This change is most visible in the way that working from home has established itself as a genuine alternative to the normal workplace. Although companies and organisations could have made this technically possible years ago through the introduction of the “digital workplace”, it is the present health crisis that has made home office a mainstream feature of the professional world. Its essential feature is that it makes work more flexible. Working hours and the place of work are no longer necessarily fixed. As well as creating new freedoms, this brings a need for greater flexibility in other areas, including mobility.
Besides the home office trend, the pandemic itself is altering the parameters of mobility. Lockdowns, curfews, a restricted travel radius and social distancing rules are severely curtailing people’s mobility. At the same time, more and more Germans are opting for bicycles, their own cars or walking, as a study by Forsashows. Sharing models are also gaining in popularity. Public transport, on the other hand, is suffering the most in the present situation. Distancing rules and the elimination of commutes to work are driving the trend of fewer passengers. In light of this, the management consultancy Deloitte describes the pandemic as causing a shift in mobility “from public to private”.
At the same time, it is evident that individual preferences stem from habits that were already in place before the pandemic. Drivers who own a private vehicle tend to use it more. Conversely, those who were relying on public transport now make more journeys on foot, by bicycle or using sharing vehicles – or by combining multiple modes of transport, as McKinsey points out.
Over a year into the crisis, it is becoming clear that this development is not a short-term trend. The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) notes that public transport use was far below pre-crisis levels even while restrictions were relaxed in the summer of 2020. A survey by Forsa on behalf of the German Energy Agency (dena) found that 61 percent of Germans expect to maintain their current mobility habits even after the pandemic.
Many employees welcome the new, more flexible mobility as it lets them choose from various options, depending on the situation. Transport companies and associations are responding to this growing need for flexibility and are presenting their customers with more adaptable offers. The importance of the classic subscription model in public transport is currently on the decline. The VDV notes that subscription cancellations did not reach their peak at the beginning, but later on in the course of the pandemic. This implies that the conventional provision of public transport is not adequately meeting people’s mobility needs during the pandemic. One response to this issue is to devise new ticketing models. For example, Verkehrsverbund Stuttgart (VVS) has introduced a new 10-day ticket that can be used flexibly on days the user chooses.
Other innovative approaches are also emerging. A growing number of companies now offer their employees a mobility budget instead of a monthly or annual public transport ticket, and in some cases this even takes the place of a company car. The employer provides a credit balance that can be freely spent on journeys using public transport, sharing vehicles or taxis. Organisations embracing the mobility budget model include SAP, the city of Bremen and Frosta. In this way, employees can make their own choices about how to make use of all the mobility services on offer.
Mobimeo supports transport companies and associations in finding appropriate responses to changing user behaviour. We leverage our combination of industry know-how, technical expertise and product insights to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of both mobility providers and users. White label apps built on Mobimeo’s MaaS platform offer the full range of local mobility. The platform is open to regional requirements such as specific tariff systems and data sources. We have also rapidly implemented some very specific requirements in the apps that arose during the pandemic, such as showing bike routes for users with their own two wheels, showing them the option to cover longer distances on foot, integrating contactless payment and displaying the latest information.
The potential impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on subscription purchases and the growing flexibility in transport choices make it more vital than ever to build and expand a digital customer interface – as a means of retaining customers, attracting new user groups and as a sales channel.
It is still too early to tell how vaccination programmes, the occurrence of Covid variants and any relaxation of social distancing measures will affect the progression of the pandemic in the medium to long term. So it is all the more crucial to have the ability to adapt digital offerings to changing user behaviour at short notice.