However in October of last year – several dozen legal battles and a heap of marketing spend later – Hailo announced they were pulling out of the North American market entirely. The company cited the astronomical ad spend vs. effectiveness as the main reason for doing so.
And this may be true in part.
I worked very briefly on Hailo over a year ago and the wonderful thing about digital products is you really can see effectiveness really clearly…(e.g. app downloads vs. media spend). However I’d imagine – based on my reading of numerous articles and all those online interviews with key players since – it was actually the war against already established digital competitors like Uber, the legal battles within individual U.S. states regarding fair competition and most of all, the unity of the taxi drivers themselves in terms of not adopting – that were probably the main reasons for their rapid retreat. With so many battles to fight, outdated technologies to have to comply with and an Eastern market to crack in the meantime, Hailo had probably spread itself too thin, too fast. Perhaps oddly, the fact that they saw where they could not win and pulled out to focus on where they could dominate would give me more confidence in the company rather than less.
Because regularly re-assessing strategy is something not a lot of businesses do but really should.
Taxis/cabs/black cabs/car hire/yellow cabs, whatever you want to term it, it’s a very different animal depending on which urban jungle you happen to be in. What works in Dublin (where the Hailo value proposition was desperately needed) doesn’t necessarily work in the cab capital of New York. Consumer needs are different and – perhaps more importantly – taxi drivers needs are very different too.
So up to this point, Hailo has used the point of being an ‘immediate’ taxi hail, rather than a booking, as the strategy for entering markets. It was simply a different product – not a bookings competitor. This ‘ah, don’t mind us’ approach means Taxi drivers could use Hailo while, in theory, still work for their traditional cab company. Now however, they have the established cab relationships and the size to really compete head to head.
So it seems between Hailo and Uber the traditional cab companies are rather doomed in Ireland… in similar way, I think, to how the whole HMV thing played out. Specifically, by sitting back and not updating their strategy to incorporate digital while they had the market advantage.
There may still be time, but to be honest, I imagine it’s too late for most. They should have re-assessed their strategy years ago.
P.S. Two handy ‘hacks’ for Hailo.
1) Taxi Type – Hailo Dublin now has 3 levels of ‘poshness’ – regular taxi, Hailo+ and HailoExec but did you know you can also select a 6 or 8 seater or wheelchair access vehicle in the ‘options’ menu?
2) You can Hailo on someone elses behalf (like if a loved one has lost their wallet) and pay by card – just move the pin to their location and maybe give the cab a courtesy call once confirmed to let them know who they’re picking up (they’ll be able to see your ‘pin’ vs your GPS so will probably just call you themselves).