The ‘Uber for X’ startup pitch is becoming nearly as ubiquitous as the smartphones that power these mobile-enabled on-demand services. It’s starting to feel like there’s an Uber for everything, from travel, local delivery, to doctors, dog walking, and even drugs. But, putting to one side the convenience of booking on a mobile phone, it’s not always immediately obvious how some of these so-called ‘Uber for…’ services benefit from being truly on-demand.
Urban Massage, the UK startup that offers an Uber-style massage service that bears more than a little resemblance to U.S.-based Zeel, is one example, prompting me to ask the question: is same-hour massage booking really a thing? Apparently, however, the answer is more often yes — currently 60 per cent of Urban Massage bookings take place within the hour.
“Like other on-demand apps, customers want instant gratification and pain relief is major,” Urban Massage co-founder and CEO Jack Tang tells me. “Whether they are feeling under the weather, wake up with pain in their back, injure themselves etc., they need instant remedies and so, same hour/day massage is becoming more of an expected commodity. As you know, Zeel, Unwind.me, Pine, and Soothe in the U.S. are cropping up to do just the same thing.”
Urban Massage’s newly-launched iOS app aims to make that instant gratification even more instant, with the booking process designed to take as little as 30 seconds. Like the company’s existing website, it lets you book various types of massage, either at home or at work, with as little as an hour’s notice. Each massage carries a set fee based on type and time booked, with the startup utilising a pool of vetted freelance massage professionals and taking a decent-sized cut along the way.
To make a booking, you simply enter your postcode, select a treatment — this filters therapist based on their qualifications — and how long you want the treatment for and whether you want one therapist or two. The app then displays a list of available times, after calculating how long it will take the available therapists to get to your location. The backend also takes into account other bookings throughout the day and ensures there’s enough time for the therapist to get to the next appointment. It then takes two taps to confirm the booking and pay.
Tang cites Urban Massage’s typical customers as those who are “time poor,” such as professionals who book on their way home or just before leaving the office, and stay at home mums and dads with kids to look after. The company is also picking up custom inadvertently via the NHS, with consultants starting to refer patients who want to try out alternative therapists to resolve conditions where they feel treatments such as lymphatic drainage etc. could be helpful. Another example is celebrities who want privacy, such is the advantage of having a therapist come to you.
However, as we’ve noted before (and key to Urban Massage’s revenue-generating potential), in addition to offering a consumer-facing app, the startup provides a B2B, white-labelled service to London-area hotel/chains that don’t have their own in-house spa. “We have approximately 1,500 5-star hotel bedrooms under our exclusivity where the reception can tap straight into our real-time therapists to on-the-fly outsource all in-room treatments to us,” says Tang.
To that end, Urban Massage is disclosing £60,000 worth of bookings processed to date — all while in Beta and sans-native mobile app. That’s up from £30,00 since late July. Now that the service is available on iOS, we should expect growth to accelerate. Meanwhile, the company is partering with recipe kit service Hello Fresh in the form of a marketing push starting mid-October.