Uber – the white-hot, San Francisco-based transportation startup – has been the topic of much discussion over the last few months.
In June, it raised $1.2 billion in venture capital funding that valued the company at close to $20 billion. In July, it repeated an annual summer program that enables its highfalutin clientele to book on-demand helicopter rides to the Hamptons. And just last week, the company hired former Obama staffer David Plouffe to help fight its mounting regulatory battles.
But in perhaps Uber’s most interesting move (especially for a tech and shopper marketing geek like me), albeit one that received considerably less fanfare, the company finally released an API (application programming interface).
At a really practical level, this means that Uber has opened up its core functionality – the ability to hail a car on-demand – for integration with other mobile apps. For example, United Airlines will let consumers with upcoming flights book rides to the airport; and OpenTable will enable its users to make dinner and car reservations with one click… all without leaving their native apps.
As cool and novel as this development is on its own, the thing about it that gets me most excited is its potential impact on a seemingly unrelated area – eCommerce. While most of the API integrations we’ll see out of the gate will focus on getting people from point A to point B, I think savvy companies will quickly pick up on the opportunity to leverage Uber to make same-day, local product delivery a reality.
Heavyweights like Amazon (Get It Today and Prime Air), Google (Google Shopping Express) and eBay (eBay Now) are already testing same-day delivery in select markets. And Uber itself recently rolled out a small pilot in Washington DC (Corner Store). But most eCommerce companies don’t have the scale or resources to do it themselves, so the ability to outsource the capability to a 3rd party “logistics” company like Uber could be really appealing.
Imagine if a consumer could open up the Dick’s Sporting Goods mobile app, place an order, have it fulfilled at the nearest local store, and direct an Uber driver to pick it up and drop it at their doorstep within hours (as opposed to the standard 2-3 day shipping period).
As far as I’m concerned, Uber-commerce can’t get here fast enough!