The effects of Uber on marketing

You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin.  Maybe you know about Lending Club or Kickstart. You’re certainly familiar with Payday lenders.  We don’t mention them during monthly competitive reviews for our clients of the other banks and credit unions in their neighborhood. But all are in the business of financial services and have the potential to be major rivals. You may think many of those on the list are fringe businesses.  True, but that’s what a lot of cab companies and limo services thought about Uber, until recently.

Not too long ago, I had my first Uber experience while attending the Word of Mouth Marketing Conference in Chicago, and it hit me on the ride back from dinner. What is Uber? Uber, which launched in 2009, allows users to arrange for limousines and in many cases taxis, using a smartphone app.  Uber doesn’t provide its own vehicles or operators, but works with existing licensed drivers to help keep already-rolling vehicles busy transporting customers. Riders can track the location of their dispatched drivers using GPS, and pay directly on their phones.  They can also rate the drivers.

These are all by now standard uses of off-the-shelf mobile technology.  There’s nothing especially novel or proprietary about the platform Uber has built.  Nothing, in any case, that couldn’t or shouldn’t have already been implemented by existing taxi and limo services.

The highly-regulated taxi and limousine companies haven’t responded to the virtual competitor with better products and services.  Instead, in every city, they’re trying to ban Uber. They’ve called on state and local regulators to declare the service in violation of decades-old laws outlawing unlicensed ride services, often based on technical definitions of “meters,” “dispatch,” and “taxi.”

I have a fear for our business with the rise of non-traditional banking services which are making an appearance.  Will we follow the lead of the taxi and limousine companies and focus more on trying to banish these newcomers from the market to keep ourselves relevant with consumers? Or will we better ourselves and rise to the occasion to meet consumers where they are and provide banking services on their terms, not “the way we’ve always done it.”

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