It was a snowy day and Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were walking on the Paris street, trying to hail a cab that drove by. Standing outside for a long time and trembling, these two young entrepreneurs then realized the difficulties in catching a taxi really brought great inconvenience to people’s lives. Inspired by that experience, they decided to create a smart phone app that can solve the problem of summoning a car service.
At the beginning, passengers could only order private black cars from the app, UberCab, through a code provided by Kalanick via email. After receiving cease-and-desist orders, Kalanick changed the company name to Uber. Then the company started to expand rapidly and attracted a steady stream of drivers and customers. As of August 2016, people could use Uber app to order cars from 66 countries and 545 cities worldwide.
According to Simon Sinek, people nowadays don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And it is Uber’s “WHY” that appeals me a lot. Uber is always chasing the idea of “Transportation as a service.” It means Uber makes it easier and more reliable to go everywhere in today’s on-demand economy. Kalanick once explained, “We like to think of Uber as the cross between lifestyle and logistics, where lifestyle is what you want and logistics is how you get it there.” He added: “If we can get you a car in five minutes, we can get you anything in five minutes.”
Besides the brilliant idea, Uber also does a great job by differentiating itself through various services they offered. As passengers, you can choose UberPOOL to enjoy a reduced price by letting the app pair riders on the same route. And in the future, UberPOOL may include buses, which is describes as “ultimate pool machine.” Besides, you can also choose vehicle types (UberX, UberXL, SUV…) based on your needs. What’s more, in NYC, UberRUSH will help you to send anything to anyone with a fare of $9.16. It also created UberEATS, a standalone app, that provides rapid food delivery service in several cities.
As far as I’m concerned, comparing with its competitors, Uber is a leader of digital marketing because it is so good at using popular culture to create stunts and generate social buzz and PR. For instance, on National Cat Day, 2015, Uber ran a campaigned called #UberKITTEN. Users could hail a UberKITTEN between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and each delivery for 15 minutes of kitten playtime costs $30. This promotion aims to raise awareness about cat adoption and it donated the puppy service profit to help care and find permanent homes for these cuddly canines. This campaign was warmly welcomed by pet lovers and protectors and they posted photos with kittens and comments on their social media.
Another brilliant campaign is #UberCOPTER held in Cannes, 2015. Every year, there are more than 200,000 people go to Cannes for the international film festival so traffic can be really bad sometimes. The UberCOPTER service costs €160 per person for a seven-minute flight, for a maximum of four people. And the service also includes a car ride to the heliport and then another limousine waiting at the destination to transport the passengers to the center of Cannes. The cost for this ride using Uber would cost €80 but take around four times as long. At that day, plenty of media reported this news and people paying close attention to Cannes also talked a lot about Uber’s newest service.
Finally, I’d like to talk about Uber China. Since 2014, Uber has put a great amount of money and energy into conquering Chinese market and competed with Didi Chuxing. However, it ended up with selling its China operations to Didi Chuxing and took 20% stake of this company in August 2016. As far as I’m concerned, localization is where Uber fell short in Chinese market.
First, Didi Chuxing cooperates with two most frequently used smart phone apps by Chinese users: Wechat and Ali Pay, which means Didi users could use their most familiar and convenient methods to pay the bill. However, Uber users are required to use only credit or debit cards to finish the payment.
Furthermore, Didi Chuxing provides various services including taxi, private cars, premium cars，carpooling, free rides, etc. Those services meet needs of passengers with different wage levels. Nevertheless, comparing with U.S. market, Uber China only offered limited service such as Renminyoubu (same as UberPOOL) and Uber X.
Last but not the least, insufficient investment also led to Uber’s failure in Chinese. Uber invested a billion dollars into Chinese market to compete with Didi Chuxing. However, Didi Chuxing received 2 billion financing from Tengxun and Alibaba, which are two technology giants in Chinese market. Then, it also gained a billion investment from Apple. Apparently, that’s why Uber couldn’t compete against Didi Chuxing in the following price competition.