New ideas spring from troubled times.
With so many rideshare customers staying home due to the COVID-19 situation, our regular routine was stopped cold.
The rideshare market is recovering slowly, but most drivers tell us that even though they’re making some money, a return to the old days seems to be another several weeks or months down the road.
In the meantime, drivers have had to find new ways to make money. We might have done some delivery work, or found ways of developing small home-based businesses. Some of us have had to start collecting unemployment.
We need to survive, and we’ll do what it takes to do that.
Much like us drivers, Uber took a huge hit when demand for rideshare dropped like a rock. What could they do? Well, just as we did, they looked around the COVID-19 landscape and found hope in making the most of the circumstances.
They already had Uber Eats up and running. And even though it wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire early in the year, it got hot when more and more customers were confined by COVID-19 restrictions.
Based on this experience, Uber smelled an opportunity to expand delivery. With more people stuck at home, more services would be needed. Businesses (besides restaurants) would need new ways to get merchandise to their customers.
Uber had a ready-made technology program and a fleet of drivers, plus a flood of newly unemployed workers to call upon.
It is out of the ravages of the COVID-19 crisis that Uber Direct and Uber Connect were born.
In this article we’ll examine these services so you can have a deeper understanding of what they have to offer—not just to their customers, but to YOU, drivers eager to make a good living. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is Uber Direct?
- What is Uber Connect?
- What do drivers stand to gain from these new services?
- What are the drawbacks of these new services for drivers?
- How much drivers can make working with these services?
- The success (or lack thereof) of these two services: What happens after the pandemic passes?
What is Uber Direct?
Uber Direct is a natural outgrowth of Uber Eats.
Since restaurants and customers hopped on the train to use Uber’s app and drivers for deliveries on a rather large scale, it made sense to expand delivery services to retail establishments and their customers. With Uber Direct, retail stores of all kinds can have goods delivered to shoppers.
During COVID-19’s prolific quarantines and stay-at-home orders, Uber Direct started with grocery and convenience store delivery in just a few locations. According to Uber, retailers were asking them to supply delivery both to their customers and within their organizations. So, Uber Direct expanded.
In New York City, Uber formed a partnership with Cabinet, a company that deals in over-the-counter medication. Other retailers are using this new service to deliver parcels to customers. Some of the items being carried by Uber’s drivers include pet and veterinary supplies, as well as fresh vegetables and snack foods.
What is Uber Connect?
Earlier in this post we alluded to Uber’s creativity in thinking of new things to do for people. Once again, COVID-19 inspired a service that catered to people in a new way. This one is for those who aren’t able to see or get with friends or loved ones face to face, and want Uber to “connect” them.
Uber Connect may have originated as a feature in Uber Eats. The company thought it would be really cool to send a coffee-infused, sugary treat, some cheesecake, or a pizza with all the toppings to someone you love.
That got them to thinking it would be even better to send other stuff—maybe the old DVD you borrowed? How about the hammer your not-so-handy friends need to hang pictures in their new apartment?
As Uber’s website explains: “Whether it’s a care package, a board game, or an extra roll of much-needed toilet paper, you can send it by requesting ‘Uber Connect’ in the Uber app.”
For now, Uber Connect is rolling out in a limited number of cities, and like Uber Direct, is still in the testing phase. As of early June, Uber Connect is operating in Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa Bay, and Washington, DC. in the U.S.; Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in Australia; Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Tijuana in Mexico; and nine cities in India.
Here’s what the screen looks like from the customer side. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
The people on the sending and receiving end can follow the delivery’s progress, which could help drivers who don’t want to wait for them to answer the door!
What do drivers have to gain?
There aren’t a lot of details available about either of these new services, but we can identify a few advantages for drivers who choose to drive for them. Here’s what Uber Direct and Uber Connect might enable us to do:
- Earn based on pickup, mileage, and dropoff, plus tips (minus Uber’s fee)
- Diversify their business while keeping the flexibility and versatility of rideshare
- Potentially increase earnings, combining delivery with rideshare
What are some of the drawbacks?
Delivery sounds appealing, especially to those of us who aren’t crazy about our unruly passengers.
It can definitely be a positive move overall, but we have identified some concerns—and heard about them on several Uber message boards. Here are possible drawbacks you should know about:
- You could be accused of stealing if the recipient doesn’t get what he or she expected.
- You might unknowingly transport contraband (drugs, alcohol, weapons, etc.).
- Delivery involves a lot more driving (and waiting) than rideshare—and may not pay as much per hour.
- Delivery might cut into rideshare business; e.g., people taking rides to make drop-offs and pickups.
- You might be asked to lift oversized or very heavy parcels.
- You may or may not be able to fit certain parcels in your vehicle.
Will delivery traffic stay strong after shutdowns end?
If anyone knows for sure what the world will look like once the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end, we’d love to hear from that person. We actually have no idea what the post-COVID environment will be like, but we can speculate about some likely changes.
One is that demand for delivery will remain strong.
Now that people have had a taste of having their food, groceries, and personal parcels delivered, they may be willing to keep paying minimal surcharges to save the time of shopping and running other errands. Here are some things that might be changed forever as a result of that:
- Delivery via Uber could become cheaper than traditional methods.
- People are “spoiled” by the convenience of calling for an Uber delivery.
- The market for delivery will expand as many companies extend options to work from home even after states reopen.
- Retail stores and other companies may be more likely to opt for Uber to avoid new surcharges from traditional parcel delivery services. Uber is aggressively seeking business from companies of all kinds.
It will be interesting to see how Uber Connect and Uber Direct play out! In our new normal, one of the best strategies for drivers will be to experiment with different services and platforms and focus on apps that are working best for you.
That means ensuring that you’re not just signed up for Uber, but also delivery services like DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, Shipt, along with the rideshare services.
Drivers should then try their hand with different apps, and understand their hourly pay to decide which apps are working for them.
You can use Gridwise to track your mileage, and earnings, for free, so you can understand what apps are making you the most money.
So if you don’t already have our app, download it now for free!
You can use our app to track your earnings and get announcements and blog posts that can help you navigate the post-COVID world. Also, for up-to-the-minute insight and cool info, subscribe to J & Brandon’s amazing podcast.
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