How millennials are changing the limo industry

Millennials are emerging as a powerful consumer force. The largest generation in U.S. and world history, the demographic is expected to spend $200 billion annually by 2017, according to Forbes.

At the LCT Summit in May, a panel of young industry leaders discussed how understanding this demographic can help limo operators make changes to accommodate the needs of millennials and grow their businesses.

The panel was composed of Raphael Sousa, President and Founder of SF Limo Express, Rick Versace Jr., an executive at A1A Limo, Robert Xavier, President and Founder of Legend Limousine, and Ryan Hilberth, CEO of Rental Limo. These representatives focused on four main ways that millennials are changing the limo industry game.

Texting

For millennials, texting is a normal means of communication. In 2012, Time Magazine reported that the average American between the ages of 18 and 29 sent about 88 text messages per day, and that habit hasn’t gone away. Incorporating texting in your business will help create appeal for younger customers. Sousa shared that he uses Limo Anywhere to send texts to customers giving their chauffeur’s name, contact information and estimated arrival time.

Online Reservations

In the same vein, millennials like being able to complete tasks online. While the majority of your customers may still prefer to schedule their rides over the phone, the up-and-coming generation will likely be more attracted to your business if you offer an online option that integrates with your limo software.

Social Media

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, 71 percent of millennials are on social media daily. That means if you aren’t taking advantage of social media platforms for your business, you’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with potential consumers. The LCT panel emphasized that whether you outsource your social media channels to another company or do it yourself, it’s important to have a clear campaign, post regularly – at least once a day – and share content posted online from major hotels, airlines and other companies that cater to travelers in your area.

Website Analytics

Whatever kind of online presence you have, Xavier emphasized that it’s important to monitor your website traffic. Xavier said that he used analytics to figure out what keywords users were typing into searches that led them to his website. By better understanding the online habits of millennials, you can more effectively reach the demographic.


 

Text-to-customer is here

At the 2015 ILCT Show in Las Vegas, we announced that text-to-customer functionality was nearing completion, and would be released to the market in short order. And now, just three weeks later, it is available to all Limo Anywhere users.

What exactly are we offering? You have the choice of two products to enable text-to-customer functionality for your business.

Basic SMS

This product allows Limo Anywhere users to send one pre-programmed text message to customers upon the arrival of the driver. The text uses dynamic tags to insert your company name and the customer’s name. Pricing is based on usage of the module.

Scheduled SMS

This product mimics our scheduled e-mail functionality, allowing Limo Anywhere users to send free-form texts to customers with triggers based on time or ride status. There is extensive dynamic tagging functionality available here, including customer name, company name, driver name, and more. Pricing is based on usage of the module.

To have text-to-customer turned on for your business, give us a ring at 888-888-0302 or e-mail us at support@limoanywhere.com. Please note that this functionality only works for U.S. and Canadian customers at current.

Text-to-customer is just one of four major product updates we will be releasing before the end of the quarter; stay tuned for the release of our new online reservations system before April ends!


 

What can you expect from Limo Anywhere at the 2015 International LCT Show?

As we prepare for our annual voyage to Las Vegas for the International LCT Show, we wanted to give our customers a preview of what to expect from Limo Anywhere ahead of what we believe will be our most exciting show ever!

Who will be attending?

Limo Anywhere will have nine staff members present, including the full management team and members of the software sales, merchant services sales, DriverAnywhere(r) Network, customer support, and product departments.

What do you have to show us?

We will be unveiling text-to-customer functionality, as well as demonstrations of the revamped and rebuilt online reservations and DriverAnywhere(r) driver app products (due out in April, and May respectively). And of course, we’ll have our mobile product manager on hand to discuss design, functionality and features of the upcoming passenger mobile app.

When and where can I find Limo Anywhere?

Limo Anywhere occupies Booth 606 at the show; we’ll be immediately visible upon entrance to the exhibit floor. Our booth will be divided into sales and support sections this year to help customers and prospects reach the correct team member faster and more efficiently.

Additionally, the Limo Anywhere Annual Customers’ Meeting will be held at 5PM on Tuesday, March 17, in Ballroom B at the Venetian & Palazzo Hotel; be sure to RSVP via the e-mail we sent all current and active customers to ensure your spot is reserved.

Lastly, Limo Anywhere is a sponsor of the First Timers’ Orientation on Monday, March 16 at 10AM in Ballroom C at the Venetian & Palazzo Hotel. We will be distributing informational materials in addition to a short verbal overview of Limo Anywhere at the end of the session. If it’s your first time at the show, be sure to stop by!


 

Announcing passenger mobile apps by Limo Anywhere

We have a confession to make: we’ve been working on a secret project.

And today, in a travel market where mobile is as important as ever, we are excited to announce that Limo Anywhere passenger mobile apps for iOS and Android are under development and scheduled for release in May of this year.

Built in partnership with global car service provider GroundLink and based on their industry-leading mobile technology, our passenger apps will be branded specifically to each individual operator, and will combine mobile booking capabilities with status updates, GPS, and account management features. As a fully integrated app solution, operators will be able to offer vehicle and ride tracking functionality on par with the largest brands in the industry when used in tandem with our DriverAnywhere® mobile driver app.

We hope you’re excited to take advantage of all of the opportunities that mobile offers, and we look forward to working with each of you to create an industry-leading mobile presence.

Click here to sign up for our mobile notifications list to receive updates on our passenger apps.

Click here to read our press release regarding passenger apps.


 

Distance-based pricing is here

Limo Anywhere is happy to announce that distance-based pricing has arrived in our software.

Powered by our integration with Bing Maps, distance-based pricing allows operators to forgo the traditional zones and fixed rates structure by mapping customer routes and applying predetermined rates per-mile or per-kilometer, making for a simpler, easier pricing experience.

Distance-based pricing will be a feature in the fourth generation of our online reservation system, due out in March 2015.

To read more about how to implement distance-based pricing for your business, see the following explanation from our Knowledge Base: http://limoanywhere.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/475189.


 

Limo Anywhere announces PCI DSS compliance

Limo Anywhere is excited to announce that we have achieved Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, certifying Limo Anywhere as one of the only technology providers in ground transportation with compliance verified by the payment card industry. The chief security standard governing credit card data, PCI DSS mandates compliance with 12 core requirements ranging from physical security protocol to the encryption of data with the platform, and Limo Anywhere will continuously monitor and report on our status going forward with audits performed by Qualified Security Assessor K3DES LLC.

“In light of rapid growth in fraudulent credit card activity and the recent breaches of several major corporations, ensuring credit card data is appropriately handled and protected is a vital, baseline service for any technology vendor to provide to its clients,” said President Mark Gentry. “Gaining PCI DSS compliance provides a layer of security and insurance to our customer base that is nearly unprecedented for technology providers in the ground transportation space, and additionally provides a significant advantage to any Limo Anywhere customer when pitching new corporate business. Combined with the recent launch of our secondary disaster recovery site, we are extending our market leadership when it comes to a focus on business continuity and data security, and we believe these investments deliver significant added value to our customer base.”

To learn more about PCI DSS compliance, please visit https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/.


 

The Limo Anywhere API and our duty-of-care obligations

In the ever-changing world of technology, data access and usage is arguably the topic of the year. Businesses are only scratching the surface of the value they can create by properly using data to benefit consumers, and the pace of progress forward is expected to be swift. Using data as a business tool often involves using the Application Programming Interface (API) of technology providers to “push” data into the system, “pull” data out of it, or often, both. This allows the data to be used by your business, or more commonly by a third party, to create an ancillary product or streamline an existing business process – for example, to push ride information into QuickBooks, or to pull reservation details from a mobile app into your reservation and dispatch system.

For Limo Anywhere and other technology providers, offering API access is a crucial piece of the value proposition. But this access does not come without obligations, and significant ones regarding legal and technical frameworks as well as data privacy and security.

As such, Limo Anywhere is announcing several changes to our API and our policies, which will come into effect gradually over the next 12 months.

1) All partners using the Limo Anywhere API, existing and future, will be immediately subject to our API License Agreement, posted here: http://limoanywhere.com/apitermsofservice. This agreement contains standard legal protections for both Limo Anywhere and our customers, ensuring API partners are working with Limo Anywhere and with our customers in a responsible manner.

2) Limo Anywhere is announcing a progressive upgrade of our API, with a new version to be introduced gradually throughout 2015. This version will have significantly enhanced functionality from the current version, providing access to additional data points and streamlining the process of working with Limo Anywhere.

3) Concurrent with the release of our upgraded API, we will ask all third parties to certify with Limo Anywhere, ensuring only properly screened partners have access to our API. We will be conducting a full migration to the new API in 2015, ensuring all partners integrating with us are certified and approved.

In the ground transportation industry, duty-of-care is an accepted topic. Corporate clients want to know what their service providers are doing to ensure employees are safe, including questions around proper insurance, licensing, driver background screening, fleet quality, and more. For years, duty-of-care has been a major part of the business, and no one questions its value. The path to standardized duty-of-care obligations around APIs is a long one, and we’re only at the beginning of the journey. But we believe this is a great first step, and we are happy to be a market leader in protecting our customers’ interests while still providing high-quality access to the data and functionality that our customers need to grow their businesses.


 

Five questions to ask your payment processing provider

Payment processing can be a complex, bewildering marketplace. It’s a difficult-to-understand product sold primarily by thousands of independent sales organizations (ISOs), who are sponsored by banks as the effective sales and support arms of their merchant services divisions. As a result of this highly fragmented marketplace, service offerings are often unstandardized, and a solid understanding of the product, your ISO’s policies, and the agreement you are entering are of paramount importance. To help you through this process, below are five questions that any business should ask its current or prospective payment processing provider.

1) What’s my processing cost as a percentage of my revenue (the effective rate)?

Payment processors charge direct processing fees, payment gateway fees, and often additional monthly fees, which should all be added together every month to understand your true, effective rate. As a general rule, asking for interchange plus pricing (meaning the standard fees credit card companies charge, or interchange, plus a markup to your merchant services provider) will give you the most transparency and lowest rates. Regardless, ensure when you’re comparing providers that you’re making the apples-to-apples comparison, which is your effective processing rate.

2) How quickly can I get my funds?

In small, growth businesses, cash is king. Check around to see if you can get next-day funding, meaning if you process your payments the night before, the cash will hit your account the next day. If not, two-day funding is a common option as well.

3) Is your gateway integrated with my back office software and/or online shopping cart?

There are few worse productivity drains than processing payments manually outside of your existing technology solutions. If you’re using Limo Anywhere but not processing on our system, be sure to ask us for one of our preferred payments partners, or if not, check to ensure we are integrated with the gateway of the payment processor you’re planning to use.

4) Who is my point of contact?

Customer support – for technical problems, chargebacks, or other issues – is an important part of your decision. When your access to cash depends on it, make sure you’ve got a 24/7 point of contact if and when issues arise.

5) How much is the setup and/or cancellation cost?

Cancellation fees are common in the industry, not unlike cell phone contracts, because the cost of acquiring new business in a competitive marketplace like payment processing is very high (meaning it takes several months for the ISO to break-even on your account). If you’re signing a contract, check to make sure the cancellation fee is reasonable – $500 or less. As for that setup fee? Make sure you’re shopping that fee and/or negotiating to have it removed.

Many Limo Anywhere customers process payments through our software, and as a result, we have close knowledge of the payment processing industry, as well as qualified, preferred partners with whom we work closely. If you need help finding a good payment processing solution, don’t hesitate to contact us.


 

The evolving nature of pricing styles in the limo industry

Here at Limo Anywhere, we consider ourselves lucky to serve a variety of different types of operators. Small and large, sedan and specialty focus, retail and corporate focus – our 3,500 operator customer base has a little bit of everything. So while we’ve helped customers build and implement rate structures of all types, we can certainly attest that for many years, “zone-based” pricing was the the bread and butter of the limo industry.

In the age of TNCs, enhanced focus on ground transportation spend from travel managers, and blurring lines between the consumer use occasions for taxi and limo service, however, we’ve noticed that pricing structures are adapting as well. So, what pricing structures are we seeing used frequently in 2014?

1) Per-mile pricing

Once the near-exclusive domain of taxis, this type of pricing is gaining steam in the limo industry. And why not? There is an argument to be made that this is the most “fair” way to price, and certainly it’s easy for consumers to understand. Many regulatory authorities will only allow this style if the price is established beforehand, however, so be sure you quote the rate upfront if that’s the law in your locality (and frankly, this is a much better consumer experience).

2) Per-minute pricing

The limo industry has always had hourly pricing, but what about per-minute? It’s more common than you might think, and helps operators to be compensated for time and effort, in addition to mileage. Be careful though, especially if you operate in a city with heavy traffic – there are few worse consumer experiences in ground transportation than seeing an astronomical bill based on bad traffic outside of the consumer’s control.

3) Per passenger pricing

For years a popular choice with specialty providers, in the age of ride-sharing, this pricing style has come back into focus, especially for those providers with a customer base heavily skewed to retail. If you have street pickups (“hails”) or ride-sharing as part of your business, this can be a quite sensible way to price those products.

4) Zone-based pricing

The old reliable. What’s so good about zone-based pricing? If you’re operating an airport pickup or dropoff business, the taxi industry’s pricing models often make this decision for you. And as a consumer, it’s both simple and predictable. We have seen increasing use of hybrid models, however, with zone pricing used for airport business, and a per-mile option for point-to-point work.

While these are the four most common pricing styles in our experience, it will be interesting to see how ground transportation pricing evolves in the coming years. Either way, Limo Anywhere will be there to support your business’ needs.


 

Thoughts on demand-based pricing

One of the largest shifts in the ground transportation industry since the advent of the “app-based competitors” – or “TNCs” – has been the proliferation of dynamic, demand-based pricing in the marketplace. While the ground transportation industry has always used hourly minimums, truly dynamic pricing – which was primarily the domain of airlines and hotels in the early 2000s – has now become a significant part of the pricing equation in ground transportation, shifting the supply and demand landscape in what are likely irreversible ways. While there are staunch advocates of both static and demand-based pricing models, there are certainly pros and cons, and the decision to use or avoid surge pricing can have material impacts on your business.

Pros of Demand-Based Pricing

  • Keeps drivers and affiliates happy and engaged, even when conditions such as traffic or weather make operating more difficult; if you use independent operators, this can be a very high priority
  • Enables higher revenue per ride and per vehicle during times when the cost of acquiring additional supply to service additional rides may be high
  • Allows companies to “stay open for business” at all times by better balancing supply and demand, driving brand loyalty and customer retention
  • Better matches pricing to customer needs, ensuring the highest-priority ground transportation needs are able to be served

Cons of Demand-Based Pricing

  • Can be difficult to pass through to corporate customers who have pre-negotiated rates and a long-term agreement or contract; static pricing may be a requirement to win a new account
  • It can be very difficult to find the “just right” price that balance supply and demand accurately
  • Operating a truly data-driven surge pricing strategy requires expensive human resources and data analytics tools
  • Risks alienating long-time customers who are accustomed to certain rates for certain routes

If your business is primarily driven by retail customers and/or if you are heavily reliant on independent contractors, demand-based pricing may be a great tool for your business. Conversely, if your business is heavily corporate or you own vehicles and employ drivers, it may be a less attractive option. Regardless, it’s a pricing model that’s likely here to stay, the decision of whether to use it should be deliberate and informed, and it may be worth revisiting quarterly or annually to review whether it’s right for you.