Opinion

Retailers can learn from Uber – without trying to be Uber

9 min read

06 July 2016

Uber has been on a money-raising streak and now has a valuation near £43.1bn, making it worth more than all but 11 companies in the FTSE 100. There’s absolutely no question about it, Uber is transforming the taxi industry at an unprecedented force – and you can learn lessons from the company without trying to be it.

This story isn’t just unique to the transportation industry – brands and retailers across the globe are searching high and low for ways to beat the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Etsy and the rest of the peer-to-peer-based sharing economy.

Trying to stay afloat in such a competitive and fierce industry, many bricks-and-mortar retailers are grasping for any new, digital tactics to help boost traffic and sales, while the rest barely move beyond dated strategies due to fear. But what if the answer is closer than they think?

Traditional retailers need to stop chasing the latest trend and instead, do their own thing – and do it well. Digital is now the way of life for consumers, with mobile playing an increasing role in their shopping journey. Brands can find new ways that allow them to stay true themselves while expanding the experience for this new consumer.

Here are three examples of how they can make this happen.

(1) Share economy, but not success

The idea of a “sharing economy” works out well for consumers. They get convenience and savings. But what do traditional retailers and brands get? A whole lot of new challenges.

Let’s start with a real-life example to put this into perspective.

Beyond its success at raising funds, Uber is rolling over the competition in the way of service and on-demand capabilities.

There’s a growing trend among taxi drivers who do not wish to pick up and drop off short-haul customers in the city, citing Uber as the reason. If this is the case, a taxi driver would give up a perfectly good trip in order to sit still and await a passenger that was going to a particular destination – albeit further away, but who knows when?

My suggestion, and this goes beyond just the taxi industry, is to get back in the fast lane and be the driver of your own success. This new wave of sharing economy brands and startups aren’t really sharing anything at all; they are solving a consumer pain point and selling a solution, potentially to the detriment of their own brand.

Retailers should look closer at the brand and what it does, and pair those advantages with the growing amount of data and insights that customers are providing today, whilst finding a way to make what’s old new again – and even more relevant. 

Experience is everything to today’s mobile consumer, and if you are able to offer convenience and value at the same time, then you’re well on your way.

Continue on the next page for the remaining two examples of how to embrace some Uber oomph.

(2) Click and collect breathes life into stores

One of the greatest advantages that bricks-and-mortar stores offer is the ability to leverage their physical store space in order to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping. Big box and major chain retailers have a footprint large enough to allow them to utilise these spaces as distribution centres, event spaces and more.

Traditional retailers don’t need to re-create their businesses to more fiercely compete against the new brands, they just need to think outside of the box. The rise of click-and-collect capabilities are offering brands an incredible solution that will make headway against the sales bleed to online retailers – an opportunity that cannot be missed.

By giving customers the convenient option to buy online and pick-up at the location of their choice, retailers are able to do several things:

• Increase footfall in their physical stores by appealing to their cross-channel shoppers, potentially increasing the overall sale when a customer decides to pick up additional items

• Reduce costs, such as shipping and delivery, and streamline the distribution process so that customers have the products in hand at a much faster time

• It also allows bricks-and-mortar stores to act as warehouses for inventory, providing online shoppers access to more products that may be available in other stores

• Provide online shoppers access to more products that may not be available in other stores, by allowing bricks-and-mortar stores to act as warehouses for inventory

Read more on Uber:

(3) Digital is at the core of everything

Today’s consumer wants to own less and experience more. Millennials and Gen Z consumers are leading the charge when it comes to mobile use for activities like shopping – in fact, research revealed early this year showed that over a third (35.6 per cent) of ecommerce spend in the UK is expected to be carried out on mobile in 2016.

But even more important than the technology, shoppers want good customer service, the ability to quickly find what they need and to buy from brands that are interested in connecting with who they are, rather than just selling them something.

Consumers cross-shop physical shops, online sites and speciality stores, buy clothing at pop-ups, and aren’t afraid to use their mobile device to compare prices, reviews and ultimately make that final purchase.

Traditional brands that are succeeding are those that are thinking about the larger ecosystem in which their consumer engages, and are willing to expand or partner with others in order to reach them on a level they understand.

Mobile tactics such as geo-location targeting and personalised content can help retailers learn more about who is visiting their stores and the content that is really grabbing their attention.

Ultimately, the effective use of smartphone content and mobile engagement will be at the core of the success of bricks-and-mortar retailers this summer.

It is imperative for retailers today to look hard at those like Uber, which is making its mark on the industry, but to remain true to who they are at the core.

Retailers shouldn’t change an entire business based on the success off another; just modify it appropriately to keep up with the changing demands of the consumer. They should be using digital to their advantage, data to build insights and partnerships to maximise outreach.

In summary, it’s easier than ever for customers to hail an empty cab in the big city, because everyone wants an Uber. As a result, it’s now the perfect time for taxis – and everyone else for that matter – to use this opportunity to get back in the game!

Severine Philardeau is VP of retail and brand solutions at RetailMeNot

This UK on-demand private jet service offered Uber users a taste of the high life as part of its US growth plan.