|Uber, the everything app|
March 2, 2022
Good morning! Uber’s ambitions of being the “Amazon of transportation” isn’t just about rides anymore. I’m David Pierce, and I haven’t watched “Super Pumped” yet. But I did just start “Ozark,” and I’m obsessed.
Uber’s big ambitions
-- Uber wants to be a super app. The company has never been particularly shy about those ambitions, for what it’s worth: Dara Khosrowshahi has been saying he wants to build “the Amazon of transportation” for a few years now, planning to be as ubiquitous for getting around as Amazon is for shopping.
Explore is the next phase of Uber’s super app plans.
-- It launched the feature yesterday as a new tab in the Uber app. You can use it to get quick rides to your typical destinations; personalized suggestions; and offers for stuff to do and eat, and more.
-- “Places an Uber can take you” is sort of the unifying theme here, but it’s a much broader play at being the app you open to see what’s going on around you.
Uber’s really not a rides company anymore. It hasn’t been for some time, actually. It now makes more money moving food and goods around through Uber Eats than it does shuttling people through the ride-hailing service. (Turns out everything’s easier when you’re transporting cheeseburgers instead of humans.)
-- Eats generated $13.4 billion in gross bookings and $2.42 billion in revenue for Uber in the last quarter of 2021, compared to $11.3 billion and 2.28 billion for ride-hailing.
-- Just like Amazon was known for being a bookseller long after that stopped being its core business, Uber will be synonymous with ride-hailing for much longer than it actually depends on that business.
-- And as Eats grows, Uber’s turning into a shopping destination of its own. Uber had a Valentine’s Day hub for last-minute purchases, sells Goop products through an integrated store and ships from grocery stores and flower shops all over.
-- Even Eats isn’t a broad enough brand anymore, which is why Uber had to run a whole Super Bowl ad about the things you can buy on Uber Eats that you don’t actually eat.
-- And you can see where this is headed: Uber’s already playing with Prime-style subscriptions, working on its own payment systems, getting into freight and more. Connecting stuff and people is a big job, and Uber's trying to bring as much of it in-house as possible.
What Uber really wants to win is local. It has always aspired to be a sort of connective tissue for cities: You can use the Uber app to get around via car or bus or train or scooter, or you can buy anything you want from your favorite local shop and have it all brought right to your house. When Khosrowshahi says “Amazon of transportation,” he doesn’t mean the company that offers you lots of taxis; he means the way that absolutely everything moves and the logistics powerhouse underneath.
But this won’t be easy. For one thing, stuff delivery is a hugely competitive and quickly commoditizing space, as DoorDash and GoPuff and Just Eat Takeaway and countless others try to get you a toothbrush and a bag of Fritos faster.
-- And there’s still a business model flaw here, as Uber tries to find a way to make money without price-gouging either the people who make the food and goods or the people who buy them. Uber’s business is booming, but it’s still not profitable. And plenty of restaurants and stores would rather not be involved.
-- Airbnb is an interesting comparison, too. It built a huge business out of helping people find a place to stay, then rolled out Experiences to give them stuff to do on the same platform. But Experiences never quite caught on the same way.
It’s really all about the home screen. Uber needs to be ubiquitous to win the delivery wars, so it’s trying to train users to open its app many times a day. That’s why Uber Eats isn’t a separate app anymore, and why Explore is built in as well. Uber wants to be a habit, not a utility. And that may have started with rides, but it ends with Explore.
— David Pierce ( email | twitter)
Uber, the everything app - Protocol