You know you're onto something when the name of your company starts to enter the tech world's lexicon as a popular verb form. While we've been Googling things for a while now, it hasn't been very long since startups far and wide have been looking to "Uberize" the business models of nearly every conceivable industry.
Yet that's the latest trend as entrepreneurs look to accomplish in other sectors what Uber did in its own. This explains the recent spate of news headlines proclaiming new startups as "The Uber of X," where X is whatever sector these founders want to disrupt with an Uber-like service. As more and more industries get Uberized, we could be getting a glimpse into the future of what some have already started to call the "on-demand economy."
What does it mean to Uberize a business model?
Uber is an app-based transportation service that allows users, who have downloaded the Uber app to their smartphones, to book a ride in an Uber car whenever they want as long as they're in a participating city. To get a more in-depth look into the specifics of the app, Mashable provided a look at how the Uber app works and what it offers consumers:
Using Uber's on-demand model as a springboard, other enterprising startups are looking to Uberize, or unleash the same disruptive force in other industries:
— The VineOC (@thevineoc) February 14, 2015
In SF, Bannerman app delivers a personal bouncer within 30 minutes http://t.co/gghOgb6Lss I think the best part of this service is the name.
— Teague Hopkins (@teaguehopkins) September 5, 2014
As you can see, there are "Ubers" for massages, local trucking solutions and even personal bodyguards on demand.
Soothe provides one of the clearest examples of how startups are applying the Uber mindset to stagnant industries. With Soothe, users download an app that lets them make an appointment with a licensed massage therapist who will come to their homes within an hour of making the appointment.
As TechCrunch pointed out, while the cost of a Soothe massage is comparable to brick-and-mortar based spa treatments, it makes the whole process easier by allowing people to get a massage in the comfort of their own homes whenever they want, while allowing the company to vet good therapists for them.
In the early going, some have suggested that to Uberize an industry means to remove the middleman. This isn't exactly true. It's about taking the old middlemen and replacing them with new ones who have done away with the inefficiencies and lack of consumer-mindedness of the old guard.
What industries could be fertile ground for a potential Uberization?
Since Uber entered the public eye, there have been countless attempts at spinoffs geared toward other business models. But what makes an industry ripe for Uberization?
Brian Ascher of TechCrunch suggested that the first step toward determining what industries could be disrupted by this new model is seeing which ones have a large proportion of customers who are truly unhappy with the current providers. This isn't hard - as Ascher noted, most consumer industries have a tough time with things like availability, quality, transparency, and pricing.
Additionally, a consumer market that involves frequent transactions is more likely to benefit from an on-demand service than a one-off type of service such as home renovations or waiting at the DMV. A service that can alleviate an everyday pain point is more likely to gain traction and build consumer habits around it than one that would be used sparsely.
From there, it's a matter of asking how an on demand mobile-based service can bring unprecedented convenience and data to that sector to deliver a customer experience that exceeds the current level of service.
Established businesses look to Uberize their own services
It's not just scrappy startups that are looking to Uberize everything - even established brands are looking to remove the common pain points and inefficiencies in their business models by adding elements of on-demand functionality to their services. Starwood Hotels and Hilton are looking to do away with one of the more annoying parts of travel - waiting in line to get your room key - by rolling out mobile hotel room keys, Mobile Marketer reported.
Both chains have recognized that travelers are very reliant on their mobile devices, and mobile hotel room keys will take some of the friction out of their travel experience by allowing them to arrive and check in on their own terms.
"Brands are currently scrambling to Uberize their processes - take away the steps that are annoying, time consuming, and inefficient - and move to a more user-friendly experience," Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital, Washington, D.C., said in an interview with Mobile Marketer. "The true significance of the mobile key is that it will allow guests to skip steps such as waiting in line and checking in that are seen by many as inefficient and unnecessary in the era of online booking."
With a valuation of over $40 billion, it’s no wonder businesses want to replicate Uber’s business model. It will be interesting to see which ones succeed.