“Heike, what is it that makes Mobimeo a ‘product company’ for MaaS?”

March 24, 2022
6 min
Die Corona-Pandemie hat sich auf fast alle Bereiche des öffentlichen und privaten Lebens ausgewirkt. Auch mit Blick auf die Mobilität hat die Krise für noch nie da gewesene Verhältnisse gesorgt und Entwicklungen beschleunigt, die sich sonst wahrscheinlich erst in einigen Jahren realisiert hätten. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) kann eine Lösung für Mobilitätsanbieter sein, um mit den Folgen der Pandemie umzugehen.
Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a catchword that comes in different flavours - depending on who uses it. Offering a MaaS platform, MaaS is part of our DNA at Mobimeo. That’s why we would like to sequence it to show what it means to us. In the course of several interviews, we ask in-house experts about their specific perspective on MaaS. Given that Mobimeo’s orientation and set-up are central to the further development of our MaaS platform and the apps built on top of it, today we talk to our CCO Heike Löffler about Mobimeo as a “product company” and the importance of this particular structure for our platform.

What exactly does the term product company mean? 

The best way to explain a product company is to distinguish it from its counterpart: a service or project company. In the latter case, programming or consulting services are typically provided within a time-limited project according to the wishes of the (B2B) customer and handed over to them as a custom solution upon conclusion of the project. The work of a product company, on the other hand, always focuses on a product that it develops based on the needs of potential users and brings to market. The major difference compared to a custom solution is that, with a (digital) product, continuous innovation and scalability are part and parcel of a product company: instead of working through a fixed set of specifications, as in custom development, the product is developed on an ongoing basis, drawing upon user and customer feedback.


What distinguishes Mobimeo as a product company?

At Mobimeo, our MaaS platform is clearly the core of the business. There are good reasons why we decided to develop the platform as a digital product. We realised very early on that the service or project set-up is not the optimal solution for MaaS. The custom solutions widely used in the market today are usually too short-sighted. MaaS platforms are highly complex solutions in terms of what they offer to users and the technology they require - it is not uncommon for custom development projects to take longer than expected and exceed projected costs. What’s more, user needs and the technical framework evolve over the course of the project, and the project may not bring the desired success. In addition, the resources required for operation and maintenance are often underestimated, further development often involves high costs and leads to solutions that are not scalable. Due to their development as “one-off” solutions, in many cases with modest budgets, regional solutions usually lag behind the top dogs such as Google Maps in terms of user interface (UI) - how users operate the app - and the user experience (UX) they have with the app. As a product company, we are in a position to solve this dilemma: thanks to our own research, we know what customers and users want. We develop our platform based on their actual needs. The agile approach of our teams enables us to build ready-to-use components within a matter of weeks rather than years. We handle the operation of the platform for our B2B customers as well as its continuous development, which is why we can offer truly state-of-the-art technological solutions. 


How exactly does Mobimeo go about ensuring that the MaaS platform is user-centric? What are the benefits for Mobimeo’s customers?

From the very beginning, our goal was to build a competitive platform in collaboration with the players in local public transport. Our set-up as a product company brings fundamental advantages in this respect. Over the last three years, we have internally built up all the teams and competences required for user-centric product development. It is only by knowing and understanding the needs of the users at all times that we are able to satisfy them. What questions do users ask themselves on the way from A to B, what information do they really need and what problems arise? In the end, users are the ones who decide which app they are going to use to get around. That’s why both user research and design play a major role for us: they help us to ensure that the apps are simple and intuitive to use. Based on feedback from users and customers, we develop the product continuously and iteratively, i.e. in small steps. We favour short release cycles that allow our public transport customers to quickly start using new features and versions of their apps. In this way, they benefit from our roadmap, which is what ensures constant innovation and improvement of the platform. The fact that the product is ultimately applied by multiple customers helps everyone: costs are shared, while improvements benefit all partners. At the same time, our platform is designed from the outset for future growth. Thanks to the scalable architecture, additional customers can be brought on board at any time, regional requirements can be taken into account, and a large user base can enjoy a tailored mobility experience. Notably, this is an experience based on the principle of “sharing instead of owning”. 


What capabilities are required to build a MaaS platform?

There are two requirements that come together here. On the one hand, a deep understanding of how the everyday business of public and private mobility providers works. On the other hand, technological expertise and know-how in the development of digital products. Only when the two are combined can a solution emerge that excites users and establishes lasting loyalty to public transport. At Mobimeo, we have systematically built up these capabilities. We have brought colleagues on board who know the world of transport companies and associations inside out or who have previously worked for sharing and on-demand providers. At the same time, we have established ourselves in the technological domains that we believe are crucial to success: routing, ticketing and transactions. Each domain consists of a cross-functional team and independently drives the ongoing development of the part of the platform for which it is responsible. For a product company to thrive, it is crucial to attract the right people to the company and to adopt processes that enable them to work together towards a common goal with a high degree of autonomy. At Mobimeo, we have 170 tech, product and market experts from over 44 nations working day by day to realise our vision of greener cities and more accessible everyday mobility. 


What is crucial for the future development of MaaS?

The transport transition is and will remain the yardstick to measure the success of new mobility offers that have to compete with the privately used car. To reach the climate goals in transport, many things still have to happen in our industry. Figures from the Federal Environment Agency show that CO2 emissions in the transport sector must fall by 48 percent by 2030. The study “Deutschland mobil 2030”, conducted on behalf of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), concludes that this will require a 30 percent increase in the transport performance of public passenger transport by 2030. As outlined in the report “Verkehrswende gestalten” (“Shaping the transport transition”) by Roland Berger on behalf of the VDV, the considerable costs associated with this transition must be secured through binding financing models between the public sector and transport companies. With our technology, we create easy access to sustainable mobility. We enable people to make the “mental switch” to sustainable forms of transport by providing the information they require to arrive at a well-informed choice. To this end, we make it as easy as possible to start using public transport with the apps built on our platform. By using a clear design and reducing the information presented to what users actually need to make a choice or find their bearings, we make our UI truly intuitive. Additional functions such as check-in/be-out offer enormous potential for further development: they simplify the often complex decision for users as to which ticket is right for them, thus removing one of the biggest barriers to entry into the public transport system. Another example is the Park+Ride function we developed for the Mobility Stuttgart app of the city’s S-Bahn. This function suggests routes that combine the user’s own car with public transport and the use of P+R parking spaces. After a quick glance at the displayed comparison with an alternative route using only the car, including traffic jams and the search for a parking space in the city centre, it is often clear that the combined route is the better choice. 


What does a MaaS solution need to be successful in the long term? 

Mobimeo offers added value that goes beyond the product. Our goal is to provide the public transport sector with a solution that enables it to actively shape the transport transition. This can be achieved if we work closely together and harness the full potential of digitalisation: to make us faster and better than the competition, so we win over and retain users for public transport via the digital interface. There are vast opportunities open to us - whether in terms of sales, through new subscription and ticket models or the mobility budget, or in terms of communication, by making use of the direct access to users via their smartphones. The necessary groundwork has been laid with Mobimeo’s MaaS platform. Every app from a transport company or association that builds on this platform extends the reach of the public transport service and establishes its own digital customer interface. By seizing the opportunity to forge new connections and set standards - for example in real-time data and ticketing - the industry can actively shape the future of mobility. 


The interviewee

Heike Löffler is Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Mobimeo. With a wealth of experience in the mobility sector, she knows the industry inside out and works with Mobimeo’s partners to develop best-in-class MaaS solutions for the industry. Before joining Mobimeo, Heike drove business strategies and digital transformation as a management consultant.