation operators can advertise their products on a national or global level, Piccolo says.

The site also attracts large corporate clients whose sizable repeat business can benefit operator/vendors, Piccolo says. "We have access to major corporate bookings," he says. "It doesn't cost a limousine company anything to market on a national level."

TransportationWorld.com will work with major companies to devise and track ground transportation programs that reflect their needs and interests. The company can then track usage, client preferences, and reservation flow to identify peak demand patterns and trends among various cities and regions.

"We will be a total solution provider from a reporting and vendor point of view," DiMarco says. "We will have relationships with corporate customers. . .  and work hand-in-hand to accommodate large and unique flows of business."

Online Synergies

Piccolo and the TransportationWorld.com team draw on extensive experience with two sister Web sites related to transportation.

AirportParkingReservations.com and ParkSleepFly.com were launched 10 years ago by an equal partnership of Robert Bielecki, COO of TransportationWorld.com, and Piccolo. They designed the sites and have gradually upgraded them over the last 10 years.

AirportParkingReservations.com lists more than 250 parking facilities at more than 65 U.S. and Canadian airports, Piccolo says. The site handles about 800 to 1,500 airport parking reservations per day. ParkSleepFly.com enables customers to reserve packages that include a long-term parking space, an overnight stay in an airport-area hotel, and a shuttle ride to and from the airport. It is ideal for travelers coming from long distances for early morning flights. The site offers more than 1,000 hotels near 100 airports worldwide. It handles about 300-500 reservations per day.

The sites combined have taken more than 2.5 million reservations producing at least $100 million in parking revenue and more than $75 million in hotel revenue. The sites have more than 2,500 affiliates that send reservations through links on their Web sites, Piccolo says. Both sites have generated a database of more than one million e-mail addresses and four million reservations over 10 years. Piccolo predicts TransportationWorld.com eventually will produce the same results over time.

DiMarco says TransportationWorld.com can be cross- and co-branded with the sister sites. Travelers booking on these sites can be asked about their destination cities and then asked to reserve chauffeured transportation through Transportationworld.com. DiMarco describes such marketing synergies as a "would you like fries with that?" approach.

"We believe the consumer has [only] tipped the iceberg in booking limousines online," DiMarco says. "You have people standing in cab lines for an hour and a half giving business to all the cabbies." He sees much potential in a site that makes it easy for customers to book a chauffeured vehicle that is clean, safe, on time, and has a chauffeur who clearly knows the routes.  

Grabbing the Idea

The concept of TransportationWorld.com germinated during a 2007 vacation among Piccolo, Steve DiMarco, and COO Bob Bielecki who were traveling together. The trio decided to create a site for chauffeured transportation similar to airportparkingreservations.com and parksleepfly.com. The group started developing the concept in January 2009.

"We're taking years of experience understanding vendors and customers, and packaging it into a Web site," Jeff DiMarco says. "We know what everyone will require of us to become global reservation company."  

Related Topics: business tools, Limo Networks, reservations management, web marketing

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