How BlaBlaCar made the jump from desktop to mobile
As we’ve made the transition from desktop computers to mobile phones, ridesharing companies have had to adapt. BlaBlaCar is an intercity ride sharing app with over 12M travelers per quarter in 22 countries around the world - they know what it means to change as technology shifts.
Ivan de Quercize, BlaBlaCar’s Mobile Channels Lead, spoke with a crowd of over 200 marketers at Mobile Spree 2017 about how BlaBlaCar encouraged their users to go phone-first and how they’ve created valuable experiences for their riders only available on mobile. Check out his talk in the video below or read on for the full story.
BlaBlaCar launched a mobile website in 2007 and released their iOS app in 2009 (Android followed in 2010). They only revamped their apps with V2.0 in 2014 - that’s when they started to see mobile usage finally pick up. The graph below shows how BlaBlaCar users’ behavior changed over a period of two years, between Q2 2014 and Q2 2016. In 2014, 70% of their users took key actions (activities like booking travel or publishing an available ride) on desktop, and only 30% on mobile. By the middle of 2016, those percentages were reversed, with 63% of key actions now taking place on mobile.
Going from desktop to mobile: why?
BlaBlaCar recognized that the mobile ecosystem offered them a chance to create more value for their users with moments that were only possible when the user had a phone in their pocket. Their app is for people who want to travel together, and that requires trust - a trusted community is what differentiates BlaBlaCar from their competitors. Having drivers and riders fill out a bio and upload a photo goes a long way. But BlaBlaCar also offers peer-to-peer ratings, and they realized that sending users push notifications after their rides ended, for example, was a way to convince far more riders to leave reviews for their trips. By enabling riders to leave reviews on their phones and reminding them to do so just as the ride ended, they completely upended the earlier process, in which a rider had to first get back to a computer and login back into BlaBlaCar. The push notification works because everyone benefits - riders’ opinions are valued, their rankings help others choose who to travel with in the future, and so on.
Ivan De Quercize
It wasn’t just cool to be on mobile. There’s a completely new kind of value we can bring to our users - but we can only bring it on mobile
BlaBlaCar’s app also enables users to make more last-minute booking decisions. While the average booking time before a trip on desktop is 2.8 days, mobile users, on average, book a car only 1.7 days before their trip. BlaBlaCar’s presence on mobile allows users the convenience to book when they like, and captures a segment that might have been pushed out of the desktop experience because of how they prefer to plan their travel.
Insurance was another feature only available to users once BlaBlaCar fully committed to mobile. BlaBlaCar’s users now have access to insurance with AXA - if the car breaks down, another car will come and get riders and bring them to their destination. This partnership was only made possible after BlaBlaCar launched their app. The app allows them to be the point of contact between the insurance provider and the rider - a key link that was missing before the app’s launch.
Going from desktop to mobile: how?
While the shift from desktop to mobile helped create valuable moments for their users, it was also difficult for BlaBlaCar to go full throttle on mobile. They had to take some bold steps to reach their goals - for example, when BlaBlaCar launched in Turkey, they only launched with an app. If people tried to access the site via desktop, they were directed to the app. In Russia, they ran a test to try and redirect people who were going on the desktop site to the mobile website. Their goal was to see if they could stop having a desktop website entirely at some point in the future - if they could reorganize only around iOS, Android and mobile web development.
They also had to reorganize internally. In order to focus on mobile, they structured their developer teams into squads. “They’re pretty autonomous teams,” Ivan explained, “They can roll out a feature on all different platforms and we always have the iOS and Android developers at the center of these squads, and all features need to be formed first for iOS and Android, and then developed for desktop.”
How does marketing support the shift from desktop to mobile?
BlaBlaCar has also found success in using their marketing efforts to push users towards mobile. They introduced a set of characters who can scale across all of their markets, shown using a phone and looking at the app in their tv advertisements.
They also showcase the app the app in Facebook banners. In the last 2 years, BlaBlaCar’s budget has shifted from desktop to app install campaigns where they’ve seen much stronger conversion rates. In the future, BlaBlaCar’s goal is capture travel intent and understand when users are traveling before they head off, so they can point the users who are most interested in booking a trip towards their app.
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