Launch to 1 million Rides in 1 year
Much of what a typical growth team does happens behind the scenes and is often unsexy but Lyft serves as one of the best examples in recent of years of a startup that has incorporated excellent positioning, branding and unique engagement hooks into their service making the entire product perfectly designed for growth.
Lyft (for those of you outside of San Francisco) is a peer-to-peer ride-sharing company that launched in the summer of 2012 as a side-project by the company Zimride. Since launching, in just over 1 year Lyft has grown to over 1 million rides, expanded to 15 cities, raised $83 million in funding, built a passionate fan-base all while fiercely competing with more well-funded competitor UBER who had a 1 year head start.
So how has Lyft managed to grow so effectively to become one of best startup success stories of the past year? I’ve identified 7 well-executed tactics that apply growth, branding and community management principles into their growth.
#1: The Pink Mustache
It’s hard to walk around the city of San Francisco without noticing the Pink Mustache Rides. A great example of designing a product and brand to be remarkable as Seth Godin would describe — worthy of making a remark, these Pink Mustaches are given to drivers who are encouraged to place them on the hood of their car to identify the brand and make it easy to spot your driver when they arrive.
The pink mustache aligns perfectly with the friendly and approachable brand that Lyft personifies. It’s soft, fuzzy, approachable — girls love it, kids love it, people are curious and ask about it. Compare that with the cold, impersonal experience that most people have with a typical cab ride. Lyft does a great job at increasing the top of their funnel by generating conversation around their product.
#2: The Fist Pump
Upon entering your Lyft, passengers (who sit in the front seat) are greeted by their drivers with a fist pump. This clever ice-breaker helps create a memorable first user WOW experience and the driver-passenger relationship immediately becomes more personal. Online products measure retention and test various first user experiences to increase retention — Lyft is applying the same principles to the offline world by delivering a delightful and personal first ride experience.
#3: Free Schwag
Another great tactic used by Lyft is to encourage their drivers to hand out free candy, water, gum or other goodies. This works especially well when you’re riding with a group of your free-loading friends and is a great way for your them to have a memorable ride and download the app…or just continue benefiting from your addiction to Lyft rides.
#4: Decked-Out Rides
Every Lyft ride is unique. I’ve been in Lyft cars with LED lights decorating the car, space cat-themed decorations and even an SUV with dual-screen PS2′s for head-to-head Mortal Kombat. Each rid offers a little surprise which makes it more then just a convenient way to get from point A to point B. Lyft empowers their drivers by allowing them to be creative and unique rather then forcing them to abide by a long list of corporate rules. This makes the dynamic much more fun between the passengers and drivers. I always love hearing stories of how drivers got started using Lyft and how they are using it to make extra income or make their own schedule balancing school or other jobs.
#5 Clean and Focused CTA on Homepage
The primary objective of a Sign-up page is to get people to sign up. With all the great photos of drivers and riders it would be easy for them to make the common mistake of turning the homepage into a long “About Us” marketing page but Lyft does a great job at giving just enough imagery to convey the brand while focusing the call to action on signing up.
#6 Share the Love
The Invite Friends functionality is quite basic but effective. It’s interesting to note the only option is to Invite via your phone’s contact list — I wouldn’t be surprised if this was proven to be the best converting channel and other options such as Facebook, email and twitter were removed. The Invite process is one-click and sends an invitation message with a link back to the homepage. I’d expect that both the invite message and homepage have been tested and optimized and while unsexy these two combine for effective conversion rates.
Lyft and Uber
Lyft has a ton of challenges ahead as they are in a crowded space with well-funded competitors. Uber just recently closed a $258 million round for a total of $307M in funding and my friend Jason believes their CEO Travis is poised to be The Rockefeller of Transportation.
It’s extremely hard to compete as #2 in a network-effects driven business. Adding more drivers is the biggest need for both marketplaces as demand for the services is rising faster then the supply of new drivers and both companies fight for market share without diluting the quality of the rider experience. I’ve already noticed a drop in quality on several occasions although I believe Lyft’s positioning as a friendlier peer-to-peer ride-sharing service allows for more forgiveness when a driver doesn’t know how to get somewhere.