Who, what is the near market?

I first encountered the idea of a near market while working at Transport for London with the cycle planning legend Rose Ades. Having created the Cycling Centre of Excellence at TfL, Rose had commissioned market research into who could be encouraged to ride more in the UK capital. The resulting study suggested a segment of about 10% who clearly intended to start cycling but had not yet done so. Their 'nearness' to the objective of increasing the number of cyclists provided a name for this group and a focus for TfL's subsequent marketing work.  I think anyone visiting Central London now would agree this strategy has helped cycling become a huge success and one that has diversified the demographic make-up on cycle routes there.

The advantage of segmentation like near markets for cycling, transit, walking or vehicle sharing, is that it allows real focus on people who have intent even if habit and conditions mean they are holding back. Narrowing down the barriers to cross makes behaviour change that little bit easier. Those with fewest barriers might only require application of a behavioural insight to nudge them into trial and from there into new behaviours. Others may find the opportunity and confidence through more structured site-based travel plans to address the remaining barriers to express a latent choice.

Near market analysis does however represent a bit of a change of mindset from traditional 'information-out' transit  marketing. Near market projects are sharply focused and require the sometimes difficult realization that many people might only change over time or with enormous effort.