Meet Alex Froom, CEO and Founder at Zipabout: The UK’s Leading Customised Travel Information Provider

Zipabout is the UK’s leading personalised travel information provider, helping millions use public transport effortlessly, safely and sustainably. We tailor the journey information that passengers need and deliver it in real-time on messaging channels, such as WhatsApp, Messenger and SMS, removing any need for apps.

Our technology offers a real solution to some of the big picture challenges we see across transport and beyond in a post-COVID world, such as how we encourage more people safely back on to public transport, how local authorities can hit ambitious net zero targets or even how we boost footfall for our local high streets.

We use patent-pending intent technology to understand demand across public transport networks, which means we can help operators optimize their services and improve the experience for their customers. We work with our transport and retail partners to offer passengers incentives and rewards to make greener choices when they travel – choosing to jump on an e-scooter to and from the train station rather than driving, for example, and receiving a free coffee and newspaper as a thank you for doing so.

And we work with local authorities to create demand-responsive transport systems which meet traveller need, regardless of whether they’re in a city or the middle of the countryside. Getting people out of cars, connecting them with local businesses and event venues – it all creates long-term sustainable change for the better.
 
 

 

What do you think makes this company unique?

 
Our entire business model is built on a truly ethical foundation. Whereas existing mobility-as-a-service platforms may skew their offering based on commercial bias or work within a black box framework, we choose to share real-time intelligence and insight with our partners, giving them a 360 view of their entire transport network.

There is absolutely no bias in the service we provide – we really do just give passengers the full range of options that are tailored to their journeys, and we do it without any use of location tracking at all. Instead, we use patent-pending technology to reliably and ethically predict where people will be through their interactions with transport information.

So whether passengers are receiving real-time disruption information or a reward from one of our retail partners, we know that the message will be entirely relevant and won’t have used intrusive tracking or third-party data sharing. To be able to do that ethically for customers who are on the move, and in a post-cookie world in particular, is incredibly unique.

It’s important to also mention that we do all this without the need for passengers to download yet another app. We use trusted messaging channels, like WhatsApp, which just makes the service far more accessible for millions.
 

 

How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?

 
After initially being founded to help manage crowding in London during the 2012 Olympic Games, the company and our product has taken huge strides forward. In 2018, our technology began powering the Alert Me service from National Rail Enquiries and by March 2019, we were the biggest global business user of Messenger, sending more than a million messages each month to passengers across the UK.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID lockdowns, we have continued to grow rapidly with partnerships with big transport operators, micro-mobility companies and local and national government. Last year, we worked with a roster of retail partners including WHSmith and Pret a Manger on a series of pilot schemes to encourage travelers back to public transport through personalized incentives.

The trials were incredibly successful – we were seeing conversion rates for the offers hitting 25%, which is twenty times more effective than Google and Facebook in this display advertising space.
 

What can we hope to see from Zipabout in the future?

 
Following the success of those loyalty retail trials, we’re in conversation with other partners to roll out similar schemes across the UK and into Europe. Incentivising behavioural change among passengers across public transport networks sits at the heart of what we do, and it’s exciting to be expanding our adtech offering. We’ve also had significant pull from European cities interested in our technology to help them tackle their transport and sustainability challenges, so creating a network for these cities to share learnings and insights will be key to bring about widescale long-term change.

To capitalize on this European interest, we’re currently finalizing a Series A round so there are plans for new European offices and rapid scaling of the team to support the product roll-outs.