This morning, Uber launched its expanded same-day (same hour?) delivery service, UberRush. As the current marketing shows, Uber is directing this at merchants as a way to help them delivery their stuff to customers throughout their city.
When I first heard about this program, I assumed this was a shopper-facing program. I hadn’t read the Shopify x Uber announcement closely enough, and figured this was another option Uber was presenting its app users, much like UberEats. I thought it was pretty genius, Uber getting people to buy from Shopify merchants through their app, and then overtime, as they build their own systems that more deeply integrate with merchants, just take those customers away from Shopify.
Instead, Uber is simply serving as a carrier, a service for merchants that doesn’t have a consumer-facing component.
This struck me as odd, because I believe, right now, the real opportunity is not simply to power merchants, but to become the Aggregator (or intermediary) between shoppers and what they want. This is what Postmates does — they provide a window to all local businesses, and through them you can get anything you want at those businesses. While some of those businesses integrate with Postmates, the vast majority do not. Whereas most services (Instacart, Caviar, Doordash) require the merchants to have ‘bought in’ to the system, Postmates does not. A key challenge for marketplaces (such as Groupon, where I worked), was having both the demand (shoppers) and supply (merchants) in equilibrium. That shit is hard — Square finally through in the towel after attempts like Square Wallet and Square Market. The genius of Postmates is that merchants aren’t necessarily knowingly on the platform. They’ve solved the supply part of the equation.
Currently when you search Postmates, you search on businesses. It doesn’t take much imagination, though, to see that in a near future, you’ll be able to search on any specific item — and once they do that, Postmates has shifted the power from merchants and their assortments to themselves and their ability to aggregate. It’s what Amazon has done in online retail (you can pretty much find anything in their search box) or Google has done with search.
The Uber approach is surprising because it means Uber is taking a back seat, a secondary role. This is a company that has been very aggressive in getting its name, its brand out there. Now, we’re still quite early in Uber’s life, and who knows what their long term play is (i.e, simply getting merchants more comfortable with them, developing the network so that they can take over the consumer-facing aspects, learning more about ecommerce and delivery before the really invest whole hog, a fundamental shift where at least part of the business is willing to be simply behind-the-scenes, like Amazon is with AWS).
It intrigues me that a day after I wrote about The New Logistics and Exponential Experiences, this is announced. This space is crazy active right now and surprisingly fun to watch. Grab your popcorn and enjoy!