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4 effective bike share promotions to grow ridership

Ridership, Ridership, Ridership. The go-to topic when talking about the success of a bike share program. The city wants to know how many riders you’ve got, the media will hound you for it, and of course, it’s a need to know for you. It’s a number that’s important to all stakeholders involved. One that can provide you insight into whether your program is working and/or beneficial for the city, has a growing users base, and even help you determine where to spend marketing dollars.

So how do you increase ridership?

Timely Promotions
Tying your promotions to a specific time of the year can be highly effective. By offering a discount or special offer at the opportune time you can attract attention to your bike share program and increase membership sales in what might otherwise be a quiet sales period. Timely promotions that only exist around specific holidays, such as New Years, or annual events like Valentine’s Day, create a sense of urgency that can encourage those on the fence to make a purchase. Don’t go creating a promotion for every holiday and event that appears on your calendar though. Continually discounting your price can dilute your brand and won’t build brand loyalty. Choose to promote around holidays that align well with your bike share program. It’s important to recognize when customers want your product most. It’s likely that during these periods they might be the most responsive to promotions.
Consider using programs that help you target your promotional ads to those who haven’t been convinced to buy yet. You don’t want to be promoting to customers who are guaranteed sales. Programs allow you to retarget ads to online customers who were close to purchasing – i.e., had a membership to your bike share program in their cart but did not complete the purchase. If you’re running Facebook ads, they also provide retargeting capabilities. Email marketing is a very effective way to let warm leads know of your current promotions. If you’re not trying to collect the email addresses of visitors to your site we suggest you do so. Yes, pop-ups asking for emails can be annoying but it’s a great way to get in touch with those who want to be engaged with your brand.

Corporate Programs

Marketing your bike share program to corporations is a great way to increase sales and attract new riders. Companies are always looking for ways to improve the health and happiness of their employees and your bike share program can do just that. A corporate program should discount or subsidize membership for employees of an enrolled company. Consider also approaching universities, residential buildings and groups or associations such as your local bicycle advocacy organization.
Once an organization has enrolled, your next obstacle is to get employees to sign-up. The level of effort required will likely depend on how much a membership is being subsidized by the organization. You’ll want to make the sign-up process as simple as possible and provide the company with enough marketing and educational materials that they can pass along to their employees. Without this, an employee may soon forget they can sign up for a membership at a discounted rate.

Events/Point of Sale
There is a learning curve to understanding how a bike share program works that can be discouraging to some folks. By having your bike share team attend events and set up demo stations you’ll have the opportunity to directly address any questions or concerns a potential user might have. This also gives you the opportunity to let customers try the bikes and see how awesome they are for themselves. With an iPad in hand you’ll be able to make the purchase process quick and easy while people are engaged with the brand at the event.
By attending events and being present in the community you’ll improve your brands identity. People are more likely to see you as part of the city’s make-up when they see your staff on the ground at local events. This is also an opportunity to engage with members of a community group who may not typically engage with your other promotions.
Not sure what events your bike share should take part in? Consider looking into events that align with the values of your bike share program such as Car Free Day or farmers markets which are hosted in many cities around the world. City festivals such as a jazz or folk music festival are also great places to engage with users.

Strategic Partnerships
Partnering with other organizations is a great way to extend your reach by giving you the opportunity to promote your bike share program to your partner’s audience. With that in mind, it’s important to be strategic and find partners whose customers might find value in being a bike share member. A partnership may be as simple as an agreement to cross promote or providing an exclusive deal offered to members of your bike share.
Providing your bike share members with deals has the added value of incentivizing a membership as only those who are enrolled in your program can take advantage of the savings. Partnerships also create more value for your current members and help build brand loyalty. It’s a win-win situation. Partnerships don’t necessarily need to be with a businesses either. Consider partnering with elections organizations to offer free bike share on voting day or a local organization that promotes bike to work week.

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