How Easy Taxi reached five million global downloads

Some apps build their success on gimmicks, some on uniqueness and some on simplicity. But for taxi-hailing app Easy Taxi, it’s hard work.

Founded in Brazil in 2011, the taxi-hailing app has seen a rampant expansion across the globe and now boasts five million downloads in 26 countries. Last month its total numbers of registered drivers reached 100,000.

Blake Larson, managing director of business development at Easy Taxi Asia, tells Marketing about how issues of cultural differences and technology influence people when hailing a cab.

What makes Easy Taxi stand out from other taxi apps, particularly local rivals such as Taxi Hero and HK Taxi?

We put an extremely strong emphasis on building lasting relationships with our drivers. When entering a market, we try our best to learn what it means to be a driver in that market. That means going to where drivers are such as cafés, gas stations, shift change areas, wherever they are, we reach them.

We go all over the city at all times to make sure we know what their pain points are and how we can solve them. It’s important we keep close and frequent contact with the drivers to build trust and credibility.

The app is global, yet local. With a presence in around 30 countries and growing, a passenger has only one app that they can use everywhere. Yet, despite this global platform, our product automatically adjusts based on users’ current location without asking them to do anything.

For example, in Hong Kong, there is only one type of taxi so the user does not need to choose taxi type, but when they fly to Singapore, there are several different types which are automatically made available to users.

What makes Hong Kong an ideal place for a mobile app market? How does the app leverage on those edges to build the business locally?    

Hong Kong is a great place for app development as people in Hong Kong are attached to their phones day and night. Hong Kong has one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world at around 90%. This offers Easy Taxi a unique opportunity to integrate into people’s daily routine in Hong Kong. With over 1.2 million taxi rides a day, taxis are an essential part of people’s lives just like their smartphones, so it makes good sense that people use our app for requesting a taxi.

As the app has a wide global footprint across 26 countries, what local differences are there? How does the app cater to Hong Kong locals? 

The biggest obvious difference is language. Most markets require that we customise the app to be available in the relevant language to cater to the local population. This is a fundamental requirement that we meet.

Certain types of advertising and promotions may resonate with consumers in South America, but in Asia that same message may have to be conveyed very differently. In some markets, the biggest value we add is the safety we offer to passengers because driver information (name, photo, car model, car number) is available to the passenger so they know when the driver arrives, it is actually them.

In some safer markets, like Singapore, the largest value we bring is the convenience of being able to request a taxi without having to hail one in the street in the rain or go through the lengthy process of calling a call centre.

The app caters to the population in Hong Kong because our app is both in Chinese and English for both drivers and passengers. This is especially important as Hong Kong has a large expat population in addition to a large local population with smartphones.

Localised marketing content is also important. For example, we created a video that has over 160k views that appeals to local tastes. This adaption of a marketing strategy can be seen throughout our Facebook and other channels.

How does the app make money? Given the app had an initial investment of $32 million have you managed to break even?

The app has several revenue sources and they change depending on the market. In some markets we charge a booking fee to passengers and in others we charge a fixed fee per ride to the driver.

As we have a great taxi fleet in most markets, it offers a great opportunity to work with advertising partners to monetise the taxis’ advertising space. The company is growing at a tremendous pace month-on-month with plans to continue the expansion.

Can you drop some points on how to make a mobile app successful in Hong Kong? 

The best way to create an app that is quickly adopted by Hong Kongers is to make sure you truly understand their needs. Spend time with your target users. Know their pain points and include their feedback in everything you do.

With the fast-pace lifestyle of Hong Kong, designing a beautiful app is not enough. People in Hong Kong are spoiled by an unlimited number of choices; a new app has to improve their life in a real and noticeable way in order to break through all the noise.

Jennifer Chan
Marketing Magazine Hong Kong
Jennifer Chan covers daily online news and monthly features for Marketing magazine. She began her journalism career in London as a fashion writer and food reporter, where her interest in writing was sparked. Now based in Hong Kong, she most recently discovered the fun of reporting about the creative industry, uncovering marketing trends and hanging out with marketing and agency insiders.

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