Andrew Zmijak is a Research Analyst at Mintel. Andrew researches and writes reports on social media and Canadian consumer behaviour.
While still relatively new to the Canadian landscape, ridesharing has gained considerable traction due to pioneers Uber and Lyft. Limited to certain regions of the country, operators in this space have recently entered into new markets, previously held back by regional transportation boards. In January 2020, Uber and Lyft were approved to operate in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and Whistler.
Even though both services are now available in the Vancouver area, there are some disparities in terms of coverage area. Uber covers much of the Lower Mainland, whereas Lyft initially operated in a limited area including part of Vancouver, the Pacific National Exhibition and the Vancouver International Airport. In February, Lyft widened its reach to service all of Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster and North Surrey. Lyft also expanded its operating geography to include Horseshoe Bay to the US border, University of British Columbia to Langley, as well as in Delta. The battle for territory will likely intensify as ride sharing becomes more commonplace throughout the nation.
Easing rider anxiety with new security features
Some users have stated that they have felt unsafe during a ride share ride, according to Mintel research on ridesharing and mobility services. Additionally, some rideshare users believe that drivers are unprofessional. As a response, brands in this space have taken notice and are introducing new measures to address these concerns. For example, Uber released its ‘RideCheck’ safety feature in February 2020, and is available to Canadian users. The feature allows Uber to check in with passengers and drivers if something has gone wrong during a ride. When ‘RideCheck’ is activated, the rider and the driver will receive a message asking if everything is okay. Following that action, a message pop-up with options such as reporting a collision, adding or changing the destination or reporting that everything is fine and the ride was stopped on purpose. Riders can essentially reach out to the company to communicate that all is well or take other actions such as contacting 911 via the emergency button or reporting the issue to Uber’s Safety Line. Nonetheless, with worries voiced by consumers about their safety when utilizing ridesharing, brands in the category will boost their image and reputation by implementing new features that can alleviate these concerns among users.
Along the same lines of safety and as a response to the COVID-19 epidemic, Uber suspended its pooled option on its ride-hailing service in the US and Canada on March 17 to limit the spread of the virus. This option, which enables riders to book trips at lower prices by sharing the vehicle with other passengers travelling in the same direction, has been disabled within the operator’s app. Users of the ride sharing service will also see a reminder in the app for them to consider if the ride they are planning to book is essential and to “travel only when necessary” as per Uber. Consequently, brands in the category will want to ensure they take the appropriate measures during unsettling times for the safety of users and the public, which will also likely contribute to their stature.
Uber Pets expands the brand’s repertoire
Recently, Uber has introduced Uber Pet, a vehicle option that allows consumers to bring their own pet on an Uber trip. The new feature allows riders to alert drivers that a pet will be coming along for the ride. Riders that decide to take their pets with them will be charged a small fee for the privilege. Additionally, Uber Pet will not replace their service animal policy, which allows riders with service dogs to ride at no extra cost. The new feature will support the brand in appealing to a broader audience. The move comes as ridesharing operators such as WOKE (for women passengers only – driven by females drivers) cater to a niche market, especially as concerns for safety are salient. While only available in the US, the service will likely make its way north of the border if proven to be successful. As some consumers possess specialized requirements, brands will need to adjust their offerings to reflect the needs of the modern user.
What we think
With ridesharing gaining momentum, and likely to catch up to – if not surpass taxicabs – the future looks bright for brands in this category. However, to stand out among the competition, new features and services will need to be introduced that either simplify the user process or expand the scope of potential customers through unique offerings (eg pet-friendly, for senior citizen), in addition to gaining entrance into new markets. As brands such as Uber make efforts to become the app behind key aspects of its users’ daily lives through transportation and meal delivery via Uber Eats, loyalty will likely enlarge as a result.