May 20, 2014

Austrian pilot shows personalised marketing works

In a pilot project in the Austrian region of Waldviertel, face-to-face public transport marketing led to a 19 percent increase in public transport use.

Active mobility consultancy – an individualised approach to public transport marketing – has proved hugely successful in a pilot project in the Austrian region of Waldviertel. Public transport use increased, and participants supported the idea of similar campaigns throughout Europe.

This was one of the clinching arguments for obtaining European funding for the SmartMove project, according to sustainable mobility expert Roman Klementschitz, who spoke at SmartMove’s launch event this summer in Burgos, Spain.

Klementschitz, of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, and one of the coordinator's of the Waldviertel pilot project, presented it as a model to be followed in Burgos and the other eight rural regions where SmartMove will be implemented.

He described how the Waldviertel trial began with direct mailing to nearly 1,000 rural households in the target region. Recipients were asked about their travel habits and their perceptions of public transport. They were invited to take part in a personal consultancy to see how public transport might better meet their travel needs, and were offered a range of information sources (such as timetables and maps) and some “ice-breaker” gifts (umbrellas, flashlights and overnight bags).

Klementschitz added that many of the informational items were personalised. Those interested in finding out how to commute by public transport simply needed to provide the coordinates for their departure point and destination, along with the usual time windows for travel. An expert consultant then gave them schedules and line numbers for the appropriate buses or trains.

Another popular item was a tailored tool for comparing the costs of commuting by car and public transport. The comparison figured in fuel costs based on the household’s own vehicle, as well as maintenance costs per kilometre. It did not include vehicle depreciation and other significant expenses that may have made the comparison appear biased, Klementschitz noted.

Fifty-four percent of the targeted households were successfully reached in the initial mailing, and of those, 84 percent took part in the consultancy. Some of those who took part were public transport users who wanted to learn more about local services, but most were people who did not use public transport but who were interested in the topic.

Participants' evaluations were extremely positive:

  • 94 percent said they felt better informed about local public transport;
  • 58 percent said they were more motivated to use public transport;
  • 56 percent had spoken to friends and acquaintances about the consultancy, ensuring the campaign had a ripple effect;
  • 83 percent said they would take part in such a campaign again; and
  • 91 percent said that similar campaigns should be carried out elsewhere in Europe.

In the Waldviertal case, there were two main bus lines in the catchment area. One was a short line with just three runs per day. Campaigners had no luck recruiting new users for this line. Those who were already using it did so because they had no choice. Others were dismissive about a bus that ran only three times a day.

On the second line, the hourly service during peak hours was seen as quite acceptable – especially for a rural service. On that line alone there was a 33 percent increase in passenger numbers.

Although the marketing campaign’s popularity was an indicator, “What really counts is the increase in the usage of public transport lines”, pointed out Klementschitz.

For more information, please watch the video presentation: Keynote presentation 1: Lessons learnt from the Waldviertel Case Study