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What Did Uber And Grab Do To Become So Awesome?

The commuters have voted with their wallets and the results are in. According to an annual survey by the Singapore Public Transport Council (PTC), consumers find private hire car services, such as Grab and Uber, better than regular taxis when it comes to factors such as convenience, safety or comfort.


As a result, taxi bookings have drifted south – from 967,000 daily rides in 2013 to 954,000 last year – and private car hire apps have proliferated. Uber became so popular it then launched UberX and in 2016, followed it up with UberPOOL (a rideshare service) and UberEATS (which lets users order dishes for a select, curated list of restaurants).


So what did Uber and Grab do that was so awesome? The survey responses pointed to how consumers enjoyed the extra convenience – the top factors were ease of booking and waiting time. As anyone who has tried to hail a taxi during a peak-hour thunderstorm can attest, Uber and Grab win hands down when it comes to scoring a ride home (or to work) when everyone else is trying to do the same.

What implications does this have for other industries? For one, this shows that consumers are willing to pay more for added convenience. While Uber and Grab have very competitive pricing, conventional taxis tend to be just a shade cheaper on average. Yet, the growth in demand for private car hire apps shows that pricing is a secondary factor, compared to convenience and ease of use. (Don’t believe me? Download an app from a taxi company and let me know how it goes.)


This preference for convenience and choice is also apparent in other industries, especially retail. Consumers are increasingly shopping online, and turning away from regular brick and mortar retailers. According to Euromonitor, Internet retailers in Singapore generated sales of $1.5 billion last year, a rise of 33% compared to the year before.


The survey responses also showed that quick and responsive customer service is key to winning over customers’ hearts (and wallets). Just google Uber or Grab, and you’ll see plenty of thought pieces, newspaper columns and blog posts explaining just why ditching conventional taxis is the right move.


In this fast-moving, competitive world, the customer is king. As ComfortDelGro and SMRT have found out, you ignore that at your peril. Online retailers would do well to follow their online car hire brethren and focus on delivering competitive prices and top-notch customer service in order to beat the brick-and-mortar retailers at their own game.


Lastly, online car hire apps (especially Uber) have shown that a flexibility and willingness to fill specific consumer niches can win customers over (just consider the popularity of UberPOOL and UberEATS).


Here’s where online retailers can really shine. A traditional shop can only stock so many things, but an online retailer is limited only by the size of its warehouse, and the diversity of its supply chain. Just take a look at ezbuy, which sources products globally, and handles all the logistics of getting that product straight to your doorstep – all for no fuss, no muss, and hardly any cost to the customer.


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