Uber on Monday announced the launch of Uber Direct, an expansion of the company's existing takeout delivery service into grocery and convenience store delivery, and Uber Connect, which allows users in some cities to send care packages to family members.
The company piloted the service with Cabinet, a direct-to-consumer medicine service in New York City, according to a company press release. Consumers can order goods from select retailers and get their items delivered without contact, though the company did not disclose participating retailers.
In addition to offering contactless delivery, Uber has also developed features and policies in an effort to protect the health of drivers and delivery personnel. The company also said it provided sanitizing supplies in high-risk regions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uber's announcement comes as delivery apps turn their attention to grocery stores. As grocery apps, including Walmart, have seen an increase in downloads and takeout deliveries have seen a decline, the rollout may prove lucrative for Uber. The rideshare giant has also partnered with Stop & Shop to offer discounted rides to seniors and suspended Uber Pool services.
"We've heard from people around the world who are looking for new ways to get necessities delivered to their door quickly, and businesses that are exploring how to better serve their customers from afar," the company said. "That's why we've accelerated our delivery efforts beyond food and grocery, to provide on-demand and scheduled last-mile delivery solutions for consumers and businesses alike."
The company noted that it had heard from retailers and manufacturers seeking to roll out delivery services using Uber's infrastructure.
As delivery services shift toward grocery stores and modify their operations, so have retailers. Walmart, Michaels and 7-Eleven have introduced contactless delivery options for consumers during the pandemic. Instacart, another key grocery delivery player, has added new features to speed up service and add more flexibility as the coronavirus pandemic causes a spike in demand.
While some retailers look to delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, other companies like eBay, Builder.ai and Facebook have devoted resources toward helping small businesses through technological or financial support.