We deliver cars in 5 minutes. Once you do that, you can do a lot of things in 5 minutes. Yes, it does become a local commerce thing. But it becomes local commerce thing for what is it that you want now. What you want when you want it. You want a push button and get it now. That’s the business we are in. Things you want right now, lot of such things Uber is going to be in business of.
— Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in an interview with India Times
There is little to no doubt that the battle for the last mile of delivery will lead to a substantial part of the last mile being coordinated by P2P on-demand services and similar. The question in my mind is not whether this will happen or not but rather if a generalist transportation platform company like Uber will become a dominant player or more specialist transportation companies like Instacart and Postmates or Shopwings will turn out to be the dominant form. And another important aspect is the question how big online retailers, large enough to operate their own coordination platforms, will play into all this. In the western world the candidates to watch here are Amazon in general and Zalando for fashion.
Now that we have this out of the way let’s have a look at what Uber is doing with its same-day delivery service UberRush:
At long last, the company is introducing a fleshed-out same-day delivery program for brick-and-mortar businesses under the name “UberRush.” Uber has already started testing this in New York City and is now expanding the pilot to San Francisco and Chicago. The price of delivery will range from $5 to $7.
Uber has promoted UberRush, which is already getting integrated into shop systems like Shopify and Bigcommerce, from experiment to business. Which is to say that in 2016 we will get a good look at how Uber envisions to capture the market and how successful their first serious initiatives will be.
Uber said it is targeting smaller, local retailers. But that has probably less to do with their preferences and more to do with bigger retailers and online retailers firstly being wary of an overagressive Uber and secondly right now having other comparable options if they are looking for partners for sam-day delivery. The options become less comparable once one solutions gets scale.
Interestingly we can already see a push to B2B API strategies in the market:
Postmates, used by Starbucks and Apple, is expanding its API program to let retailers use it for delivery without having to put their own products on the Postmates consumer app.
The same can be observed at Uber:
Surprisingly, in Uber’s new and revamped UberRush, it no longer deals directly with consumers as it does with its car-hailing service and its app. Customers won’t go to the Uber app to order from local merchants — they’ll go through the merchants’ websites, apps or by phone.
This makes a lot of sense not least because retailers don’t lose to much power over their customers this way. But also because it simply fits with how online retail and logistics work together. P2P on-demand for the last mile just becomes another logistics option.1
Uber is also experimenting with UberEats, a food delivery service with ‘curated’ menues. And it offers a new pre-paid ride service called UberEVENTS that adds additional features for event coordinators. Both services show the potential and the limits to specialization at Uber.
More importantly Uber has mapping cars now, too, as Buzzfeed is reporting:
an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, the company hopes this image-capturing technology will help inform routing and ETAs such that it becomes specific enough to avoid, for example, tricky intersections or streets that are frequently congested.
- At first. Genuine business models on the merchant side are the next step. But that stage is far away at the moment. ↩