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Call me cheap – but even as an Uber convert a 4.5X surge pricing warning will always send me to the arms of another…

So when it happened to me last week my only problem was remembering how to get a cab. And I’m not joking… hazy memories of calling a company, giving my name and address (several times) and then waiting 45 minutes for “… a car to become available in my area…” may have been messing with my head, but the whole thing seemed positively Everest in its demands compared to Uber. 4.5X suddenly appeared a quite reasonable value multiplier.

What I had forgotten was that all products evolve, even taxis. Some time ago (in  2014 – waaayyy pre-Uber) I’d downloaded NZ’s very Uber’esk app… Zoomy. Realising it was still on my phone I found it and fired it up…

And I was very pleasantly surprised to find an ‘almost’ Uber experience. Zoomy now had Corporate Cabs onboard, although sadly I didn’t see Alert, Blue Bubble, Co-Op or many of the other big taxi brands. The obvious question… two years on, and with Uber killing it, why weren’t taxi companies climbing over themselves to be on Zoomy?

My guess is there are three reasons:

  1. Ego and arrogance
  2. A refusal to embrace the changing world
  3. An assumption regulation will always come to the rescue

I can imagine the reaction Zoomy got chasing taxi companies…

  • “We are (insert your taxi brand here). We are number one. We don’t need your aggregated app”. Or…
  • “We need to control our branded experience”. Or…
  • “We have our own app/we can build our own”. Or… 
  • There’s no way I’ll let my brand sit next to all my competitors…”

This all came to a head again recently, with the Government announcing lighter regulations for taxi companies and Uber, designed to level the playing field. I’ve covered this before, so at this point in the blog, you guys have a choice. You can stay over here, where we can argue whether this is “dumbing down the rules” or “removing barriers to entry”. Or you can follow me – while I pop over here and talk to the interesting people… where Uber are focused on the fight on for customers and innovation. Here’s why the conversation is different “over here”…

  1. A map based booking app showing where your cab is
  2. Stored credit cards/accounts reducing payment friction
  3. Emailed receipts. Expense/accounting software connections. Ease, ease, ease…
  4. Safety via tracking of drivers’ names, regos, vehicles.
  5. User ratings – direct feedback on service
  6. Facility to contact driver by SMS or phone
  7. No $2.50 tax for using electronic payment. I’m looking at you, Co-Op.
  8. Real time progress views. I often provide an Uber for our baby sitter – I get to watch the journey home, get notified when she is arrived, and don’t have to worry about additional cash for her ride.

There’s a common theme in all of this. New tech platforms are consumer focused – they serve the customer, not the enterprise. Once these platforms secure a customer it’s extremely difficult for a traditional company to win them back.

Of course – in business nothing is THAT straightforward. The interruption of a tech platform in a traditional sector can offer opportunities for traditional competitors to work together. Welcome to the world of the frenemy… if you are bold enough to let go of your ego, there are some surprising wins out there.

Media has been at this for a while:

1, Fairfax and NZME now share infrastructure services, print plants, and distribution networks. This has shaved millions from op costs. They realise creating the best physical product won’t let them win – in this world good enough is often good enough. The consumer battleground in media is now over content (although, while we’re on this, wasn’t it always??)…

2, The KPEX exchange (Kiwi Premium Ad Exchange) is owned by the four large NZ media companies (NZME, Fairfax, TVNZ, and Mediaworks). Facing existential challenge from Facebook and Google these guys have worked together to ringfence premium ad space on their sites. Advertisers now buy it once and have it run across all four sites.

3, Or, it could be done the wrong way… Project Thunder. In which Telstra unites Australia’s digital media assets to send Netflix back from whence it came. Don’t even get me started – Aussies and their egos…

Let’s face it. Uber is far from perfect. Competition is required to ensure they don’t create a monopoly position. The challenge is ensuring the competition knows where the fight really is.

Key Takeaways (and btw… are you a good media citizen when it comes to watching GOT…?)

KS

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