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Transport for West Midlands Live Lab - a deep dive into the personas of the travelling public

Managing traffic demand in context of the regional population’s habits is an important part of driving successful behaviour change. Sarah Bayliss, Human Insight Manager at Transport for West Midlands describes how the Network Resilience Live Lab programme is taking this to a new level.

The Network Resilience Live Lab has been seeking to understand residents’ travel habits and lifestyles in our seven metropolitan district areas as a way of better reaching them at times when there is a need to re-route, re-mode, re-time, or reduce their journeys.

The West Midlands is unique in having both an ADEPT Smart Places Live Lab and Future Transport Zone. We have been able to explore synergies and efficiencies across these programmes.

Overall, the five-step process covers: segmentation, an in-depth research of personas, the design of service propositions such as the mobility solutions to meet persona needs, the approaches to behaviour change, and ways to measure impact.

In the Future Transport Zone, working with Experian, TfWM was able to develop a range of traveller segmentation from over 3,000 participants built using mostly quantitative data, such as location, travel behaviour, affluence, and attitudes to technology. 

The eight segments identified (Traditional Ways, Striving to Get Ahead, Pressured Families, Comfort in My Community, Progressive Families, Comfortable Empty Nesters, Smart Digital Families, and Carefree Affluence) all have key characteristics. A series of maps also shows the ‘hot spots’ of where these groupings are mostly likely to reside for better targeting such as with car ownership, and positioning of key messages for example, how people respond to certain types of media. 

Then, in the NR Live Lab, TfWM teamed up with Connected Places Catapult and strategic marketing agency Trinity McQueen to develop deeper traveller personas to aid targeting of messages and interventions. A cohort of 48 people was recruited over winter 2020/21 and offered incentives for their participation. From rich ethnographic research, video diaries and conversations, we were able to develop 14 traveller personas that represented individual people and households that typifies people within a segment, reflecting the needs of the wider group, and focusing on goals, mindset, and situations.

There were several objectives to doing this, including:

  • Enhancing experiences by better understanding how people will respond and act in the face of disruptions.
  • Building compelling communications with real life stories.
  • Shifting behaviours to more efficient and sustainable journeys. 

The granular or traveller personas work stream allowed a deep understanding of travel behaviours of all travellers, for all journeys including the propensity to uptake new services and technologies and propensity to change travel behaviour.

Introductory sessions on the personas has been held with a range of internal and external stakeholders. A particularly positive response was received from bus operators who recognise the value in having a keen understanding of the customer.

Key stakeholders are being invited to view the work in Tableau, which is currently hosted by Experian. The next stage is for WMCA to host all of the segmentation and personas information and offer training on its server for ongoing applications.

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