Since its founding in 2009, Uber has revolutionized the way we operate on a daily basis. It’s changed the way we travel, interact with people in our communities, how we eat, and how we get products delivered. Uber isn't just making waves in transit, it’s also impacting the world of digital commerce at its core.
Uber is much more than just a ride-hailing app. Its sleek and easy design, innovative technology, streamlined marketing campaign, and ever-changing strategies are changing the way customers interact with the world around them. And this is making commerce companies react and respond in tandem.
How has Uber changed the digital commerce world, and what can businesses learn from them?
1. Mobile Revolution
Uber was one of the first apps to encourage people to connect with their services instantaneously via the mobile platform. Uber was one of the only companies willing to go to the “mobile only” strategy, where everything is handled on their mobile app—and it works for them.
As the majority of users are moving to smartphones for their searching and purchasing, we’re seeing that Uber was at the precipice of a major mobile revolution.
Mobile commerce, or “m-commerce,” is the wave of the future. Consumers are increasingly searching for products using their mobile devices—and then buying directly from their phone. In fact, 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase using their mobile device.
It’s never been more imperative to move your business to mobile. Whether you’re optimizing your site for mobile, selling on social media, or connecting via the app or text message, you want to ensure you’re making an impression on the mobile audience.
2. The Gig Economy
More and more people are participating in the gig economy. Nearly 57 million U.S. workers are part of the gig economy, and this number is only growing.
Uber was one of the first to strategically integrate the freelance lifestyle, giving drivers complete control of their schedule and salary. Drivers decide when they want to hit the road and when they want to take time off. This creates an innately more satisfied employee base because they maintain control over their own work. The majority of Uber drivers like their jobs and stay on, at least part-time, for several years.
Plus, Uber’s use of the gig economy has minimized their need for infrastructure. They aren’t paying salaries, taxis, taxi housing units, or other major operating costs. This makes them a less costly alternative to traditional taxi companies, which leaves more room in the budget for innovation and technology.
This tells us something important about business operations, especially for small businesses. There’s talent out there in the freelance world waiting to get picked up. You can build a strong team for your online business by hiring freelancers and outsourcing to agencies—without killing your business on overhead or salaries.
Your employees are the heart of your brand. Consider getting in on the gig economy to find quality talent that won’t break the bank, especially if you’re just starting out.
Note: That doesn’t mean you should underpay your workers. Uber offers competitive compensatory packages along with flexible schedules to attract lots of drivers to keep their cities brimming with Uber cars.
3. Streamlined Checkout
When using the Uber app, you don’t even realize that you’re “checking out” when you call for an Uber. They save your payment information, you drop a pin, and a car is suddenly there. You don’t even have to think about making a payment. With a few taps, service is at your fingertips and charged on your card.
You want this sort of “mindless checkout” process for your website as well. You want to be such a staple of your consumer’s life that paying for your products and services isn’t even a question.
That’s why there are so many subscription services popping up now. They have consistent monthly customers who don’t have to think about whether or not they want their subscription box that month. They get it automatically, and the service is paid unconsciously.
That’s also where Amazon Go was conceived. Amazon has been piloting a program where you pick up what you need and simply walk out without a physical checkout. With facial recognition and sensors, the store can intuit the products you’ve taken and charge the fee automatically to your account. This not only makes the checkout process smooth and frictionless, but it also encourages people to buy more (without seeing how much they’re spending).
So how can you implement this idea and speed up the checkout process with your online shop?
Reduce the number of fields and forms the customer needs to check out. Offer autofill APIs so their info will automatically input as they’re typing to speed up the process.
Use as few pages as possible. Put all of the forms on one page, so they can express checkout without waiting for pages to load.
Give them the option to register, so you can save their information and payment options for automatic future checkouts. (Don’t force a registration, though.)
Consider one-click buying options, like Amazon offers for those with Amazon accounts.
Accept various forms of payment, like credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. Make sure your payment options are safe and secure.
4. Supply, demand, and loyalty
How does Uber get away with surge pricing? They know the value of supply and demand. They also know that they’re the best in their field, so they’re not afraid of losing consumers to competitors like Lyft and traditional taxis. They know their customers will pay a premium at busy times because they have a loyal fan base.
So you want to find a way to be the best in your industry—and so confident in it that you can price accordingly. Studies show that customers are willing to pay a slight premium for a luxury product because it makes them feel as though they’re buying a better quality good or service.
So how do you create this kind of brand loyalty, so you have control over the supply and demand in your industry?
Be the first to market. Uber was the first of its kind, which helped them establish a name quickly and effectively.
Be the first to make changes. Uber is not afraid to update their business model or technology as the market changes.
Solve a need. Uber answered a legitimate need for a large target audience in cities around the world. It comes down to knowing the problem you’re solving and offering the best possible solution.
Know how to reach your audience. Uber used a lot of word of mouth marketing to get started, and they were able to grow quickly and effectively through low-cost advertising solutions.
Keep it simple. Uber has a streamlined app that’s easy to learn and use. There’s almost no barrier to download and start using.
Create an experience. Uber doesn’t just focus on driving. They get a lot of publicity from their other related events, like giving flu shots on-the-go or UberTree delivering Christmas trees. Make them remember you.
5. Vertical expansion
Uber started as a ride-sharing app, but it’s grown drastically in the past few years. Uber hasn’t been afraid to look into new avenues for expansion, like moving into foreign markets (especially in China), food delivery (Uber Eats), product shipment (Uber Freight), employee commuting (Uber for Business), comfortable rides for healthcare organizations (Uber Health), self-driving technology research (Advanced Technologies Group), and even air travel innovation (Uber Elevate). See more of Uber’s business offerings here.
You don’t necessarily need to constantly be expanding in order to do well in e-commerce. (In fact, you should minimize expansion until you’ve got a strong foothold in your arena.) However, you need to be aware of trends in the market. With technology and regulations constantly changing, your business and products need to be updating in tandem.
If you aren’t innovating, you’ll get left behind.
Uber has fundamentally changed the way we navigate the world. They’re not afraid to try new things, make a few mistakes, and keep growing in the process.
There’s a lot to learn from Uber about meeting a need, utilizing technology, and connecting with consumers. Ultimately, Uber knew how to create a brand that people trusted (even if and when they made mistakes). This trust has enabled massive growth in a variety of areas, which has revolutionized digital business for the entire market.
What do you think of the Uber economy? Let us know in the comments below.