Uber is working on a merchant delivery program, partnering with retailers to offer same-day delivery through UberRush and Uber taxi-service drivers, TechCrunch reports.
The program could reportedly include Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, Cohen’s Fashion Optical, and Hugo Boss as potential partners in the program. “Instagram for shopping” startup Spring is reportedly also in talks to be part of the program, according to TechCrunch.
Sources told TechCrunch, which obtained a training manual with details of the program, that some 400 merchants are in talks with Uber or are already testing the program.
Maybe this was the plan all along, or maybe Uber woke up to the fact that it would be difficult to scale or hugely profit from customer-instigated deliveries alone. If true, this move will be significant for Uber. The merchant program approach, which TechCrunch says has its own app, more closely resembles the approach of delivery startup Deliv, which has partnered with Macy’s and others to provide same-day delivery.
The competition from Deliv also brings up the challenges of the delivery wars and the startup environment in general — it’s fairly easy for a good idea to be replicated, either by bigger startups, better financed startups, or by the industries originally getting disrupted. (Although, Uber is likely not worried that traditional cabs will be getting in on the action.)
While the details are still foggy, it seems that the service would require merchants to have a firm grasp on their inventory and back-end operations. While some merchants list inventory on a weekly or monthly basis, this type of fast fulfillment would require daily, if not hourly, inventory updates. This could pose a challenge for larger retailers with hundreds of stores, and probably call for these retailers to fine-tune their inventory data and systems.