Messaging Apps on the Move: How E-Mobility Start-ups in Barcelona Leverage Messenger Apps to Succeed
E-mobility start-ups in Barcelona are thriving, and growing, very fast! However, struggling with increased demand and expanding to new business models, they are looking for easier ways to communicate with their clients. The solution? Messaging apps!
City tours on an e-scooter? You got it! Wine tastings with e-bikes? No problem! Renting an electric car for the day? Go for it! It seems that no matter what you want to do or where you want to go in Barcelona, there is an electric vehicle ready to take you there. When it comes to electric mobility, Barcelona is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most innovative cities. The city launched its “Strategy for Electrical Mobility” in 2018, laying the ground for sustainable transportation quite early on.
This strategy also attracted a lot of mobility start-ups to Barcelona who brought new ways of moving around to the city, from electric kick scooters to e-bikes to Vespa-stlye e-scooters—and the Barcelonians loved it! The positive response was actually so overwhelming that start-ups were soon struggling to keep up with demand. And they found a surprising solution: messaging apps!
Overview: E-Mobility in Barcelona and the Rise of Messaging Apps
When Barcelona’s city counsel came out with their “Strategy for Electrical Mobility 2018 – 2024“, sustainable mobility was still a niche topic, especially in government planning. Nevertheless, their plans were quite ambitious. The city wanted to:
- electrify 80 percent of the municipal fleet by 2024,
- switch the whole bus fleet to zero-emission buses by 2040, and
- bring 24,000 electric cars to the city.
It was clear that in order to achieve these goals, as an early adopter, the city had to be proactive and take initial risks to implement these new technologies, such as creating better infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, and expanding the city-run bike sharing system Bicing. Soon, with 6,000 public rentals, Barcelona became Spain’s leading bike rental city.
The second step was to then mobilize citizens to use these services. And finally, Barcelona obviously also wanted to attract private mobility businesses to the city. The model was more successful than the city could have hoped for. Barcelona became a living e-mobility lab that other cities looked towards for implementing their own sustainable mobility models.
Barcelona was successful in implementing affordable, sustainable transportation for its citizens, and was soon considered as one of the most advanced smart cities in the world. With the growing buzz around Barcelona as a forward-thinking place, mobility start-ups started coming to the city. With them, they also brought new means of transportation, from e-bikes to kick-scooters to electric car sharing.
Barcelona is a city of commuters. It’s also a city of steep hills and long distances. Together, these factors make it an ideal place for electric vehicles. As most Barcelonians use the vehicles for their commutes or last-mile transportation, the sharing and rental offers are particularly popular.
The success of electric kick-scooters
Around 2018, Barcelona was one of the first European cities to welcome electric kick-scooters, both as rental and as sharing models. Two of the most notable e-mobility start-ups are Reby and Gomeep (formerly known as Meep). For a long time, the two local start-ups dominated the market, even with large competitors, such as Bird and Lime trying to push in.
Reby scooters could be located and booked through a mobile app. At a relatively low cost (one Euro to unlock a scooter, and 15 cents per minute), it was fairly popular with locals. Gomeep entered the market in 2019 with a subscription model, where users could lease an electric kick-scooter for 39 Euros per month. It also included an insurance package and a maintenance service. If, for example, a Gomeep scooter would break down, a service team would come to fix it.
However, with the number of accidents quadrupling and many vehicles being left illegally on the sidewalks, by 2020 the city started imposing stricter regulations on shared kick-scooters, such as wearing helmets, and banning the vehicles from public sidewalks. Interestingly, this paved the way for the success of electric bikes in the city.
The success of electric bikes
As e-scooters became a less attractive option to ride around the city, people started switching to e-bikes. Due to the hilly terrain and wide distances, bicycles had not been the most popular options for Barcelonians. However, electric bikes became a game changer.
In 2020, the e-bike market in Spain broke all records. The national trade organization AMBE reported a 48.9 percent year-on-year growth for e-bikes. Urban bike sales in general went up 46.4 percent. Especially amid the decline of shared mobility due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this presented a new opportunity for e-mobility start-ups. Many of them pivoted their business models to now also include electric bikes.
It soon became apparent that it wasn’t only commuters who rented the bikes, but also a very specific group: delivery drivers.
From delivering packages to food delivery, the pandemic accelerated the delivery business around the world. E-Mobility start-ups reacted, and shifted their offers to appeal to delivery drivers as well. Gomeep, for example, started renting e-bikes to individual drivers, as well as providing fleets to companies. With great success.
Gomeep’s short-term rental model is very popular with delivery drivers because many of them don’t want to invest 2,000 Euros or more to buy a new electric bike as they get started. So being able to rent an e-bike for a few months, is very convenient to them. The electric driving support of the bikes also helped them to get around the city faster and easier, and increased their profitability.
As e-mobility start-ups like Gomeep started expanding their business, they also started facing new challenges. With a fast-growing customer base, they also had to handle a lot more incoming requests. Drivers wanted to know how to sign up for the rental programs. Businesses called about renting fleets, and private customers needed help from the maintenance service. Until then, Gomeep had handeled virtually all customers inquiries through messenger apps, and they knew, they wanted to stick with messenger communication.
In Spain, as of 2022, out of a population of 47 million people, more than 40 million people are on social media.
Out of all social media applications, however, there is one app that people in Spain absolutely love: WhatsApp. A total of 91 percent of internet users between 16 and 64 years are on the messenger. It’s therefore not surprising that e-mobility start-ups like Gomeep also use the green messenger to communicate with their clients.
When Gomeep first started out in 2019, they actually didn’t even think about any other form of customer communication. E-mail was too slow, and SMS didn’t give them as many rich media options as WhatsApp. On WhatsApp it is possible to send files, images, and you can even chat on the desktop, so it’s also more flexible for clients. And: virtually all of their customers were already using WhatsApp.
For the first few years, Gomeep used the simple WhatsApp Business version. However, as they pivoted their business towards the delivery industry, the regular WhatsApp business app was not able to handle all the incoming requests anymore. A more powerful solution was needed. This is where the WhatsApp Business API comes in.
🔎 Discover more: WhatsApp Business for Companies: Everything You Need to Know!
Unlike the private WhatsApp app that we all know from communicating with our friends and family, businesses also have the option to use WhatsApp Business, a free app specifically designed for small business owners.
WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp Business API
In fact, companies are not allowed to use the regular WhatsApp app for business purposes, so a lot of them, like Gomeep, start out with the free business app.
However, the app is more limited in its use, and doesn’t guarantee GDPR-compliance, so many businesses switch to a professional WhatsApp Business API solution.
🤷 Confused by the different apps? We can help! Read on to find out what the differences between WhatsApp Business and the WhatsApp Business API are!
Gomeep: Increasing revenue through WhatsApp Business API
For Gomeep, the WhatsApp Business API was the perfect solution for their growing customer base. They worked with MessengerPeople to integrate a chatbot into their business account who now answers frequent questions for customers, and shows them where they can find more information.
With the chatbot solution and the WhatsApp Business API, Gomeep was able to stick to their customers’ favorite communication channel, while at the same time, handle incoming requests faster and relieve their service team. It also helped their bottom line.
At the 2022 Mobile Ecosystem Forum, Gomeep CEO and co-founder George Parker explained that the cost per aquisition on the WhatsApp Business API was smaller compared to the revenue generated by each customer using the API.
Messaging apps can therefore be a powerful business driver, cut costs, and improve the customer experience, as the example of Gomeep shows.
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