How Uber won the taxi-app war & changed the way we travel
It’s safe to say that when your company name becomes a verb, you’ve hit the big time. Uber didn’t just enter the Oxford English dictionary as something you get: it became a whole new industry definition, like airbnb or the iPhone, a category in itself — the “Uber economy” or “Uber for x…”.
I’m not here to tell you how to copycat on Uber’s genius, but to dissect its rise to fame by understanding why Uber became so big, so fast. Sometimes you can’t know the future until you figure out the past (as cheesy as that sounds).
Successful new enterprises completely reinvent an existing business model; or anticipate, create and fulfil a whole new industry. Uber basically did both.
And Uber put a bull’s eye on the conventional taxi industry. They created a model that not only offered a far superior service to customers, but also at a cheaper price. By offering on-demand service — often at a fraction of the cost of traditional cabs — Uber opened private car services to a larger proportion of people who were previously priced out.
Beyond getting you from A to B for a little less $, Uber addressed a number of consumer needs that had been forgotten in the world of conventional taxis.
What hot consumer needs did Uber hit?:
- Make me feel special — fancy a special treat? Get a Uber Lux or Exec. Finding a way to break the customer’s daily monotony and offer them an affordable treat has been a hallmark of new industries over the last several years of cash-strapped consumerism. Uber allowed customers to choose their exact price level, but with the easy option to upgrade for a li’l special something. Who doesn’t want to be treated like a VIP every now and then?
- My way, my time — long gone are the days of standing outside praying a free taxi willdrive your way. Consumers are blunt about their expectation for services that come to them.
- Full transparency — despite the odd Uber-scary story of $500 drunken city tours, in general Uber proactively delivers the information consumers demand — how much, when and where. You can even send your ETA to your boyfriend to let him know exactly when you’ll get to the movie theater.
- No cash, no problem — in the not so distant future ATMs will be museum items. As the number of connected devices skyrockets the idea of dumb hard cash seems unnecessary and archaic. Why root around your pocket for the taxi fare, or even your credit card, when you can jump in and jump out with maximum ease?
- Big Data paves the way — an essential part of Uber’s business model relies more precise economic modelling for perfect supply and demand with surge prices. By connecting, documenting and analyzing a previously off-the-grid industry, Uber can analyze with accuracy the hot spots to drive, the busiest times and the exact location to scout new business. This has allowed Uber to lower its prices, attracting further customers, all while increasing its profits for the parent company and its drivers. Big Data has also benefited its customers: the app tracks and records every journey, allowing consumers to feel in control of their Uber spending, even incorporating business expensing for further effortless control!
- Mobile first — unlike conventional services which have stubbornly relied on conventional booking processes, Uber was a mobile-first business. For a growing number of us, the smartphone is life’s remote control — especially when it comes to moving around a city.
There’s no question about it, Uber execs clearly were clever — they found an industry in desperate need of a makeover and reinvented it. Now people are trying in droves to piggy back on Uber’s success — there are even Uber style doctors with their own wheels.
But you don’t have to be a copycat. What I’ve outlined above are some of the needs that consumers want fulfilling; these are consumer trends, changes in the way consumers behave and select services. These trends go beyond the Uber business model to pave the way to new, undiscovered industries with a pot of gold as big as Uber.
The best way to find those pots of gold are to better understand consumer needs and anticipate the changes down the road in consumers’ lives.
You can use consumer trends to revolutionize other conventional industries like healthcare, food, education, to name a few. OR, unearth a whole new industry — anyone heard of biometric customer service?