The future of mobility is taking shape on LinkedIn – here’s how auto brands can respond

LinkedIn data shows rapidly growing momentum behind Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

August 22, 2019

The future of mobility is taking shape on LinkedIn – here’s how auto brands can respond

Auto marketers know that their market is changing – and changing fast. New consumers demand new products and services to meet new challenges and expectations. A lot of auto businesses’ investment, and a lot of the media coverage around it, has focused on meeting these through new types of vehicles: electric, autonomous, smart and connected. However, LinkedIn data suggests that the biggest market opportunity won’t involve people buying any of these things. In fact, it won’t involve them buying a car at all.

The arrival of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

Over the next five years or so, a growing number of consumers will switch from thinking about mobility as an object they own (i.e. a car), to thinking about it as a service they can access whenever they need it. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) involves them choosing between many different options when it comes to getting from A to B: ride-hailing services, vehicles that they lease or share with others, bikes that they borrow from city-wide schemes, or public transport. They’ll choose and use these options through seamlessly integrated smartphone apps that run on super-fast 5G networks, and pay for their use of public and private transport through cashless systems. When MaaS is established, consumers don’t feel the need to own a means of moving around; they are confident that a solution will come to where they are – and take them where they want to go.

A study by the market research and consultancy business, Reports and Data, found that that MaaS market was worth $42 billion in 2018 – but that it will grow to reach a staggering $326 billion in 2026. That’s 40% larger than the current global revenue for Toyota. Over the next seven years the revenue generated by people choosing not to own a car seems likely to far surpass the revenue that any one brand gets from people owning a car.

For MaaS to reach this point, it needs to overcome some pretty significant barriers, both practical and emotional: a lack of infrastructure, the emotional attachment that many people still feel to car ownership, and regulatory barriers around the sharing of data, to name just a few. However, LinkedIn data strongly suggests that momentum behind MaaS is building faster than many might expect. This huge future market is already starting to take shape.

Mobility’s sudden momentum

When we look at the hashtags used by LinkedIn members in content and conversation, #MaaS grew by more than 200% in 2018. The volume of conversation around Mobility has already overtaken that around Autonomous Vehicles, which itself grew at 10% during the year. It’s growing more than twice as fast as the conversation around Electric Vehicles. The momentum behind alternatives to car ownership is increasing extremely quickly.

At the same time, emotional barriers to Mobility are starting to fall away. Viewed at a global level, the MaaS market remains at an early stage, with mobility patterns and habits remaining largely stable. Only 27% of LinkedIn members have tried car-sharing services as an alternative to travelling in a vehicle they own outright: still not enough to establish global momentum for this type of solution. However, 96% of members say that they are aware of and understand this type of ownership model. That familiarity is significant in itself.

The countries and cities ready to lead on MaaS

When we look at LinkedIn member data on a country-by-country level, we see that the global average masks some very significant differences. Western European countries like France, Spain and Germany already feel far less emotional need to own a car (one of the most significant barriers to MaaS adoption) than do LinkedIn members in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. In fact, fewer than 25% of LinkedIn members in each of these Western European countries say that they prefer to own their own vehicle and can’t see that changing in the future. This compares to 62% in the US.

Analysis on a city-by-city level reveals even more dramatic progress towards the future of Mobility: major conurbations creating environments of mixed mobility that are significantly ahead of the rest of the countries. In Singapore, anonymised data is currently shared to enable bus routes to adapt to passenger demand in real time. In London, public private partnerships with banks have helped to deliver city-wide bike rental schemes. Helsinki in Finland is still further ahead on the road to full MaaS, with the Whim app offering travellers a fully integrated mobility service. In exchange for a monthly subscription, users can hop between rented cars, city bikes, taxis and public transport. In Dubai, meanwhile, the government plans to increase the role of autonomous vehicles in public transport, to 25% of journeys by 2030.

Auto brands’ share of voice on Mobility is lagging behind

Auto brands know that mobility matters – and they are responding through huge investments such as the $1 billion recently invested in a Mobility joint venture by Daimler and BMW. Daimler’s CEO Dieter Zetsche signalled his company’s determination to compete fiercely in the MaaS market when he spoke about market trends and the need to adjust to changing attitudes to car ownership:

There are people who are not interested in car ownership, but in mobility. Individual mobility, on-demand”

Dieter Zetsche

CEO, Daimler

However, there’s a big difference between being aware of the shift towards MaaS – and negotiating that shift successfully. Auto brands have a share of voice in the conversation around Mobility – but it’s not yet a share of voice that reflects their position in the market and how much they stand to lose and gain from the predicted growth in people choosing alternatives to owning a car. Instead, it’s the tech industry that’s showing the strongest engagement around the topic on LinkedIn. Members of the tech industry are more than 120% more likely to engage with MaaS-related content than members of the auto industry, and engage with Mobility content on 2.5x more occasions.

This makes sense when you consider how tech companies have already built many of the essential strategic foundations for claiming a large share of the MaaS market. They’ve spent vast sums developing autonomous vehicles that can turn up where they are needed, they own smartphones and cashless payment systems to run on them, they excel in dealing with the vast amounts of data involved, and large numbers of people trust them to bring these different elements together.

Research from the likes of Binet and Field that shows how brands’ share of voice predicts their future share of market. It’s therefore a priority for auto manufacturers to take a more active role in the conversation around Mobility – and start building awareness of their own offerings in the space. If they’re to do this effectively, it’s important to understand the factors that shape their target audiences’ choices. What will persuade people to adopt MaaS services? And how will they decide which businesses they trust to deliver them?

Is MaaS a rational choice – or an emotional one?

LinkedIn members list a range of both rational and emotional factors when it comes to considering shared vehicle ownership. Close to a third (32%) say they’ll be influenced by the lower individual costs involved compared to buying and maintaining their own vehicle; 20% are attracted by the reduced admin compared to buying and owning a car. On the emotive side, 24% specify the importance to them personally of reducing their environmental footprint – a handy reminder that MaaS isn’t just a decision based on practicality.

However, when we use Global Web Index data to look at the factors that LinkedIn members say most influenced their last auto purchase, it’s the auto brand and its emotional associations that dominate. Buyers described these as significantly more important than both vehicle functionality and price. They think with their head – but buy with their heart.

This makes auto companies existing brands one of the most valuable assets that they have for securing a greater share of voice in the Mobility conversation, building awareness of the services they’re building – and the value they have to offer. At this stage, few if any influencers and consumers are aware of brands like MOIA, XMOBA, Maven, Free2Move and InMotion – but everyone recognises and responds to Volkswagen, Seat, General Motors, Peugeot Citroen and Jaguar, the brands behind these MaaS ventures. If auto companies are to protect their share of the budgets people invest in getting from A to B, it’s these brands they need to build the conversation around. They’ll find a growing number of future auto buyers ready to listen.