Despite recent controversy surrounding Uber, many of its competitors have fallen by the wayside - dwarfed by the app’s easy and all-too-convenient UX. 

However, while the likes of Sidecar and Hailo have been defeated, Curb is putting up a good fight. 

Bought out by Verifone in 2016, which is the credit card company that supports payments in many of New York City’s yellow cabs, Curb is a new company that allows users to hail or pre-book with professional cab-drivers operating in US cities.

Now in 65 different locations, Curb has recently ramped up its online efforts – specifically using a location-based social strategy to target new customers. Here’s a bit more on its recent campaign and a few reasons why location-based advertising has worked.

Targeting on social platforms

According to Global Web Index, 65% of Uber’s audience is made up of 16 to 34 year-olds, while just 6% of its users are over 55. Unsurprisingly, this younger demographic is also the most active on social media, with 87% of people aged 18 to 29 also using Facebook, and 59% of this age range also using Instagram.

The decision to focus on these two platforms in particular was a no-brainer for Curb. And with bad-feeling towards Uber increasing in recent months, the company seized the opportunity to tempt existing customers away from the brand.

Curb teamed up with data-driven company Taptica to launch a social campaign across Facebook and Instagram, targeting relevant Android and iOS users in key locations. The brand also used an incentive, offering promotional codes for $5 or $10 off first rides. 

Discounting tends to be an effective tactic when it comes to tempting customers to try a new service, but perhaps even more so considering Curb typically costs a few dollars more than Uber. This is because the company charges an extra service fee as well as the fact it uses standard taxi fares calculated by a meter - and encourages tips. This might put-off customers who are used to Uber’s lower prices, however Curb does not use surge pricing – which means it can also work out much cheaper overall.

Regardless, the discount-strategy certainly worked here – the incentive reportedly resulted in a 2.5X increase in app engagement.

Location-based incentives

Alongside money-off, Curb’s campaign also utilised a location-based strategy, honing on specific aspects of US cities.

By mentioning popular events or features exclusive to each or corresponding places, the ads were able to effectively pique the interest of people who live and work nearby. This type of ad also helps to create a much more personal connection, with users recognising that it is relevant to something unique to them. Or at least a little more so than a standard ad. 

Curb already uses locations in this way on its own social media channels, where it often mentions daily or weekly events, but this is usually to target existing users in bigger cities like New York or Chicago.

In order to engage with new customers in cities where the app is less popular, Curb widened its radar – serving ads to people within a 50-mile radius of certain locations.

Meanwhile, to create a large-scale campaign but also save on costs, it used a joint-city approach where possible. This meant that it targeted relevant customers in similar cities, without over-spending on any one place. 

The results

Curb’s social campaign has contributed to the company’s recent growth. According to Mobile Marketer, it drove a 300% increase in app downloads, while targeting customers within a 50-mile radius drove five times more app installs. 

The Curb app moved from number 46 to 23 in the Google Play Store chart, and finally, the brand added 12 more locations since the three-month campaign ended.

What can we learn?

You could argue that Curb’s recent growth is a possible sign of resistance against Uber, but as the aforementioned results show, the campaign itself is not to be sniffed at.

So, why did the ads resonate so much?

Recent studies suggest that irrelevance is the main reason why consumers choose to use ad blockers, with 49% of people saying that ads are too irrelevant or annoying. To counteract this, marketers need to make campaigns as pertinent as possible – and using location is a great way to do this.

It’s easy to scroll past an ad for a random product or brand, but less so to bypass the name of nearby place – especially if it is your home. The fact that Curb’s ads were tailored to where users live and work surely resulted in more engagement than they would if they were generic ads about the brand. 

There are limits to this kind of targeting of course. The line between relevant or personalised and an invasion of privacy can be rather thin. While targeting based on city-location is one thing, it might be a whole different story if Curb started using specific journey-based data to target customers.

Interestingly, Facebook has just announced that it is to take targeting a step further by serving ads to households rather than individuals. This means that it will recommend brands or products that it thinks a co-habiting couple or the entire family would be involved with, such as travel or large technology items. 

Beside the point here, perhaps, yet it does show how brands might be reaching social media users in future. And for Curb - a company aiming to compete with a giant like Uber (who also has masses of data at its fingertips) – it’s a sign that creativity and caution will remain key to success.  

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 5 September, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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