CMO Strategy Summit

Could Zipcar Make a Move Into the Mobile Deals Biz?

CMO Outlines How Car-Sharing Leader Leverages Its Data

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Rob Weisberg
Rob Weisberg

With its fully GPS-equipped vehicle fleet, car-sharing company Zipcar could theoretically begin sending mobile offers for stores and restaurants that customers pass by while out driving. And Chief Marketing Officer Rob Weisberg suggested that Zipcar could be evaluating such tactics.

"You might see how that data could be valuable," Mr. Weisberg told fellow marketers Wednesday at Ad Age 's CMO Strategy Summit in Chicago. "At some point we may decide to leverage that data," he added. "If you happen to be driving by a Starbucks, and we want to send you an offer on your mobile device, that might be a potential adjacency we could potentially look to in the future."

With 700,000 members and more than 9,000 cars in urban areas, the company dominates the relatively new car-sharing industry. But even with all that steel and wheels, Zipcar is as much about bits and bytes, with reams of data at its disposal that it uses to grow and refine its business.

"People talk about Big Data," Mr. Weisberg said. But "for us, data is the business. It's that simple. It's how we run the business." He proved his point by displaying slide after slide of colorful charts and graphs.

For now, Zipcar uses the GPS data only to predict if a customer might be late in returning their car, so that the company can make arrangements for the next person in line. But Zipcar maintains and examines on a daily basis many other data points that Mr. Weisberg said are invaluable. For instance, the company has paired transactional data, such as what cars people are using and how many miles they drive, with demographic information and information from attitudinal surveys.

"We track and measure everything," he said. "It's a bit Big Brother-ish."

Mr. Weisberg later clarified that he was joking about being Big Brother. And when quizzed on rising concerns about online privacy, he pointed out that with Zipcar's data, "I don't know you. You are a number. And all I know is you have a certain demographic profile."

As for the geo-targeting deals, such as the Starbucks example, he said: "Naturally we don't want to be Big Brother. What we want to do is offer up offers to people who … opt-in to receive them."

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