Uber gets in holiday spirit with new platform upgrades

Just in time for the holidays, one of the gig economy’s titans made a list of new features — and it’s worth checking it twice.

Uber (NYSE: UBER) on Monday released a slew of upgrades to its rideshare and delivery platforms, all geared toward holiday shopping, shipping and travel. New features include a dedicated Holiday Shop on Uber Eats and revamped version of its same-day delivery service Uber Connect.

“This year, whatever the holidays look like for you and your family, Uber is here to help you Go Anywhere and Get Anything —whether you’re traveling, hosting or sending gifts,” it wrote in a blog post authored by Sundeep Jain, the company’s chief product officer.

The new Holiday Shop on Uber Eats will offer plenty of food and beverages like chocolates, candy canes and coffee — typical fare for the app. But customers will also have the option to shop groceries from stores like Albertsons and convenience items from retailers like Walgreens.

An in-app screenshot of the new Holiday Shop on Uber Eats. (Photo: Uber)

The platform is also making it easier to find alcohol items by increasing the selection available to users and adding a new advanced searching feature that allows them to shop more merchants simultaneously, compare prices and see delivery times.

And now customers can call on Uber to do the legwork when searching for elusive items. Through the new “custom orders” feature, users can request highly specific items and the platform will find them on its own.

But the list of new features continues. In addition to shopping, Uber placed plenty of emphasis on shipping.

For example, on Uber Eats, customers now have the option to “gift” any order to friends or family. Users can order from merchants and restaurants in over 10,000 cities worldwide and select “make it a gift” at checkout. Uber will then send a custom message and tracking information to the recipient’s phone.

The company also made some key modifications to Uber Connect, its platform for same-day local shipping. Customers can use the service to send presents or holiday treats across town, with new features including the ability to send multiple packages at once, ship to different destinations and verify arrival with proof of delivery.

An in-app screenshot of the Uber Connect platform. (Photo: Uber)

In addition, Uber expanded its mobility platform to make holiday travel simpler. 

For instance, Uber Travel — a feature that rolled out this spring — is now available in over 10,000 cities worldwide, including all major cities in the U.S. and Canada. The service organizes customers’ hotel, flight and restaurant reservations by linking travel plans from email accounts.

The firm also built on its Uber Explore and Uber Charter services. Explore, which helps customers find tourist attractions, events and local restaurants, is now teaming with OpenTable and Viator to add more experiences, while Charter, a booking service for large outings, was expanded to over 20 major U.S. cities.

The updates to mobility are nothing to sneeze at, but it’s the delivery business that really got revamped.

Watch: A clever solution to local delivery

According to Uber’s earnings report for the third quarter of 2022, the delivery segment posted revenue of $2.77 billion, gross bookings of $13.68 billion and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $181 million — all record highs but all trailing the firm’s stronger mobility and rideshare business.

Uber has placed plenty of emphasis on growing its delivery segment — and Uber Eats in particular — over the past few years, adding new verticals like grocery and convenience and ordering options like scheduled delivery, nationwide shipping and after-hours ordering. This new list of updates continues that focus.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Jack Daleo.

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Editor: Jack Daleo