USA News

Uber Eats wants to deliver flowers and pet supplies, too

The latest update to Uber Eats’ app will make one thing obvious to consumers: Uber Eats wants to expand beyond delivering pizza, tacos, and noodles to also delivering flowers, pet supplies, convenience items, and unique finds from local shops.

“This is Eats entering its next chapter of maturity,” said Daniel Danker, head of product for Uber Eats. “This is Uber Eats becoming the place for instant access to local commerce.”

In addition to featuring shops of all kinds, Uber Eats is rolling out new features that provide consumers with custom home pages based on their purchase history and preferences and give them more information about local eateries, such as their ratings or whether they allow for pickup. Users will also be able to order from multiple restaurants or couple a food order with the purchase of other items and receive everything within the same delivery.

The change comes as more consumers turn to delivery services like Amazon, DoorDash, and Uber to avoid contracting the coronavirus inside restaurants and stores. As a result, businesses like Uber Eats and rival DoorDash have quickly accelerated. Meanwhile, Uber’s core ride-hailing business is still suffering as people stay home and are more hesitant to ride in another person’s car.

The update also follows Uber’s agreement to acquire rival Postmates for $2.65 billion in August. In its announcement of the deal, Uber called Postmates “an early pioneer of ‘delivery-as-a-service,’” which complements Uber’s efforts to expand its delivery service to other categories. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also recently told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street how he views the expansion into new delivery categories.

“We think there’s a huge market—anything that you want from your local business or your local market, sent to your home inside of 30 minutes,” he said.

As part of the update, users will now be able to see the ratings of nearby restaurants, which locales they’ve ordered from, and top eats—all of which will be marked with icons—on a map. They’ll be able to see what other people are ordering near them and to easily reorder their favorite items. In addition, Uber Eats will offer users a list of “hidden gems” or curated local merchants within their neighborhoods.

On the merchant side of the app, stores and restaurants can now quickly see which orders are coming from return or regular customers, enabling them to easily implement loyalty programs or add last-minute freebies. They can also do things like remind regular customers that they’re one burrito away from a free burrito, for example.

Danker said the pandemic helped Uber Eats accelerate its plans by nearly four years. Uber Eats already has more than 10,000 grocery and convenience stores on its service, and Uber recently moved 100 engineers from other parts of the business to work on the app. Eats, which generated $1.2 billion in revenue during the second quarter, is now as large as Uber’s ride-hailing service was back in 2017, Danker said. Danker also believes consumers are creating a new expectation for delivery, which he thinks will continue well beyond the pandemic.

“At least initially, every single time you open the app, you’re going to be presented with grocery options, pharma, and other types of options that will start training people that this even exists,” he said. “But what will happen over time is people open the app because they want one of those things, not because they want food delivery.”