Uber Can Do Much More Than Take You Places

Uber Portland
Eric Risberg/AP
Uber has turned the taxi business on its head since being founded in 2009, but that's far from the last industry the company intends to interrupt. It has quietly been testing product delivery services in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., over the past few months, delivering everything from handbags to toilet paper.

The move could make it easier to shop online and get quick delivery of products, and it might also make Uber an indispensable app for millions of people around the world.

Location-Based Shopping

Uber has tested two concepts in the past year, one called Corner Store and the other called Uber Essentials. The latter was a Washington, D.C., test that offered "the everyday items you need in 10 minutes or less." Apparently that includes things like a folding snow shovel ($20), an Uber branded umbrella ($15), DayQuil Cold & Flu ($10 for a 16-count pack), and Charmin Ultra Strong Toilet Paper double roll ($4 for four rolls). Uber didn't announce any statistics indicating whether Uber Essentials performed as well as planned or not, but executives did say "the more you love it, the more likely it will last," and since it was shut down after about a year of operation, it likely wasn't a big hit among customers.

Uber Essentials was just the beginning of Uber's merchant plans, though. The company recently launched UberRush, a rush ordering service in New York. Order an item from any number of merchants and Uber will pick it up and deliver it to you. The service can even send documents, much like a local courier service will do. With Uber you can see where your package is and get confirmation when it's delivered.

Merchandise may not be the biggest business Uber has today, but it's showing the power of the company's location services.

Uber's Plan to Take Over the World

Just think of how many applications location services have beyond the taxi. The two-way location platform Uber has built not only lets a service provider know where you are, you can tell where they are as well.

If built into businesses correctly, this could be great for pizza delivery, the cable repair truck and logistics in industries like long-haul trucking. You could track nearly anyone delivering goods or service you need with Uber's technology through a smartphone. That's why it has opened up an API (software that allows developers to tap Uber's technology) for third parties and is moving into new markets like product deliveries.

The grand vision is to have so many drivers and so many vehicles on the road that Uber becomes a go-to for both your transportation needs as well as deliveries. Tying those drivers in with the location-based infrastructure is where Uber's true value could lie.

I think Uber deliveries will eventually be integrated into thousands of merchants, just the way Apple (AAPL) Pay is trying to integrate itself, and Uber will be a delivery option. Of course, this would only be for local deliveries, but if you want a sandwich in 20 minutes or don't want to drive to the store for an item you need right away, maybe Uber can fill that need.

Will Uber Be the Merchant of the Future?

Considering how successful Uber has been as a taxi competitor and how many drivers are on the road, I have no doubt it will be able to transition into a delivery service as well. As of early 2015, Uber had 160,000 active drivers on the road, four times what it had a year ago, and was signing up 40,000 new drivers a month. That's an incredible network to build from.

With that said, it probably doesn't make sense for Uber to stock products itself and it will instead be an integrated player with other merchants in areas where offerings like UberRush are available.

If it's successful, Uber could be even more integral to our daily lives than we know. If the number of drivers it has continues to grow, the possibilities with Uber are endless.

Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
Read Full Story
  • DJI27025.8823.900.09%
  • NIKKEI 22522490.6138.750.17%
    Hang Seng26801.15-47.34-0.18%
  • USD (PER EUR)1.11-0.0002-0.02%
    USD (PER CHF)1.010.00020.02%
    JPY (PER USD)108.57-0.0410-0.04%
    GBP (PER USD)1.29-0.0039-0.30%