Technology giants fight again to aggregate taxis

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Text / Xiaoman

Source / Jingzhe Research Institute (ID: jingzheyanjiusuo)

The long-silent online car-hailing market has once again become the focus because of the collective entry of technology giants.

On July 27, Huawei officially announced the launch of the online aggregation taxi platform Petal Travel, including Tencent Travel, which had previously tested the taxi service in WeChat. At present, the aggregation taxi track has gathered five major Internet companies: AutoNavi, Meituan, Baidu, Huawei, and Tencent.

For the online car-hailing market that gathers huge traffic and cash flow at the same time, the leading technology companies have never given up their intention to meddle. From the early stage of capital melee and personal exit, to the way to intervene and become an upstream player of travel service providers through aggregation platforms, behind the new strategy of technology giants’ transformation, not only has it brought about a new round of industry changes, but also exposed online car-hailing. Challenges the industry is facing.

The market structure has changed abruptly, and aggregated taxis are on the scene

In May 2010, “the originator of online car-hailing” Yidaoyongche was established in Beijing, and the history of China’s online car-hailing industry began. Under the background that the Internet industry promotes social development, the major online car-hailing platforms staged a cruel plot of “natural selection” in the capital chaos. Data shows that from 2013 to 2016, more than 40 travel service platforms appeared in China’s online car-hailing market. In 2017, the scale of China’s online car-hailing market exceeded 200 billion yuan.

But later, as the head platform gradually won the competition in the industry, coupled with the ebb of capital, the online car-hailing industry ushered in a phased and stable pattern of Didi’s dominance in chaos, which was originally stimulated by subsidies. The extremely active supply and demand market has also returned to calm. Platform users found that the cost of taking a taxi has increased, but the efficiency of taking a taxi has become lower. Sometimes, in order to get a taxi, users have to install many taxi apps on one mobile phone. This poor user experience has also spawned an aggregated taxi service.

In July 2017, the AutoNavi platform was officially launched, and the entry of “the largest map service provider in China” took the lead in turning over a page in the history of the online car-hailing industry that belongs to an aggregated car-hailing platform. Travel service providers such as Didi Chuxing, Shenzhou Special Car, Shouqi Car-hailing, and Mobike that have been connected by AutoNavi have also gained traffic and business growth.

More importantly, for consumers, through a mobile app, they can call different platforms and different types of cars. At the same time, the travel discounts of each platform are also clear at a glance, and people’s most simple taxi needs have been basically satisfied.

After seeing the success of the converged taxi-hailing model, traditional tech giants have stepped down to join the war. In October 2017, Baidu also launched an aggregated taxi service three months after AutoNavi was launched; in April 2019, Meituan also launched an aggregated taxi service; after seeing that its traffic was continuously diluted by other aggregation platforms, Didi couldn’t help but launch the “aggregation platform” model in June 2019, which has successively connected to a number of third-party platforms including Mizao Taxi, Ruqi Chuxing, Zebra Express, Dongfeng Chuxing, and old rival Cao Cao Chuxing. Providing traffic portals for third parties has become a “platform for taxi-hailing platforms”.

According to the “2021 Travel Industry Market Insights” report released by Wilson Auto Intelligent Decision, the scale of China’s online car-hailing market is expected to reach 434.1 billion yuan in 2025, and the compound growth rate of China’s online car-hailing market from 2022 to 2025 is about 10%. . In the face of the still rapidly growing online car-hailing market, no tech giant can be unmoved.

Some people want traffic, some people want ecology

In addition to helping users get taxis faster, the value of the aggregated taxi-hailing model in the entire online car-hailing ecosystem is also very prominent. Especially after the early stage of competition in the industry dominated by price wars, there are many new players targeting the regional market across the country, and the construction of resources at both ends of drivers and users has become a very high industry threshold.

In 2018, Meituan tried to develop online car-hailing business in Shanghai and Nanjing under its self-operated model. Even though Meituan, which has accumulated considerable user traffic, suffered huge losses in order to supplement the resources of online car-hailing drivers. The prospectus released by Meituan when it went public shows that its online car-hailing driver-related costs have increased exponentially, from 290 million yuan in 2017 to 4.46 billion yuan in 2018. The investment was as high as 370 million yuan, and the net loss of Meituan that year reached 8.52 billion yuan, which means that the cost related to the car-hailing driver accounted for half of the net loss.

In the Internet industry, online car-hailing platforms are destined to invest huge costs in acquiring customers. When hundreds of platforms in the industry compete for users together, it will only lead to skyrocketing traffic prices. According to the statistics of the national online car-hailing supervision information exchange platform, as of February 28, 2022, a total of 263 online car-hailing platform companies across the country have obtained business licenses, an increase of 41 compared with the same period in 2021 and an increase of 22 compared with July 2021. .

In the situation of multi-party melee, traffic has become an important battlefield for the platform, but instead of taking the risk to find traffic, it is better to buy traffic directly from mature platforms, so many online car-hailing platforms gradually rely on aggregated car-hailing platforms as traffic. The ride-hailing platforms are not using their own traffic for charity, including AutoNavi, Huawei, and Tencent, all of which have the intention of enriching their own business ecosystems with ride-hailing services.

In addition to accessing the travel services of different online car-hailing platforms, AutoNavi also accesses other travel-related services such as refueling, train tickets, air tickets, and hotel reservations, covering almost all travel scenarios. Navigation is the starting point for core functional scene positioning.

The travel service added by Tencent under the “Payment and Payment” page of WeChat is based on digital payment and expands the application scenarios of WeChat payment. way of realization.

As for the aggregated taxi service Petal Travel launched by Huawei, it is obviously an extension service to expand the application scenarios of the Hongmeng system. It is worth mentioning that Petal originated from Petal Maps, a map application launched by Huawei for overseas users in October 2020. It was released in the Chinese market as a car navigation application at the end of last year and loaded on the AITO M5. Therefore, some people in the industry believe that Huawei may provide online car-hailing services through Petal Travel, thereby generating a large amount of road data for generating high-precision maps and providing sufficient information for Huawei’s autonomous driving system.

From this point of view, users, online car-hailing platforms and aggregated car-hailing platforms will all benefit from this model.

A win-win situation for the three parties, there are still hidden dangers

From an industry point of view, the emergence of aggregated taxi-hailing platforms has solved the industry involution of online car-hailing platforms and eased the embarrassment of users not being able to get a taxi. The original intention is slightly contradictory.

Back in 2010, when the car-hailing industry was just emerging, countless car-hailing platforms were shouting slogans to break the monopoly of the industry and improve the utilization rate of social resources. Including in the “burning money subsidy war” period, users also enjoy ultra-low travel costs far lower than the taxi meter price.

However, with the integration of platforms and the ebb of capital, the industry has entered a stable period, and the experience of discounted taxis no longer exists. People have also found that the online car-hailing platform that raised its banner against the monopoly of the taxi industry at the beginning has become a taxi company.

Today, when the car-hailing platform becomes the main traffic source of the car-hailing platform, people also have to worry about whether the car-hailing platform will become a new monopoly entrance in the future. Another point that has to be mentioned is that in the fierce competition among online car-hailing platforms, will car-hailing drivers who really generate value also benefit from it?

Previously, some media broke the news that some online car-hailing companies on the aggregation platform had played a “digital game” on the commission. Take China Travel on AutoNavi’s taxi platform as an example, the commissioning rule is: platform commissioning ratio = (total amount paid by passengers – driver’s labor remuneration) / amount before passenger discount. For other aggregation platforms such as Didi and Meituan, the calculation method of the commission is: commission ratio = (the amount actually paid by the passenger – the amount actually received by the driver) / the amount actually paid by the passenger.

It can be seen that the denominators of the above two commission calculation methods are different. In actual cases, the amount before the passenger discount is greater than the actual payment amount. The aggregation platform can increase the price first and then issue the coupon to make the driver see the commission. The ratio looks lower.

In addition to the problem of commission fees, there are also great loopholes in the qualification review of online car-hailing service providers by the aggregation car-hailing platform. Previously, AutoNavi was exposed by the Three Gorges Evening News, providing services to 6 online car-hailing platforms in Yichang City that had not obtained the “Online Taxi Booking Business License”. At the end of June this year, the Nanning Traffic Law Enforcement Team reported that among the 18 online car-hailing platforms that AutoNavi has accessed in Nanning, there are only 10 online bookings including T3 Travel, Cao Cao Travel, Shouqi Car-hailing, and Shenzhou Special Car. The car platform has obtained the “Online Taxi Booking Business License” in Nanning.

From the era of taxis to the era of online car-hailing, and now the aggregation of taxi-hailing platforms has moved to the center of the historical stage, users have always expected more advanced and more user-friendly products to bring a better travel experience. But in the nearly 12 years of the booming development of online car-hailing, we cannot turn a blind eye to the problems that have been exposed.

Just as Didi, an industry giant, was removed from the shelves and fined after revealing vicious incidents such as passenger murder and data security, an enterprise and even an industry must bear corresponding risks while desiring rapid growth.

When the aggregated ride-hailing platforms in charge of traffic take the C position, how will they write the future script of the industry?

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