Regularly review the marketing strategy of the Public Transport network and the 'product range' in line with the reviewing of services. Also consider reviewing the branding over time as consumer preferences change.
Public transport is operating in a continuously changing environment; it has to deal with a limited life cycle of its products and services and with changing customer preferences and expectations. It is important to continuously monitor the development of these aspects and review and adapt the marketing strategy and the range of products and services in line with these changes. This process of continuous product reviewing and regeneration is common practice in the consumer retail sectors. As already stated in guideline on User needs and expectations, the size and scope of significant reviews will vary depending on what changes in land-use, policies, user lifestyles, etc. have taken place. Not adapting the marketing strategies and product range may result in time in an outdated public transport product, unused market opportunities and loss of market share.
Examples of changes to be considered:
Changing environment: Planned extension of parking regulation will affect the use of public transport, but also the demand for new products like Park & Ride or Bike & Ride services. An ageing population means higher requirements regarding accessibility of buses and bus stops and maybe new demand for public transport at other times and places and even new ‘ticket products’ for this group.
Customer preferences and expectations: In order to meet changing preferences, new products and services have to be introduced and old ones have to be phased out or renewed in time.
Product life cycle: Typically products go through the following life cycle: development > introduction > growth > maturity > decline. The life cycle of some public transport products may last for a long time while for others it may be shorter. In order to prolong the life cycle of public transport products it is essential to invest well in the development of the product and the promotion of it. Once the product is on the market it may be necessary to periodically ‘inject new life’ into it. This can be done in several ways including: product renewal and improvement, improved promotion etc.
For additional information on product regeneration and review see ► Background information: Product life cycle.
Product renewal or regeneration should not conflict with a main principle of ‘branding’ which is ‘continuity’. The appearance of a brand can change, but preferably only gradually without causing confusion to the users. The same applies to its elements like numbering / naming of lines, corporate design etc.
Brighton & Hove (UK): The company has a policy of continually re-evaluating its branding to ensure that it is fresh, relevant and eye-catching. At the same time, it takes care to ensure an easy transition from branding images that have been used in the past in order to maintain brand loyalty.
Elbląg (Poland): Market analyses concerning the assessment of the quality of services as perceived by passengers were conducted in 1995 and 2003. According to the findings, the quality of transportation services in Elbląg was improved.
In business theory it is assumed that products follow a life-cycle, going through phases of development as follows:
The conception of an idea / product.
Research and development.
Introduction to the market.
A period of growth then follows as consumers become increasingly aware of the service and, if successful, it attracts more consumers. Eventually, the growth will level off - this is the mature phase and is usually the result of increased competition. The theory predicts that use will gradually decline as the market becomes saturated and consumer tastes change.
However, it would be wrong to assume that after the uphill struggles of the development and growth phases, life becomes easier on the level. It is a considerable challenge to the marketing professionals to prolong the profitable mature phase for as long as possible, using a range of extension strategies.
A major drawback with the product life cycle theory is that it cannot be used as a predictor. Firms may be able to identify some of the stages of development from historical sales data, but they cannot know their exact position on the cycle, nor in which direction they might be heading. In addition, some products seem to enjoy very long maturity, if not immortality, with no signs of decline.
Extending the product life span is the goal of many firms, but achieving this requires careful co-ordination of corporate and marketing objectives and strategies.