Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index: The Keys to Maximizing Mobility May Not Be What They Seem

June 6, 2019

The spring 2019 edition of Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index proves that the future of mobility is still being scripted. We field this study periodically to get a pulse check on changing consumer acceptance of new forms of transportation and related technology. Our latest findings have yielded some counterintuitive results, with the most interesting insights resting between these conflicting signals.

Compared to our fall 2018 findings, consumers reported declining daily use of virtually all modes of transit in spring 2019. From driving personal vehicles (down 10 percentage points since fall 2018) to alternate forms of transportation — including walking, biking, riding a train or subway, and using a taxi or ride-sharing service — we’re seeing an overall reduction in American mobility. Yet, despite this downward trend in mobility, we’re seeing that time spent in personally owned vehicles went up by more than an hour, nearing 11 hours per week for the average American. This tension between reduced mobility and the need for Americans to remain on-the-go sheds light on opportunities for transit providers to offer hero solutions, particularly if they can help solve for sub-optimal use cases like harsh weather and poor road conditions.

Even as marketplace momentum builds for alternative transportation options, not everyone is ready to give up those car keys quite yet. For example, new trends like proposed congestion taxes merged with established trends like urbanization seemingly indicate that car ownership would be less likely for city dwellers of the future. Data from the Daily Ride Index suggested otherwise.

Sure, people in urban areas spend more time using ride-sharing services, buses, trains, and subways on average, compared to general and rural consumers. A slightly lower percentage of urbanites own vehicles, and they spend less time in them compared to their rural counterparts (10 hours and 20 minutes vs. 14 hours and 25 minutes). Yet, here’s the surprise: city dwellers are more likely (34 percent) than the national average (29 percent) to consider purchasing a new vehicle in the next 12 months. They are particularly favorable toward electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and even show a higher degree of comfort with autonomous technology.

Hmm. One interpretation of these seemingly conflicting signals is that the future isn’t about reducing or eliminating certain modes of mobility in favor of others. Perhaps it’s about maximizing mobility through diversity and choice.

As we continue to monitor these future-forward themes, we’re also excited to take a fresh look at the audiences shaping the mobility conversation. Our current data has identified a future-focused audience segment that stands out from the general population, and we plan to dig deeper on this group in the fall 2019 edition of our study.

What we already know is that this subgroup of consumers spends more time driving, ridesharing and on public transit. They are hyper mobile and are always seeking the most efficient, practical or enjoyable way to get from point A to point B. This group is more comfortable with new innovations like driverless cars and changing paradigms like online car buying. They are united in reading and sharing more about transportation in all forms than the average consumer. We look forward to studying this group further and believe they could provide powerful insights into the future of mobility.

After two rounds of “pulse checks,” here is what the Daily Ride Index has taught us so far, from a communications perspective:

Know who you are talking to.
There are divergent audiences that may have similar transportation habits today, but they think about the future of transportation far differently. Our deep dive on audiences already shows significant differences in the comfort level of younger demographics with autonomous transportation, or in consideration of fuel cell vehicles, for example, even when actual use of transportation today is fairly homogenous. This kind of audience analysis — and employing the right content strategy to reach them — is critical in communications and may be deeper than typical marketing segmentation.

Every mode may have a time and place.
Considering new realities like congestion taxes, communicators should get really literal about the “consumer journey,” from preferences around purchasing options to the consumers’ transit experience itself—mapping out each leg to show how each transportation option fits step-by-step will be critical. The future may not be door-to-door in one module, but rather a sequence of transportation options that are collectively more efficient or tailored by preference.

Be aware of tunnel vision.
We’ve heard many narratives on the future of transportation with various timelines and milestones. As inspiring as they may be, let’s also be real. New technology and transportation trends must coexist with what we have today to have the best shot at long-term success. Understand where your company or brand fits in this continuum, as well where you have permission to proceed.

Want to talk about how our  findings from the Daily Ride apply directly to your brand? Connect with me here.

Kevin leads the agency’s transportation industry capabilities and has worked with automakers, bike makers, insurers, lenders, technology providers, finance companies, auction houses and suppliers. He leads a team of gearheads and storytellers who have spent their careers studying the art and science of motivating behavior change and translating technology into simple and compelling narratives. Based in Los Angeles, he also brings expertise in corporate reputation, positioning and executive visibility.