The Uber-Personalization of Everything
Somewhere in its meteoric rise to a $40 billion valuation, Uber changed our entire perception of what a taxi service is. Along the way, it’s also changed the way we talk about disruptive technology.
How many times have you heard a new service described as the “Uber” for whatever industry it’s in?
These days there’s an Uber for groceries (Instacart), an Uber for lodging (Airbnb), an Uber for tailors (zTailors), and even an Uber for private Jets (BlackJet). And if the trend toward the consumerization of enterprise technology continues, we’ll soon be talking about the Uber for containerized shipping, or even an Uber for factories.
Love it or loathe it, the Uber-fication of everything has shifted our expectations of the businesses and services we use. And customers are embracing it in droves. It’s a little different than the last wave of technological disruption, in which the iPhone and Android led the charge toward mobile computing, and the PC was said to be doomed. This time it’s not about the devices in our hands, it’s the experience that they offer. Uber owns no cars, Airbnb owns no homes, and Instacart doesn’t own grocery stores. Instead they are networked platforms that connect customers to drivers, homeowners, and personal shoppers. And along the way, it’s upended the way we gained access to so many products and services.
It’s no surprise some of the traditional gatekeepers are fighting back.
This summer we’ve seen taxi drivers from New York to Paris take to the streets in protest, while opposing forces in the legislature work to either stop these technologies from entering their jurisdiction or regulate them the way they regulate traditional businesses. But the shoe doesn’t exactly fit.
Uber, and the user-centric cloud platforms built in its image, are a new archetype of technology. They solve problems we didn’t know we had (unless, of course, you’ve ever tried hailing a yellow cab in New York City during the start of rush hour, which also happens to fall at the same time as the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. driver shift change). They’re a response to something that’s inherently broken in the old way of doing business, but has always been accepted as a fact of life.
Businesses can either fight new technology or embrace it. Either way, once it enters the mainstream, society rarely looks back. Those who ignore or resist these shifts in technology and customer behavior tend only to limit their future growth and, ultimately, stand to lose their customers in the end. Embrace the change, and the risk is you’ll set yourself apart from the competition – at least until they are forced to scramble to catch up. How many technology-driven ride sharing services have popped up in the past three years? How many traditional car services have worked to become more like Uber in order to survive?