An anthropological study identifies win-back potential among customers in public transportation


When COVID-19 hit Denmark in March 2020, the country was shut down. After a brief reopening in summer and autumn of 2020, a second wave hit by December 2020 and the country was shut down again. Both the first wave and the second wave of course lead to a dramatic decrease in the use of public transportation and in sales/activity/customer/travels. During the summer and autumn of 2020, because of continued restrictions in Danish public transportation, new habits and routines, customers only partly returned, while others still did not return at all. Therefore, in the autumn of 2020 DOT decided to develop a strategy and action plan for wining their customers back to the bus, train, and metro in the Copenhagen region and on the rest of Zealand based on an anthropological study. DOT needed to identify which strategic possibilities had the potential to influence the customer's choice of transportation. DOT wanted to understand the emotional and functional motives, needs, and expectations that drive people to choose their form of transportation during COVID-19 as well as after COVID-19.


Epinion performed a large anthropological study that combined quantitative and qualitative data collection methods and designed an agile and collaborative process with DOT that focused on implementing an in-depth understanding of customer drivers and motives. Moreover, this setup allowed Epinion and DOT to adjust scope and data collection continuously as findings emerged. Initially, a survey helped to identify different customer groups with the highest win-back potential. Then participants representing potential customer groups were recruited for in-depth and travel-along interviews to understand barriers, emotions, and behaviour concerning transport and COVID-19. The participants also joined a 2-week online mobile ethnographic study followed by online focus group interviews.


Based on the anthropological research, Epinion developed a set of different possible futures of various degrees of COVID-19 and illustrated how four core customer groups would respond to the different scenarios. The study provided DOT with in-depth knowledge of when and how they should focus on strategic actions to win their customer back in the aftermath of COVID-19. The continuous collaboration between DOT and Epinion made it possible to transport insights into concrete recommendations on how the transportation operators can realize the four customer groups' win-back potential.