Why Grab isn't intimidated by the 57 upcoming SMRT trains

With 57 new SMRT trains being fully inducted by 2019, one may think ride hailing platforms such as Grab may run into some stiff competition. However, Emily Poon, head of marketing analytics at Grab, is of the view that the ride hailing platform will continue to be a complementary service to all types of transportation – including public ones.

“With more train connections, Singapore will be better connected. But a train connection will not get you exactly to your doorstep, so we hope that Grab can bridge that and win that first and last mile,” Poon explained, at Marketing's Analytics 2017 conference.

However, this does not mean Grab does not have its fair share of challenges having to go against a well connected local transportation industry. Having a great public transportation to go against is one of the pain points for the ride-hailing app, Poon admits. But, this is balanced out with the low car ownership in Singapore.

Keeping in view that there are positive and negative points for each market, Poon added it is hence up to analysts and marketers to understand how they can make that an advantage for the brand. In fact, its analytics team in-house also allows the company to determine its pricing strategy and improve its target by geography.

“We use data extensively to understand the transport hubs in Singapore and other markets. We look at where people are going to, and areas that have high performance and areas where there are potential,” Poon explained.

Analysing location based data

For brands thinking of utilising the analysing of locations to better understand consumers, Poon outlines 4 critical Ps to remember. These are: People, Partnerships, Placement and Potential.

'People' refers to the understanding of consumer behaviour through the analysis of areas with different level of activity and demographics data. This helps with 'Placement', which refers to the positioning of outdoor advertising optimally to reach both existing and new customers.

“We use location to help us profile and understand the consumers that we have. After the analysis we determine which are the places with high levels of activity and we would use that for placement,” Poon explained.

This allows Grab to look to where the places with high density are. It will then try to use those areas to reach new and existing customers to keep reminding them about using its product and services. One example is a campaign it ran in Malaysia’s Klang Valley to promote its 100% Ride Guarantee initiative.

'Partnerships' on the other hand, are also key as it identifies opportunities to partner with certain types of organisations that attract high value customers. For the case of Grab, Poon explained that the brand uses data to determine who to partner with, this can be from where their customer frequent. This can also culminate in brand partnerships with shopping brands to hotels residing in certain areas.

While giving discounts and rebates is one way to drive usage, Poon added that it is through the partnerships Grab make that allows us to be more relevant to users.

We want to be there when they are thinking about transportation. It is not necessarily just about price, but rather creating awareness and branding to increase usage from our customers.

Lastly, using data allows Grab to tap on 'Potential', which refers to targeting and identifying underserved areas with opportunity for growth.

“Don't ignore the places which do not typically have high volumes or densities. It may be underserved which might mean more potential and opportunities for growth. This is especially places which have similar characteristics to your top performing locations,” Poon said.

Track and measure location-based marketing campaigns

Tracking and measuring are also a big part of location-based marketing. How brands can do so, according to Poon is by identifying the mechanics of the program, tracking business and marketing metrics and making fair comparisons.

“You need to understand your programme mechanics and what is the objective you are trying to achieve with the campaign. For example is it acquisition, retention or branding? Closely link that to your calls to action, which could be discounts and promotions, or trials,” Poon said.

Modes of communication are also important, this ranges from EDM pushes to outdoor ads. This should be thought of as different ways to differentiate location-based promotions brands are undertaking. Meanwhile for marketing metrics, Grab looks at engagement and conversion rates.

“For our case, we always ask what our promotion goals are. Are we trying to get new customers to download? Are we getting new customers to ride? Or are we trying to get existing customers to ride more?” Poon said.