Uber puts family (even teens) at the center of its new products and features
Family is at the center of Uber's latest product offensive.
Uber revealed Wednesday at its annual "Go-Get" event a slew of new products and features aimed at attracting a new set of customers from teens as young as 13 and families who want to link account and even those who might feel more comfortable calling for a ride instead of using the app at all.
The company hosted two similar events last year, during which Uber launched products across ride-hail and delivery, from booking party buses and voice ordering for Uber Eats to booking restaurants and events through OpenTable and Viator.
Most of Uber's Go-Get launches are designed not only to create new revenue streams and attract new users, but also to create a closed business loop with each product feeding customers back into other Uber channels. It's a tentacular strategy, one that sees Uber with a broad reach across the transportation landscape. And it might be working for the company.
Uber's first-quarter earnings report showed a company with stronger financial footing than expected. Uber beat analyst forecasts across the board and demonstrated that its food delivery business continues to grow while propping up the company's core ride-hailing platform. Year-over-year, Uber's gross bookings rose 19% to $31.4 billion in the first quarter, and revenue rose another 29%.
It's not clear from Uber's balance sheet how much Uber invests in the myriad of products that come out of its Go-Get launches, nor how successful they are at driving revenue. However, the updates and new app features probably cost the company a lot less than the many moonshots Uber has since abandoned, like the autonomous driving unit Uber ATG or the bikeshare scheme Jump Bikes.
Here's a roundup of what the company announced Wednesday:
Linked family profiles and teen accounts
Families can now set up profiles that link multiple Uber accounts together so that customers can pay for rides and deliveries from a centralized account. That centralized account will also be home to real-time location and order updates.
Uber also plans to launch the ability to create teen accounts for users aged 13 to 17 on Monday, May 22 in more than a dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada, including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and New York City.
Back in 2017, the company tried some early pilots for creating teen accounts, but it never got off the ground. This offering basically combines a range of safety features that Uber has launched over the last five years.
For example, while all drivers undergo a background check, and continuous checks, teen accounts have another layer of screening -- only highly rated, experienced drivers can receive trip requests from teens, according to an Uber spokesperson. Also, parents will be able to live track their kid's trip progress and get information about who is driving them. Parents can contact the driver directly during the trip, contact Uber's support team and report an issue on behalf of their teen, according to Uber.
Families will be able to create teen accounts next week in U.S. cities of Tucson, Phoenix, Atlanta, Bloomington, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas City, New York City, New York suburbs, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Nashville, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. In Canada, the feature will be available in Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Trois-Rivieres, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Saskatoon, Regina, Gatineau and Laurentides.
Teen accounts will also soon be available on Uber Eats, too, so parents can ensure that their kids aren't ordering booze to be delivered, only chasers and munchies.
For the very young and the very old
Uber announced that it's teaming up with Nuna, a car seat company, to offer rides with a safe seat for little ones. Parents and caregivers will be able to request and reserve a ride with Nuna's RAVA car seat, suitable for children from birth up to 65 pounds. Uber wasn't clear about this would work or how many drivers would have access to the Nunas, but it's starting in New York City and Los Angeles before launching in additional cities.
Nuna is offering the car seats at a special rate for drivers on the Uber platform. The rider will pay an additional $10 surcharge to reserve a ride with a car seat, and most of that will go to the driver, according to Uber.
The company is also launching a feature geared towards the elderly, although Uber didn't say so explicitly.
Family members who "want to use Uber but aren't as familiar with navigating a smartphone" will now be able to book an Uber without using the app. U.S. customers can call 1-833-USE-UBER (1-833-873-8237) toll-free to speak to an agent in English or Spanish and request a ride or book one in advance.
Once customers book, they'll receive a text message that confirms the ride, provides information about the car and driver, estimated pickup time and a link to track their ride.
Uber initially launched a similar pilot in December 2020, but Uber paused it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uber is launching some group-focused products. For example, Uber Eats will now let you invite family members, roommates or anyone you wish to add their own items to a shared cart.
Users can even set deadlines for when they want people to add their must-haves, otherwise no Twizzlers, Cody! Most stores will let users automatically split the bill, so there's no need to leave the Uber app and open up Venmo.
The feature also lets customers place recurring grocery orders and remind family and friends to add their items each week.
Uber is launching a similar product for rides. In certain cities, app users can invite others to add their addresses on a group trip. A customer might want to add addresses after looking up the route on a map if they're one of the first to use this function.
Uber says it is still working out the kinks for getting the app to automatically update the stops to pick each person up according to the most efficient route.
Also in the works is the ability to charge each person for the time they spend on the trip.
Not only does this give customers no reason to leave the Uber app to sort out finances, but it might also help them pressure friends into joining the app because "it's just easier."
Gifting and traveling
During the last Get-Go event, Uber unveiled Uber gift cards that can be scheduled to arrive on a certain day. Now when you send a gift card or anything else on Eats, like a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, users can add a video gift message.
On Wednesday, Uber also revealed a couple of new travel features. The first is called Uber Central, and it's geared towards hospitality concierges, the last vestiges of calling you a good-old-fashioned cab.
Now, concierges can use Uber Central on Uber for Business to arrange rides for guests. You, the guest, will be notified via your own app of the trip information and can track the ride's progress along the way.
The second feature is a limited one. This summer, travelers or just people who are in Mykonos, Greece will be able to book a boat directly through the Uber app.
The company has launched a similar boat product in London in the past, which is geared towards commuters.