On-demand ride-hailing service Uber has spent four years building a perfect transportation alternative to taxis and black car services in cities around the world. But until today it’s just been focused on consumer travel. Now the company is going after a huge new opportunity by changing the way business users can book and expense rides on its platform.
The company is launching a new offering, called Uber for Business, which is designed to make it easier for users to bill trips directly to their company while working. On the flip side, Uber is providing participating companies with a centralized dashboard which they can use to keep track of rides that have been expensed.
The new product is basically an acknowledgment that many consumers have been using Uber for both personal and business use cases, but their employers didn’t have a good way to manage those expenses. “Ever since we started, businesses and corporations have been asking us to design something with business in mind,” Uber SVP of business Emil Michael told me in a phone interview.
Uber for Business will provide travel managers with a dashboard for inviting employees into a shared payment account for rides made on the platform. Once invited, employees need only click a link to connect their personal Uber accounts to their company’s business account.
Once that’s done, users will be able to quickly toggle between personal and business accounts. If it’s a business ride, their Uber receipts will be automatically added to their expense reports. That cuts out a lot of hassle when it comes to filing expenses.
For travel managers, the new dashboard will provide greater visibility into ground transportation booked by employees. According to Michael, most ground transportation expensed to date consisted of some combination of travel vouchers, paper taxi receipts, credit card taxi receipts, and no receipts. Uber will change that by providing more data and analytics for measuring spend across an organization.
But most importantly, accepting Uber will most likely mean saving money. In most markets, at least in the U.S., Uber is priced below the cost of a taxi, making it a more affordable alternative for getting around.
Even if employers don’t explicitly opt-in to Uber for Business, the company is still making it easy for many business users to expense their trips. That’s because Uber has announced a partnership with business travel and expense management company Concur. That integration will allow any of the 25 million Concur users around the world to link their accounts and automatically send Uber receipts to their expense reports.
In addition to all that, users who have American Express corporate cards will get the same membership rewards benefits as personal cardholders. Building on a partnership that Uber announced with AmEx earlier this summer, corporate cardholders will be able to earn double points on Uber rides and pay for Uber travel in the same way that personal AmEx cardholders can.
Targeting business travelers seems to be all the rage these days among startups. After all, it was just a few hours ago that Airbnb announced its own partnership with Concur to simplify the process of booking and expensing stays on its platform.
With those moves, Uber is going after a potential tens of billions of dollars in travel expenditures, according to Michael. By positioning itself not just as one option accepted by travel managers, but the preferred option, Uber could see a huge increase in rides by business travelers.