How Uber Got It Right (and What Online Retailers Can Learn from Its Example)

Uber is to taxi services what Starbucks is to coffee. It managed to take a boring commodity and completely reinvent it to create deep customer devotion.

Completely changing the way customers view and buy your product or service — who doesn’t want to perform that kind of magic when it comes to defining a market category?

Today, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Uber, the black car and ridesharing service that uses a smartphone app to connect passengers with private vehicles for hire. Customers use the app to get time and fare quotes, request rides, track their reserved vehicle’s location, pay their fare, and rate their driver. No more hurling yourself in front of speeding cabs, dealing with poor quality cars and drivers or fumbling with a credit card machine.

So what did Uber get right that online retailers can learn from and adapt to their own business?

Understand The Customer Experience

Uber identified key gaps in the customer taxi-riding experience and seamlessly closed them: the time it takes to call a cab company or to hunt down a cab, having an idea of how long it will take to arrive, calculating costs before getting into the car, suffering through an arrogant or scary driver in a dirty cab, and paying easily and quickly upon arrival at the destination.

Uber clearly understood the customer pain points experienced with the existing system.

What you can do: Make a commitment to study and understand your customer’s behavior in terms of when and how they shop. That understanding underlies all the technical things you will do.

Many shoppers discover frustrating gaps between their expectations and their actual mobile shopping experience.

These are most often caused by a retailer’s failure to realize that mobile is not a shopping experience in and of itself; it is an integral part of all your customers’ shopping experiences.

Customers use their smartphones, tablets, and computers (often in conjunction with in-store shopping), and all those touch-points need to be in harmony.

As Uber realized, there is tremendous value in studying your customers’ pathways as they search for products (online and in-store), use their mobile devices out-of-store and in-store, and go through the online checkout process.

Figure out where they are getting stuck or frustrated and make the necessary changes to optimize your mobile customer experience.

Simplify Payment

By providing a price quote at the booking stage, along with storing credit card information when an individual sets up an account, Uber eliminates the need for money to change hands at the point of payment.

Not knowing how much a ride is going to cost and fumbling for cash or a card at your destination are two huge pain points that Uber has improved.

Retailers can think just as creatively about simplifying mobile payment.

For example, you can calculate shipping charges based on a smartphone’s location-based service and provide that information sooner in the checkout process. You can put a “buy” button next to the product on the search results page. Or, you can provide recorded payment information, via a customer account, like Uber does, so customers don’t have to reenter details for every purchase.

Get Personal

Uber also makes good use of push notifications from the data it collects about customer vehicle preferences, favorite neighborhoods and cities, and drive length.

You, too, can probably make better use of what you already know about your customers to learn even more about them and to drive special offers their way.

The Bottom Line

Don’t just look at what your competitors are doing. Look at category leaders and disruptors in other industries to learn how to improve your customers’ mobile shopping experience, and improve your results.

You can learn more about how Uber disrupted a 400-year-old industry by designing a better customer experience here.