How can Lime differentiate its scooters and bikes from the piles of Birds and Spins filling Los Angeles sidewalks? Apparently with a physical storefront where it can convince customers of the wonders of on-demand mobility. According to a job listing from Lime seeking a “Retail Store Manager”, the startup plans to open a “lifestyle brand store in Santa Monica” that “will place heavy importance on brand experience and customer engagement.”
It seems Lime will rent vehicles directly from the store given the full-time manager’s role includes “monitoring inventory levels” as well as daily operations, and employee recruiting. They’ll also be throwing live events to build Lime’s hype. Given the company is calling this a lifestyle store, the focus will likely be on showing how Lime’s scooters and bikes can become part of people’s lives and enhance their happiness, rather than on maximizing rental volume.
The listing was first spotted by Nathan Pope, a transportation researcher for consultancy Steer, and later by Cheddar’s Alex Heath. We’ve reached out to Lime and will update if we hear back from the company. Glassdoor shows that the store manager job was posted over 30 days ago, and the site estimates the potential salary at $41,000 to $74,000.
The sheer number of Lime scooters in Santa Monica where the store will arise is already staggering. Supply doesn’t seem to be bottleneck as it is in some other cities. Instead, it’s the fierce competition from hometown startups like local favorite Bird that Lime wants to overcome through brick-and-mortar marketing. Often times you’ll see scooters from Lime and Bird lined up right next to each other. And with similarly cheap pricing, the decision of which to use comes down to brand affinity. According to Apptopia, Bird’s monthly U.S. downloads surpassed Lime’s in July for the first time ever, despite Lime offering bikes as well as scooters.
There are plenty of people who still have never tried an on-demand electric scooter, and going through the process of renting, unlocking, and riding them might be daunting to some. If employees at a physical store can teach people that it’s not too difficult to jump aboard, Lime could become their default scooter. This of course comes with risks too, as electric scooters can be dangerous to the novice or uncoordinated. More aggressive in-person marketing might pull in users who were apprehensive about scooting for the right reason — concerns about safety.
As cities figure out how to best regulate scooters, I hope we see a focus on uptime aka how often the scooters actually function properly. It’s common in LA to rent a scooter, then discover the handlebar is loose or the acceleration is sluggish, end the ride, and rent another scooter from the same brand or a competitor in hopes of getting one that works right. I ditched several Lime scooters like this while in LA last week.
Regulators should inquire about what percentage of scooter company fleets are broken and what percentage of rides end within 90 seconds of starting, which is typically due to a malfunctioning vehicle. Cities could then award permits to companies that keep their fleets running, rather than that litter the streets with massive paper weights, or worse, vehicles that could crash and hurt people. Scooters are fun, cheap and therefore accessible to more people than Ubers, and reduce traffic. But unless startups like Lime put a bigger focus on helments and safe riding behavior, we could trade congestion on the roads for congestion in the emergency room.