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Loyalty rewards more exciting than promo codes, says Grab Singapore head

SINGAPORE — The promotional codes and incentives that Grab users previously enjoyed have made way for perks on its loyalty programme GrabRewards, said the ride-hailing firm's Singapore country head Lim Kell Jay on Monday (May 7).

Loyalty rewards more exciting than promo codes, says Grab Singapore head

Lim Kell Jay, Head of Grab Singapore.

SINGAPORE — The promotional codes and incentives that Grab users previously enjoyed have made way for perks on its loyalty programme GrabRewards, said the ride-hailing firm's Singapore country head Lim Kell Jay on Monday (May 7).

Speaking to the media on former rival Uber's last day of operations in Singapore, Mr Lim confirmed the promotions had been "trending down" even before its acquisition of Uber's South-east Asia operations in late-March.

Where users previously applied codes when making bookings to enjoy limited discounts of about S$3 or more per ride, Mr Lim said they can now redeem perks such as shopping gift cards and frequent flyer miles through GrabRewards.

"I personally believe it is more exciting that way than just promos," said Mr Lim.

Incentives to draw more private-hire drivers have also been scaled back and Grab is looking at other ways to lower their operating cost and maintain or increase their income.

Grab is working closely with fuel companies and fleet partners to offer cheaper petrol and rent – the "two biggest components" for a driver, he said.

It is looking at giving drivers "more jobs within the same period of time" to boost their revenue.

Drivers providing its GrabShare service, for example, earn more when they get match with more passengers, he said.

To address the frustration of drivers when passengers book but do not show up, Grab recently introduced a feature that allows drivers to indicate their passenger was a "no-show" and leave within five minutes, Mr Lim added.

Transport analysts said Grab's moves are unsurprising and made business sense.

Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) transport economist Walter Theseira said when ride-hailing was still new in Singapore, there was a lot of uncertainty about the service and, hence, the need to find ways to draw users.

Most drivers and riders now understand how it works, and offering substantial discounts or incentives to try out a platform is not so necessary, he said.

That said, "engaging somebody over a longer period of time is important". Grab's large user base is its "only asset" and it needs to offer value-added services to retain it, he said. "Discounts just aren't a sustainable way of keeping their user base."

Noting that ride-hailing services "are not a charity", SUSS urban transport expert Park Byung-Joon said: "Uber and Grab used to offer services below their cost to gain market share, or buy their presence in the market."

In China, ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing similarly cut down on its promotions and incentives when Uber exited the market.

With Uber out of the picture in Singapore and in the absence of significant competitors, there is less need for intensive price competition at the moment, said Dr Theseira.

The situation may change when a "real competitor" such as Indonesia's Go-Jek – backed by heavyweight investors such as Google and Temasek Holdings – comes in and chooses to compete aggressively on price and offering incentives to drivers, he said. "You will see that talk about long run loyalty programmes going out the window as Grab will have no choice but to fight back."

NEW SERVICES FOR SENIORS, YOUNG FAMILIES

On Monday, Mr Lim also announced three new services for its customers.

For senior commuters and those with mobility needs, there is now GrabAssist. About 1,000 of its private-hire car and taxi drivers have undergone theoretical and practical training by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) that includes "safety in transfer, dementia awareness, as well as hygiene and emergency preparedness".

Priced marginally higher than JustGrab, GrabAssist vehicles will be able to accommodate foldable wheelchairs, walkers and collapsible scooters. The company will charge drivers a lower commission of 10 per cent.

Its GrabFamily service, which caters to parents with children aged 4 to 7 in tow, will be expanded from June to also accommodate children aged 1 to 3. Vehicles providing the GrabFamily service will come equipped with the IMMI Go child harness, and the drivers will be trained on the proper installation and use of the seat. The service will be priced at rates similar to the Uber Car Seat service previously.

And by the end of this month, customers looking for a more comfortable ride will have GrabCar Plus, a "premium economy service" that offers better and newer cars that are slightly more spacious. The cars will also come with amenities such as mobile phone chargers, air fresheners and tissue boxes.

"Riders can also expect highly rated drivers who have more than 98 per cent positive feedback," said Grab. The service will cost about "20 to 25 per cent more than JustGrab's base fare" as well as other dynamic pricing mechanisms that may kick in, said Mr Lim.

Meanwhile, the company has received 150 applications for its university scholarships worth up to S$10,000. Ten bond-free scholarships to local universities will be offered each year to family members of Grab drivers, and applications closed on April 30.

Up to 500 bursaries of up to S$350 will be awarded over two rounds each year.

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