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11 marketing strategies for your ride hailing business

From social media marketing to running in-app promotions, read on for eleven ways to attract new riders to your ride hailing service and stay connected with existing ones.


Niklas Mey
Ride hailing marketing strategies

The elements that make your company stand out from the competition are known as the ‘unique value proposition’ (UVP). A clear UVP should inform your overall marketing strategy and act as a north star for all promotional messaging. It should answer the following questions:

  1. What can you offer?
  2. How will it benefit actual and potential customers?
  3. Why is your solution better than others on the market?

As more and more private transporters enter the world of ride hailing, answering that third question and communicating why riders should choose your service over another is key and will depend on what’s currently available in your area. For instance: are people more likely to currently be relying on well-known companies like Uber and Lyft, taxis, or public transit?

For both new and seasoned ride hailing companies alike, here are eleven marketing tips that can help you use your UVP to connect with new riders—and remain a trusted resource of existing customers.

1. Highlight your local cred

In a world where ride hailing is dominated by big-name players, standing out could mean playing up the local angle. According to Salesforce, consumers are increasingly looking to support local businesses, local ride hailing companies are well-positioned to attract riders with regionally specific branding and marketing efforts.

For instance, Coastal Rides, a ride hailing service in British Columbia, puts its UVP front-and-center. A personal note from founder Ryan Staley on the ‘About Us’ section of its website, plays up his local knowledge of the transportation landscape to connect with the customer. It reads: “The unique coastal geography of the Sunshine Coast is what makes our home so special, but it can make getting around challenging. In one of my early visits to the coast, I remember missing the bus because the ferry was a few minutes late. Coastal Rides is a viable alternative to transportation on the Sunshine Coast.”

Ryan’s message is clear: his company can offer the local population a great service because it understands, and is part of, the community—something a multinational can’t always claim.

2. Advertise on social media

Targeted social media marketing and advertising is a must in today’s world, especially when it comes to local services. Social media ads allow you to reach people who live in your service zone, are in your target demographic and share your values, but who don’t already follow your social media profile or engage much.

Creating an effective ad campaign is a bit of trial and error, which is why it’s important to test out several ideas at the same time—called A/B testing. For instance, you can run two ads on Facebook to promote the launch of your ride hailing service both with the same picture and click-through incentive but different text.

Using Facebook’s metrics platform, you can then evaluate which version resulted in a wider audience reach, better engagement and more conversions. Those learnings can also help you make more informed, data-driven decisions about your marketing messaging once the campaign is over.

Marketing channels

3. Create service-focused landing pages

A landing page on your website should invite visitors to perform a specific action, whether that's signing up for an account, subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an app. They differ from homepages or other web pages because they are built to achieve a single goal. Links to landing pages are often used in social media campaigns to convert traffic. For example, you may link to a service-focused landing page that highlights your unique value proposition from the ads you’re A/B testing on social media to promote your app!

4. Leverage digital marketing analytics

Digital marketing analytics can help companies understand how people interact with your website, your social media pages, or ad campaigns, and how this behavior impacts your business overall. It provides you with data that allows you to measure whether your marketing efforts are working and where there’s room for improvement.

There are a number of different marketing metrics you may measure, depending on the platform. For instance, you may measure number of visitors to your website, number of opens of a newsletter, or number of shares on a social media post. Digital marketing analytics can also help you decide which platforms to prioritize — for instance, if email marketing tends to result in more downloads of your app than posting on Twitter, you can focus your efforts on the former.

There are a number of tools that make the process of identifying and tracking metrics simple, such as a Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Buffer, HubSpot and Sprout Social. For more information on leveraging marketing analytics, check out this comprehensive guide.

5. Secure early adopters

Early adopters, the first people to try out a new service or technology, can be incredibly valuable to your ride hailing operation. Their early feedback can help you fine-tune a service before it hits the mainstream, provide you with vital customer testimonials to kick off your business and, if you do a good job, can be your best ambassadors.

Opting for a soft launch, a short period during which you invite select members of the community like friends and family, social media influencers and/or specific groups to try out your service is a great way to secure early adopters. Consider enticing them with free or discounted rides in return for feedback and social media coverage.

6. Establish local partnerships

Partnering with local businesses is also a great way to expand your brand awareness and customer base.

According to a 2020 Salesforce report, 67% of consumers—and 72% of millennials, the largest consumer segment—said that they’re committed to supporting small businesses more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The passion to #shoplocal is on the rise.

This can be good news for ride hailing companies as well, as they can offer local businesses a clear partnership incentive: you can bring customers to their door. For instance, you can host an event along with a bar or restaurant and offer free rides to-and-from the event to attendees provided they download your app and leave a review. Or, you might ask a local clothing boutique to advertise your services to their customers in exchange for a discounted rate on any rides to their location.

In addition, if your company operates in an area where services such as Uber Eats or DoorDash don’t operate, consider partnering with local restaurants to offer food delivery services.

7. Get creative with stunt marketing

In 2012, Uber hosted its first Ice Cream Day, in which users in select cities across North American were able to request a free ice cream delivered to their door through the company’s app. In the years since, it has continued to host surprise ice cream events, delivering over 200,000 frosty treats to customers.

While Uber is the king of viral marketing stunts, you don’t have to buy hundreds of thousands of ice cream cones to pull off a good campaign and get local media coverage. Once again, partnerships could be the key to helping smaller ride hailing companies successfully create these kinds of marketing activations. For example, you could partner with a local library and deliver a surprise book to library card holders who opt in to the promotion via your app.

8. Use price promotions

Free trial periods are a common way for customers to try out a product or service before committing. Companies use this period to prove to customers why they should continue to use—and pay for—the service once the trial period has ended.

Offering free or discounted rides for new users can be an effective way to grow your ridership. Sending notifications to users who haven’t used the app in a while and offering free or discounted rates is also a good way to reignite their interest in your services.

In addition, consider offering in-app price promotions for specific types of trips—like rides to the airport or during off-peak times.

9. Boost word-of-mouth with referral programs

Referral programs offer existing customers perks for getting new users to sign up. For ride hailing companies this typically includes granting an existing user a free or discounted trip for every person they get to book a ride or sign up for the app. Referral programs can act as an organic way to consistently attract new customers through word-of-mouth marketing.

10. Offer loyalty benefits

While customer acquisition is a key performance indicator of most marketing strategies, customer retention shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, acquiring new customers is five times more expensive than keeping current ones.

To build customer loyalty, many companies turn to reward programs. For ride hailing, customers might accumulate points after every trip or when they hit key benchmarks. Those points can then be used for a free ride or a perk like a premium car upgrade. Another idea is to offer a fee-based membership that allows riders to pay a small amount each month to access benefits such as discounted rides.

11. Provide social proof

In marketing, social proof is the idea that customers will look to the advice of others before making a purchase. Positive reviews or testimonials establish a sense of confidence and trust in prospective customers as they decide whether or not to use your services.

Another way to provide social proof is to humanize your marketing efforts by posting customer and employee stories on your website and social media. You can also showcase how your company contributes to your community at large. For instance, Nashville ride hailing company, Earth Rides, uses its Instagram page to spotlight drivers, highlight riders and host Q&A sessions with the founder.

For more information about how Spare powers ride hailing and ride sharing companies of all sizes, check out our ride hailing page or drop us a line at hello@sparelabs.com.