Zipcar's six-step process for consumer "delight and delivery"

Geoffrey Precourt

Zipcar is an open-access car-sharing service which initially relied almost solely on word of mouth (WOM) on the streets of the university city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2000, two moms whose children attended the same kindergarten invested $67 in a new kind of rental service: whether you needed a vehicle today, tomorrow or a year from yesterday, members could go online - or call - and reserve a car in a nearby lot. A customized access card unlocked the driver's door; the reservation holder would find the keys in the glove box and then simply head out on the road.

The WOM worked: Zipcar's message carried across the Charles River to Boston and down the East Coast. Thirteen years later, in March 2013, the Avis Budget Group purchased that $67 start-up for $500 million.

In that time, competitors abounded: Hertz introduced On Demand; Enterprise countered with WeCar, later rebranded as CarShare; and Daimler created even more traffic in this space with Car2Go.