By Lisa Whalen
April 27, 2022 at 5:00 am ET
Along with other forms of personal mobility, ride-hailing has declined amid surging fuel prices; to win back customers, companies should work to alleviate expense and trust concerns with both riders and drivers. And for automotive companies, ride-hailing should be viewed as a complement to vehicle ownership and a chance to connect with customers to improve their overall mobility experience, not just the personal vehicle component.
Sustained inflation is forcing many consumers to make trade-offs in spending decisions, and personal mobility is taking a hit. Ride-hailing has not been spared: Consumers have been downshifting their ride-hailing app use due to fuel surcharges and ongoing driver shortages, which have created further headwinds against affordability. Ride-hailing companies should dig deeper to recruit willing drivers through enhanced incentives for using more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles and additional fuel expense reimbursement, and they can entice more riders by offering rebates on surge prices and doing more targeted outreach to frequent riders.
In April, ride-hailing topped Morning Consult’s list of shared ground transportation modes, with 19% of adults reporting having used it in the past month, compared with 16% who took the bus and 10% who took either the subway or a local/commuter train. However, the share who reported using a ride-hailing app dropped 4 percentage points between March and April.
Across generations, millennials reported the largest decline in ride-hailing usage since December 2021, falling from 42% to 30%, but Gen Z adults weren’t far behind, slipping from 43% to 34%. Younger consumers tend to have less financial confidence, so the current environment is a perfect storm for limiting their shared mobility options. Looking forward, as the mask mandate peels back for public and shared transportation and comfort traveling in shared spaces increases, ride-hailing should get a boost from these younger travelers once their pocketbooks rebound.
Contrary to what some may assume, vehicle access or ownership doesn’t seem to have a major impact on ride-hailing usage, as 17% of those with access to a household vehicle and 14% of vehicle owners also reported using ride-hailing apps. Vehicle manufacturers should consider creative messaging or co-branding with ride-hailing companies to connect more relevantly with their customers around ride-hailing not as a competitor to vehicle ownership, but a complement to enhancing their overall mobility.
Trust is climbing for ride-hailing, particularly among women. Uber experienced a big leap in its net trust among women, from 15 in January 2020 to 24 in April 2022, while Lyft dropped slightly from 22 to 20 over the same time period (albeit with monthly fluctuations). Verbalizing rider names, as well as supporting the mask mandate during the pandemic’s toughest months, clearly paid off, especially for Uber.
Conversely, both brands experienced an erosion in trust among male consumers during this time frame, falling from 21 to 18 for Uber and 26 to 20 for Lyft, which could be due to the unreliability of getting rides, especially in non-urban areas, because of the driver shortage. These companies can up their trust game by developing AR/VR technology to help verify riders and drivers more quickly, as well as allowing users to leave qualitative feedback to give more insight behind their ratings so they can take more responsibility for enhancing the overall ride-hailing experience.
Uber and Lyft are also feeling the sting of waning net promoter scores as surging prices and lower availability of drivers and rides tank the customer experience. Baby boomers had the greatest decline in NPS, falling from 22 at the beginning of 2020 to 11 in April for Uber, and from 33 to -4 for Lyft over the same period. Given that baby boomers are notoriously reticent ride-hailing app users (in April, only 6% reported ride-hailing in the previous month), these brands could win them over through measures such as incentivizing drivers who achieve higher ratings with this group.