You can lead a horse to water and hope they’ll buy something when they’re there – or at least, that’s how I think the expression goes after learning that Uber is launching a new program called UberCENTRAL to let businesses of any size request, pay for and manage rides for customers from a centralized dashboard.
UberCENTRAL is a project that manages to target both low- and high-income markets at once. As Uber notes in a blog post, it could just as easily work for a business whose core customers are unlikely to have smartphones, like senior citizens in Atlanta, as it could while providing a door-to-door white glove valet experience for upscale Bloomingdale’s shoppers.
It’s also ideal for more traditional uses, like arranging airport service for hotel guests or providing rides for clients of doctor or dental clinics undergoing outpatient procedures. And as I alluded to at the outset, businesses with particularly high-margin goods and services could use this to bring people in the door, rather than just for sending them on their way post-purchase.
Long-term, UberCENTRAL plants a seed that could grow into something much bigger. A centralized dispatch app that’s accessible to business customers is likely to be a key ingredient in the successful deployment of a network of on-demand driverless vehicles, something that Uber is publicly working towards. With the help of technologies like changeable interactive in-vehicle displays, you could also foresee a time when businesses could effectively brand an on-demand fleet, adding to the overall customer effect.
UberCENTRAL is available to businesses in the U.S. and Canada starting today, with expansion elsewhere likely to follow later (Uber invites businesses in other markets to sign up for expansion updates). It seems like a smart way for businesses to quickly add value to their customers’ overall experience, which could be an important distinction in a retail environment when the temptation to stay home and shop online is strong.