Uber is an upstart that’s upsetting transportation regulators and traditional taxi operators alike around the US and around the world. This upstart very well could be the world’s most scrutinized lead generation platform.
The Uber app pairs paying passengers with independent for-hire drivers in cities such as Beijing, Denver, San Francisco, Tokyo and Toronto. Not surprisingly, the ridesharing service has clashed with government officials and taxi owners in many of the places where it operates.
Concerns about Uber have focused on whether drivers are properly insured and registered to drive a commercial vehicle and whether they’ve undergone thorough criminal background checks and vehicle safety inspections, according to NJ.com. For its part, Uber vigorously defends the safety and reliability of its drivers and their cars.
Despite the criticism heaped on the startup — and perhaps, in part, because of it — Uber has managed to grab business away from old-school taxi companies and has continued to expand across the globe. The biggest endorsement of Uber came recently in its eye-popping haul of $1.2 billion in venture capital.
As explained by Florida Watchdog, Uber doesn’t directly employ any drivers or own any cars; rather, it teams up with licensed local drivers seeking business. Passengers find drivers through the Uber app. For sending passengers to drivers, San Francisco-based Uber typically takes a 20 percent cut for lead generation and marketing.
“Technology is changing market standards, and Uber is the trailblazer for a mobile-first world,” said Ben Katz, co-founder and CEO of Card.com, which is challenging traditional banking with its prepaid Visa cards.
Mike Ma, founding partner of Seattle interactive agency Labs8 LLC, said Uber is consolidating an “inherently disorganized” patchwork of taxis and limos under a single brand. Ma said this underscores the importance of branding for all lead generation platforms. If you build a strong, recognizable consumer brand, it sets you apart from the “sea of me-toos” in lead generation, Ma said.
Social media and traditional advertising are filled with “noise,” Ma said, so to break out of the pack, you need a big budget and a well-orchestrated strategy. That, however, is out of reach for a lot of local companies, according to Ma. But a platform like Uber lets local folks latch on to a well-known brand.
Uber “is gathering distressed inventories — excess capacity that’s driving around not having a fare — and matching them up with demand. It’s not just any demand, but demand from the new tech-savvy generation of consumers,” Ma said.
In its own marketing materials, Uber touts its advantages as a lead generator. Simply put, Uber says its “technology platform benefits our partners by lowering their operating expenses and increasing their revenue.”
So, could the Uber model be coming to tradition-bound businesses other than taxi companies? Indiana real estate broker Duke Long thinks so. In a recent blog post, he notes that lead generation in commercial real estate still relies heavily on cold calling and relationship building. But he predicts that a version of Uber will be introduced in the commercial real estate sector.
Uber, he wrote, has “created a new marketplace. Their entire business is based on a mobile transaction. They created a new consumer experience. Their tools enable users to create an entire business from their platform.”
In the midst of the Uber revolution, no one is forecasting the disappearance of taxi services or commercial real estate brokerages. Still, taxi operators, commercial real estate brokers and plenty of other folks are keeping tabs on one of the world’s most fascinating and most controversial lead generation platforms.