What made UBER so appealing a while back? Was it the business model of independent owner/operator?
Was it the UBER application that allowed users to order a hire from their smart phone? Was it the GPS tracking of the ride that you could track in REAL time on your phone? Was it your ability to pay in advance, save a few bucks, pounds, or euros? Was it the simplicity of not having to figure a tip?
It was all of those things. UBER was the definition of a disruptive innovation.
The means to hire a ride was transformed for the better. It was cheaper, predictable and more convenient. Sure, it was still easier to hail a cab in New York or London because of the abundance of taxis in most major cities.
But if your travels took you to a restaurant in an area of the city that was less popular — heck, UBER was great.
But UBER’s difference is shrinking. Like so many revolutionary ideas before, as the business matures, the differences shrink.
A few weeks ago, I hired an UBER ride and the driver had posted a sign in his vehicle that read: “Tips are Welcomed.” Sorry, buddy, but UBER is a tip-free ride in my book. Pay tips and you are an UBER Taxi. No different then a NYC Yellow Cab.
Disruption has a short life
Disruptive innovations often have a short shelf life. Competitors in the legacy markets adapt to the new changes and soon the differences that made the service or product so revolutionary become table stakes. A few examples? The BlackBerry took the interactive pager and telephone to new heights.
The innovation revolutionized the market. Enter the iPhone, which was the disruptive innovation that changed mobile communications and killed the BlackBerry. Just this past week, BlackBerry ceased production of its old style (retro, believe it or not) keyboard. Try to buy any phone today that is not smart and you will see how the market adapted.
Xerox pretty much invented the office copier. Today, it has become a verb that has nothing to do with the brand itself.
So much in our world loses differentiation and becomes synonymous with the product or service they were meant to displace.
UBER has poor brand management
The UBER Taxi is just such a service because no one is actually managing the brand. The brand’s promise is left up to the independent drivers and, as fares increase, taxi companies roll out apps, drivers/operators solicit tips…and the differences vanish and UBER becomes UBER Taxi.
Unless UBER continues to disruptively innovate and create a brand message beyond smart phone accessibility we can expect an UBER Taxi service that is a division of Yellow Cabs in NYC.
Remember when esurance was trying to disruptively innovate the world of insurance? It claimed lower overhead because of its on-line model and independence. Today? It’s a division of Allstate.