You know you’ve made it when your company name becomes a verb. That’s where Uber is right now – as in, I’m going to Uber over – following in the footsteps of other companies-as-verbs, such as FedEx and Xerox.
Uber, the technology company that matches car service to rider, has successfully disrupted the entrenched taxi industry. And now pundits are wondering what might be next for the successful upstart. Recent news articles in Marketwatch and Forbes say it could be the package delivery industry.
The Forbes opinion piece lays out an intriguing scenario: “Imagine you’re about to leave your office for the day and your phone vibrates with a text from Uber: ‘Your next door neighbor Stella has ordered a dozen cupcakes from the Courageous Cupcakes shop next to your office. Would you mind dropping them off at her house? We’ll credit your account $7.50.’” The author goes on to suggest this type of transaction could be repeated millions of times a day and for any and all types of purchases/goods – the hardware store, the automotive store, the department store, and so on.
The Forbes piece then asks, “Imagine what would happen if a large ecommerce company used local distribution coupled with Uber rather than centralized distribution and FedEx?”
Imagine indeed. It’s certainly intriguing and altogether feasible. But Uber, and companies based on a similar model, first have to address some issues that could hinder long-term success. First is a tightening labor market. As the economy expands and better-paying jobs are created, Uber may find it hard to staff drivers. And courts are likely to consider cases asking whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. Also, Uber will have to do a better job addressing passenger privacy and safety concerns. Recent press reports suggest female passengers, in particular, are uncomfortable with Uber having so much information about them.
Even if this Uber scenario is just a notion, it reminds us that package delivery has become an attractive and competitive business. As consumers do more of their shopping online, everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to clothing is being delivered to homes and businesses. Traditional package delivery companies find themselves competing with new entrants such as Deliv (sometimes called the Uber of the retail world) and Postmates, a company that operates a network of local couriers. And, don’t take your eye off Amazon.com. It is reportedly testing an Uber-like app that would let it use regular people to deliver packages.
So, does Uber-like delivery sound like a feasible idea? What impact do you think the service could have on traditional delivery companies? As a consumer, do you see benefits from this service? How else could sellers and traditional package delivery companies serve the growing consumer demands of same day and even same hour delivery?