Uber is introducing two new types of services, the company announced this week, including Uber Direct and Uber Connect. Direct is a delivery platform for retail items, while Connect is a peer-to-peer package delivery service, for sending goods to family and friends. This marks the most aggressive foray yet for Uber into courier services, after it already introduced grocery items to its Uber Eats platform as the coronavirus pandemic continues to suppress its ride-hailing business.
Uber has already also introduced new extensions of its platform for transporting personal protective equipment to front-line workers, and Eats is also delivering convenience items in some markets in addition to grocery goods. The Direct and Connect services will likewise open in select cities initially, and the service looks very different depending on where it’s in use. IN NYC, for instance, it’s delivering over-the-counter medications in partnership with Cabinet, whereas in Portugal it’s essentially supplementing the public postal service with general mail parcel delivery.
Uber Connect provides same-day, on-contact delivery from one person to another, which Uber positions as a way for people to send care packages, supplies, games and other quarantine daily staples with their friends and family. It’s launching in over 25 cities across Australia, Mexico and the U.S. to start. At heart, Connect isn’t much different from Uber’s basic rider service, but instead of transporting people door-to-door, it’s moving stuff.
Both of these are being introduced today but will evolve over time as Uber sees how usage proceeds, and what people want out of the service. Stepping up on the goods delivery front should also mean bolstering utilization rates for drivers, and continued income in the face of massive decreases in demand for general rider transportation services, even as Uber Eats sees a big usage spike as more people seek direct-to-door food delivery.