Has the Customer-Centric Mobile Experience Completely Disrupted Digital Marketing Strategy in the Rental Car Industry?

“The times, they are a changin…”

That quote from Bob Dylan perfectly sums up the state of digital marketing in the rental car industry in 2018. Ever since the ridesharing giant Uber made its entry onto the transportation scene, the mobile-first generation has accepted them with welcoming arms. This shift has left rental car moguls to find new and innovative ways to transform their digital marketing strategy and user experience (UX) to cater to this evolved and increasingly customer-centric market.

However, as if ridesharing wasn’t enough of a threat to rental car companies, this is all taking place in the midst of a mobile-driven, customer experience revolution. This surge in mobile optimization doesn’t just affect the travel industry, but every industry, and we’re only beginning to see how the ripple effects will stir the waters.

Over the last few years, customers have been introduced to incredibly personalized, tailor-made digital experiences from innovative brands. Now the same consumers are demanding that identical seamless user experience across every industry, and rightfully so.

Society realized if they can order a completely personalized pizza from Pizza Hut in a few easy taps or use AR technology to see what a new sofa from Ikea would look like in their living room, then why can’t they have the rental car process improved as well?

Every executive and marketer in the car rental and travel industry should take this motto from CarMax’s CMO, Jim Lyski, write it on a post-it and put it on their desk…

“Don’t settle for the best customer experience in your industry, deliver the best one—period.”

That’s the kind of mentality every brand executive and marketer needs to succeed in our customer-centric world. We’re dealing with a new type of consumer – they’re educated, research-obsessed, and impatient. Most importantly, they realize they’re all that matters.

If your sales and marketing teams aren’t studying and testing how to improve every aspect of their customer journey and purchase process, you had better get started now because you’re already behind the pack.

Uber’s Charge On The Rental Car Market

The major rental car companies have several roadblocks ahead. The metrics in the chart above present drastic alterations in market share in less than five years.

Marketers within these rental car organizations have to quickly find new ways to attract customers who have given their allegiance to ridesharing organizations. They must present alluring offers and impeccable customer service to procure their business.

Recent studies show these organization’s fleet sizes of used cars are growing. Unfortunately, this is happening at the same time that used car resale prices are dropping off.

If competing with Uber wasn’t enough, these companies need to find innovative ways to reach customers looking to purchase used cars as well.

So, how can the rental car industry reverse the trends? Where should the decision makers look for innovation in their digital marketing and sales strategy?

Study Your Customer’s Search Engine Data & Keywords

A platform like Google has every prospective traveler performing millions of searches every day. There’s no better way to get to know who your customers are and what they care about than studying what your customers are asking Google or Bing.

If major brands can digest the critical questions, deduct their customers’ “jobs-to-be-done,” and then strategize their sales and marketing efforts around their customer’s pain points, they’re sure to elevate the user experience, all the while creating a generation of brand-loyal consumers.

Every rental car company has to quickly understand that a successful digital marketing strategy in their industry is not about how you can gain more leads and potential customers.

It’s about how you can organically produce a relationship in which your organization provides real, tangible value to travelers.

Customers have more options than ever before when traveling, and practically any company can rent them a car. But customers don’t just want to rent a car anymore; they want an experience. Look at what Airbnb has done to disrupt the hotel industry, the same goes for the rental car industry.


If these brands can dig into their customer’s psyche and understand what else they want from the brand-to-customer-experience, you’ll be able to predict shifts in demand and transform your business for any changing market conditions.

Every rental car executive should make sure their marketing team fully understands these four customer aspects before producing its next marketing and outreach strategy:

  • What are they trying to KNOW?

  • Where are they trying to GO?

  • What are they trying to DO?

  • What are they trying to BUY?

By transforming into this analytical thought process, you will allow your creative, organic search, and paid media teams to recognize what phrases and keywords to strategize campaigns around, so you’re speaking to your true market audience.

The saying is valid now more than ever: “if your digital marketing tactics are attempting to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.”

For every additional keyword, your team can accumulate in its arsenal, the more your team will know about your customers, but more importantly, you’ll know the jobs they’re trying to accomplish.

The more you know about the customer’s desired outcome, the more poignant your messages will be, and that’s what leads to a loyal brand relationship.

Seeing as Enterprise Holdings is the leader in the rental car industry, let’s use Enterprise Car Rentals as an example of how to innovate for success in the ride-sharing age.

Now, you have to applaud Enterprise for revolutionizing the industry’s standards for customer service. They disrupted the rental car industry years ago with their slogan, “we’ll pick you up.”

They realized, in order to innovate as an organization they needed to take a step out of the customer journey and simplify it. Their answer, go pick them up instead of the customer searching them out.

This was a brilliant strategy, and the profits speak for themselves – it led to massive success. Well, decades later, they’re utilizing similar tactics in their digital marketing innovation by strategizing keyword research. Their continued dominance in the car rental market is proof of that fact.

However, this present-day evolution came out of a simple realization, that ride-sharing isn’t just a fad found in the 18-30-year-old demographic in metropolitan areas. This is big business.

Humans are in the midst of a massive psychological shift of how we view the transportation industry. Millions of men and women of all ages are embracing the inexpensive and simple alternative of mobile-app based ride-sharing. A simple google search like the one below will show the magnitude of these changes.

screenshot of iber search engine result page on google

Because of Uber’s search engine marketing dominance within the ride-sharing industry, you’ll now find companies like Enterprise steadily advancing their strategic approach to minimize Uber’s market share.

We’re witnessing this company branch out of their standard rental car procedures as well as re-selling cars, and steadily taking aim at the “ride-sharing” market.

google search engine result page for enterprise rideshare

It’s a fantastic innovation for a company the size of Enterprise to act this quickly to a changing market. These are the kind of disruptive strategies that will keep a rental car giant like Enterprise at the top of their industry for the next decade.

Where rental car organizations may want to test innovation in the future:

Attempt to make an impact on the ridesharing crowd by making strategic moves towards bidding on keywords like Uber and Lyft in attempts to get in the mix for that user search conversation and strategically decrease Uber’s dominance.

fictitious search ad for enterprise vs uber

If a potential customer searches for Uber and your organizations advertising pops up, you may be able to take that customer away from the ride-sharing king, and add them to your new customer list.

Audit Your Website & Gather More Analytics

The studying continues. In addition to researching useful search engine data and thousands of keywords, there needs to be the same amount of research compiled on how visitors are interacting with your desktop and mobile website.

With a robust website audit your organization will able to answer questions like:

  • What pictures are prospective customers clicking?
  • What pages have more engagement?
  • Where are customers leaving our website?
  • Why are they abandoning the purchase process?

Having this customer-centric journey and user experience data is just another strategy to put your company’s decision-makers in your customer’s shoes.

Empathy is the key to success. The more you know about your potential customer’s lives, the more your brand can innovate and improve your strategies going forward.

Again, you have to applaud Enterprise because:

  • Their website design is flawless.
  • The load time was fast and seamless.
  • All the necessary and relevant information a customer may be searching for is located above the fold with clear calls to action, as well as high-conversion rate optimization tactics set up.
screenshot of enterprise web page for start a reservation

This is just more proof that when brands study the job that customers are trying to get done, rather than the end-product, your team can minimize loss to the highest degree, and ensure you are reaching the right customers with the right message at the right time.

The Customer-Centric Rental Car SEO Strategy:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of producing better quality and quantity of traffic or visitors to your website through organic search engine results, such as blogs, case studies, eBooks and technical SEO practices like adding meta-descriptions.

  • Make your website search engine friendly based on the findings.
  • Make your website customer friendly based on your findings.
  • Optimize all content for improved user experience.
  • Build links to the content.

Utilize Your Data to Produce Unique Customer-Centric Experiences

In the age of customer-centric branding, there’s no doubt about it; content is king and engagement is queen.

Your marketing goals as a brand must be to create valuable, shareable material that is not only seen but promotes interaction. These engagements and shares ultimately open up the floor for conversations and allow your brand to organically grow from the digital word-of-mouth.

If your organization can accomplish the task of providing value through interesting organic search engine optimization tactics like blogs and case studies, as well as relevant, local search engine targeting, more customers, their friends and family will want to become part of your brand.

To make matters more interesting, our landscape for digital marketing is constantly evolving and your team has to be aware of how this plays into the big picture.

Your consumers are wildly varied and there is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach to customer-centric digital marketing content. But it’s content marketing like the Enterprise video below that shows they truly know their customer base and have proven they’re more than willing to do whatever it takes to “pick them up.”

It’s vital to understand your consumer, the platform on which they’re accessing their content, and what their intended outcome is to achieve any success in digital marketing. Only after your team defines these aspects can you confidently assess if your brand’s content experience will generate brand-loyalists or push them towards a competitor.

statistic slide showing 500% growth in 'near me' searches

I recently used this eye-opening finding from Google in a past blog, but seeing as it’s so incredibly relevant to any and every industry, I had to use it again.

As consumers continue to interact with search engines like Google, we’re becoming increasingly comfortable and more conversational with our searches.

But what’s truly interesting is that when a prospective customer inches closer to the purchase moment they begin to show signs of placing their location into the actual search query.

The Customer-Centric Rental Car SEM Strategy:

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy that involves paid advertising through search engines to increase the visibility of your website and its products or services.

  • Use strategic keywords
  • Focus on increasing quality score
  • Utilize long-tail & negative keywords

If brands can understand this user behavior and utilize it in their content and bidding strategies then they’ll continue to simplify the purchase process and surely achieve an increase in loyal brand followers.

google search on 'rental vcar near me' shows map with enterprise locations

A simple search of “rental car near me” shows the absolute dominance that Enterprise has in search engine results.

Again, other rental car companies need to take note as to what Enterprise is doing to place themselves in front of the right customer at the right time.

Every Piece of Digital Marketing Content Should:

  • Tap into pain points.
  • Attract inner desires.
  • Demonstrate “why” you’re different.
  • Utilize visual metaphors to increase impact.
  • Connect to their emotions.

Connect Your Social Media, Mobile, App & In-Store Experiences

Omnichannel marketing is the future of any successful brand-to-customer relationship. Since every customer varies so differently, marketers need to strategize those differences into ways we communicate with an audience.

  • Some people prefer social media.
  • Others prefer phone calls.
  • My aunt likes email marketing.

The point is, any successful company can’t simplify a marketing strategy to a single channel of communication. If you are, this needs to change immediately so your business can increase its audience and cater to different niches.

What’s certain in 2018, the mobile search process is essential for success within the rental car industry. But where the purchase journey needs to focus its improvement is on the mobile to app transfer process, as well as speeding up the “in-store” interaction.

A “Think with Google study” showed three critical factors to why every business should improve the communication and strategies of their mobile and app website teams.

  1. Consumers use mobile sites and apps interchangeably.
  2. Customers switch from mobile sites to apps because they find them easier to use.
  3. Consumers switch from apps to mobile sites because they’re more useful in accessing information.
bar chart comparing reasons people switch from mobile site to app

Giving your customer the choice of continuing their customer journey from their mobile device to an app is one of the final steps towards perfecting a seamless user experience.

Social Media & Community Engagement Are Keys to Success

No company or industry is perfect. You will have customers that are for whatever reason unhappy with the service or products you provide.

But, as quickly as you can lose a customer, you can gain them back with personalized and tailored community engagement. Whether your business hires a community engagement specialist or your brand utilizes the latest natural language processors and chatbots, there’s more than one way to get the job done.

screenshot of enterprise interacting with customers on facebook messenger

The above screenshot from Facebook is a prime example of how quality community engagement can be executed in two completely different aspects of social media marketing. Enterprise took a personalized form of content engagement for both situations.

  • Always manage poor reviews with blazing-fast speed and empathy.
  • Always interact with loyal customers.

Produce a User-Friendly & Valuable App

The mobile search and purchasing process is continually evolving. Nielsen ran a fascinating study that shed some truth on how consumers use their smartphones. What’s shocking is that consumers spend nearly 85% of their time on a smartphone inside an app.

Industries are seeing almost half of all shoppers switch from a mobile site to an app at some point throughout the customer journey. Therefore, to perfect this customer journey you may want to think about how you can seamlessly connect the two aspects of your business.

statistic slide showing 46% of mobile shopping sessions include a transition between mobile site and app

So, how can your rental car organization get your app in front of a wider audience?

Strategies To Increase App Downloads:

  • Social media advertising.
  • Google search and display advertising.
  • Video advertising.
  • App store display advertising.
statistic slide showing how search ads are effective in driving app downloads

How To Keep Users Interacting With Your App

Once they’ve downloaded your app, your work isn’t over. As a brand you have to keep your user engaged with your app or else it’ll just end up stuffed away in some folder three swipes to the left, or worse, deleted.

Apps are the same as any piece of content. They must continue to provide value and complete your customers “jobs-to-be-done” better than your competitors.

Say, for instance, your rental car company recognizes through its search engine data research that your brand has a significant saturation in family-vacation car rentals.

Anyone that has kids can fully understand the irony in how exhausting and unrelaxing a vacation can be. More rental car organizations need to utilize their search engine data and go the extra mile for your consumers when you’re producing an app.

Sure, it needs to be free, load seamlessly, with the ability to quickly purchase or book a rental.

But, where organizations can set themselves apart is how they can think about ways the customer will want to stay inside the app and continue to interact. Figure out a way your brand can complete all of their “jobs-to-be-done” on one single platform. If you continue to provide value even after they’ve made a purchase, they’ll continue to come back.

  • Try producing road-trip games that can be played on your app to help the parents engage with their children or keep them occupied while you try to nap.
  • The app should suggest places to eat, stay, and visit while you’re on your trip.
  • The app should suggest the cheapest places for gas.

When you have data to base decisions around, it’s easy to add a little creativity to show consumers your brand genuinely cares about them even after the purchase.

Perfecting the Customer-Centric In-Store Experience

In addition to strengthening the ties between your mobile site and apps, giving your customer the choice of whether or not to take the rental desk out of the equation is one of the final steps towards perfecting the seamless user experience.

To Sum Up Digital Marketing Strategy Trends in The Rental Car Industry:

The rental car industry needs to fully embrace local search engine management tactics and organic search engine optimization strategies as well as data analytics and community engagement if they’re going to create successful and meaningful relationships with their customers and continue to grow their brands.

More importantly, rental car organizations need to study their search engine data so they can:

  • Optimize their website for mobile.
  • Increase communication channels.
  • Produce empathetic customer-centric experiences.
  • Speak to a narrower, more exact audience.
  • Utilize word of mouth.

If managing your organization’s online marketing sounds like something outside of your wheelhouse, let’s chat, Evolve Digital Labs is here to help.

Evolve Digital Labs specializes in rental car and travel SEO, SEM and website analytics for organizations large and small.

Did you enjoy the read? Please, let us know. If not, let us know too. We want to hear from you so Evolve can innovate our content and improve your journey to success in digital marketing.

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