Pronto Cycles is a new bicycle-share service in Seattle. The concept of a bicycle share is to provide bicycles for short-term rentals throughout a city. The mission of the service is as a public transportation tool to aid people who may generally take the bus into the city, but still require additional transportation options once there. The bikes are easy and quick to check out and are intended for short term trips between destinations.
Pronto Cycle share is pursuing the general commuter as their market. They are disrupting the transportation market by providing a new service which enables people to travel to locations in lieu of personal vehicles, taxis, or buses. Although some users of Pronto Cycles may be using the bicycles for recreational purposes, the primary intent is on disrupting the commuter travel industry. This is demonstrated through the selection of stations locations was based on the proximity to businesses, schools, and retail locations. Instead of placing stations near convenient trails for recreation, the stations were situated in order to maximize use for standard trips users might make in the normal course of a day. Additionally, the pricing structure was also determined with the goal of encouraging quick trips between stations. Instead of pricing by the minute or trip, Pronto instituted passes which grant the passholder unlimited 30 minute trips. Passes may be for 24 hours, 3-days, or 1 year. This structure is meant to encourage short trips which may have otherwise occurred with a car or bus. The education program which Pronto has instituted in order to market the system is also geared towards educating consumers about how they might be able to utilize the service to avoid making an extra trip in a bus or car.
Pronto Cycles has positioned themselves as a public service which can be used as a supplemental travel option. In order to reach their first customers, Pronto relied heavily on word of mouth, press, their website, and social media. Although bike sharing services had been introduced in other cities, Pronto found a need to educate users in Seattle about how this could be used and what exactly a bike share service was. In order to help gain input and educate potential customers, Pronto held community forums. Currently, Pronto has over 2,000 followers on twitter @CyclePronto. Additionally, Pronto made use of their website and an email newsletter list to reach their first customers before and after they launched. Due to the very public nature of the service, Pronto was able to leverage the media in order to gain exposure. In particular, by being a local service, Pronto was featured in local media columns detailing the progress towards implementing the service, and announcing public forums which Pronto used to gather customer feedback.
In addition to finding their initial market, Pronto has been continuing to work to reach more customers. In order to find more customers, Pronto has reached out through bicycle advocacy groups and social media campaigns. Pronto is working to engage their customers by providing a social media campaign which encourages users to find a specially-colored bicycle and post pictures. A large part of Pronto’s mission and method to increase users is driven by getting their users to change their habits, so their marketing campaigns have been organized around encouraging people to consider biking as a mode of transit. Pronto regularly engages with their customers in order to generate interest and keep customers returning. For example, Pronto helped encourage and sponsor a race which involved using Pronto bikes to get to different locations around the city.