In recent years, Uber has received quite a bad rap and had much to overcome before finally going public on May 10, 2019. From perceived unethical business strategies to multiple complaints of sexual assault, the list really goes on. In fact, Uber received its first cease and desist back in October of 2010 from the San Francisco Metro Transit Authority and the Public Utilities Commission of California. In January 2012, the personal transit company received a serious backslash for surge pricing, and then prices surged dramatically during Hurricane Sandy. In September 2013, an Uber passenger accused a driver of trying to choke her. And like we said, the list really goes on.
With all of these channels, Uber’s marketing team has had their work cut out for them. So what strategies did marketers take to help promote advertise and drum up positive awareness for this edgy, innovative, and tech-savvy organization? And what should they be doing today?
Uber is Totally on Demand
The entire concept of Uber aligns perfectly with the demands of today’s customers. Consumers today want convenience, and they want ease. Uber offers just that.
1. Word of Mouth & Referral Advertising
For convenience-type services such as Uber, word of mouth and referral advertising is absolutely essential. Starting in San Francisco, Uber relied on early adopters of the technology to tell others about their experiences. Over time, this helped to generate more riders and enough revenue to help the organization expand and become further sophisticated. Coincidentally, this continues to be a critical strategy for the brand, and other companies looking to grow their awareness should know those customer referrals and word-of-mouth advertising offer some of the best promotions you can receive for your organization.
2. Loyalty Programs
Brands have leveraged loyalty programs for years and years, and so this is really nothing new. But, Uber took a while to create its own loyalty program, and it wasn’t until 2017 that customers could take advantage of it. Further, Uber was pretty quiet about the release, but avid users of the service did receive prompts on the app, letting them know that a new program was available. This quiet approach actually helped to make those already loyal customers feel more special, as they had the opportunity to take advantage of the program long before anyone else. This created an exclusive feeling, which also really suits today’s customers.
3. Surprise and Delight
In the last ten to 15 years, the concept of surprise and delight has really taken off and has become a central focus for marketers. This strategy is all about creating cool and exciting experiences that loyal customers can benefit from – and today’s customers love to feel special. Businesses that strive to introduce experiences that can turn a ho-hum experience into one that is awesome and memorable makes perfect sense. Uber has embraced this strategy and has been known to make kitten deliveries to workplaces and has even arranged for passengers to ride with famous musicians. These tactics create a great viral buzz that can make it hard for competitors to match, especially when they didn’t think of it first.
Customers love to maximize their programs, and so partnerships, wherever possible, create a great value-add. In recent years, Uber has created partnerships to entice first-time and long-term passengers. For example, Uber has made it possible for riders to earn points for some of their favorite hotel chains. And certain credit card holders can get discounted rates when that card is used.
5. Ratings & Reviews
We talked a bit already about the importance of word of mouth and referral advertising. Ratings and review strategies take this to the next level. Where personal referrals or someone who recommends your business to a friend during an elevator or water-cooler conversation is helpful, even better is when your customers take to the internet to share what they think about your company. Today’s consumers love to conduct research online, and while they do consider marketing content, even more, important is what those reviews say. If your business is rated a two out of five, that isn’t going to leave a positive taste in the mouth of your prospective customer. So, make sure that your business is looking for an opportunity and the right place for these reviews to take place, and then look for a strategy to encourage (and potentially reward) customers for their reviews. Uber, in particular, has an app-based review program that allows riders to provide a review of their driver, and on the flip side, the driver can provide a rating of the rider. Drivers are very motivated by their ratings though passengers can’t easily find out what drivers think of them. Regardless, the system advocates trust in Uber and smart behavior from both drivers and passengers.
6. Reputation Management
Once you have set up the opportunity for customers to provide you with reviews (perhaps on your website), you need to make sure that you are actively paying attention to what they have to say. And remember that customers might be leveraging other forums such as social media to provide a review. Regardless of which public forum is used, your marketing team should take it upon themselves to acknowledge each and every review. When you take the time to respond, it shows your customers that you really care. And it is equally important to respond to negative reviews as it is to positive reviews. Your customers will be reassured to know that their constructive feedback to you is being considered and taken seriously. So acknowledge what they have to say publicly, and take it to a private message if you need more information. The key is to do something.
Your Marketing Strategy Needs to Be Where Your Customers Are
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Uber’s marketing strategy to date has been that all products are communicated in a seamless and multi-channel nature. Uber has focused on the entire customer experience and not just one-offs. They didn’t fixate on just one area such as their ability to accept mobile payments, but they considered how customers could hail a ride from their mobile device, how riders can enjoy transportation in better cars, and how that whole headache of tipping could be managed with ease.
Uber’s approach to omnichannel didn’t stop there. Now, they offer Facebook Messenger as a method to request rides. And, in certain cities, there are physical kiosks set up with breathalyzer systems so that bargoers can request a safe ride home.
The key to learning for other businesses based on Uber’s marketing strategy is that you need to stay in the game. Uber has looked for ways to stay relevant by innovating the other benefits that it can offer, all within its niche. For example, UberEAtsis their approach for rapid food delivery service and is managed via a standalone app. UberRUSH, a newer offering, provides businesses with a delivery service partnered with key eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Clover. And now, UberHEALTH has begun to deliver flu shots… really! And there is sure to be more to come… it’s just a matter of time before Uber will show us the next benefit that they have to offer the world.