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Can Uber And Lyft Be The Ultimate Connected Platforms?

Few companies understand growth like Uber, which has continued to expand not only in scope as it adds more U.S. cities and foreign countries to its service network but also in the nature of its business. At first, Uber was nothing more than a more efficient way to get a cab.

Now? All signs point to Uber establishing itself as a mobile platform for connected commerce.

A recent case in point: Uber and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars announced Monday (Nov. 16) that they would be partnering to offer fans discounted tickets to Jaguars’ home games when they take an Uber to the stadium. Riders simply swipe to a paw print logo within the Uber app and are presented with the estimated cost of the ride and the total for the tickets (up to four) — all of which is billed directly through the app. Chad Johnson, senior vice president of sales and service for the Jacksonville Jaguars, explained that the partnership adds a new kind of bundled service that appeals to fans who want a more streamlined way of enjoying live football with much less hassle.

“Uber’s forward-thinking partnership with the Jaguars is making it possible for us to offer these tickets at a promotional price,” Johnson said in a statement. “For last-minute decision-makers not wanting to miss out on the excitement at EverBank Field, it’s a cost-effective choice to get downtown and into the game.”

While the program will undoubtedly appeal to fans who decide they’d rather watch the game in person than at home, the partnership could serve as a proof of concept for ride-hailing platforms functioning as mobile hubs of connected commerce. The NFL is far from the only area where Uber has concentrated its growth efforts. The company has been overtly promotional about its attempts to make inroads with the delivery services community. UberRUSH, as the courier platform is called, is up and running in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and even Uber officials recognize that the project is less about selling a discrete service than it is about creating a network.

“Postmates is building a marketplace,” Jason Droege, head of UberEVERYTHING, said in a meeting with press at the platform’s October launch, TechCrunch reported. “We see [UberRUSH] more as infrastructure.”

It’s clear that Uber views its service as capable of delivering more than just A-to-B transportation, and its competitors haven’t been blind to these opportunities, either. In fact, Uber’s main rival, Lyft, might be a hair’s length ahead of them in the race to become a truly connected commerce platform, Fortune reported. Not only has Lyft managed to score a partnership with Justin Bieber where riders can receive the pop idol’s new album at a discounted rate if they choose to ride through Lyft’s “Bieber Mode,” but the Uber competitor managed to secure the rights to an exclusive relationship with Starbucks that, though details are still scarce, could see riders’ coffee orders arriving in the same cars they hail.

Why are Uber and Lyft seemingly going all out on supplementing a business that by all accounts seems to be doing fine on its own? One possible explanation could be the way in which many riders use on-demand ride services. Fortune emphasized that Lyft has centered most of its partnerships around events and experiential services, such as buying an album and drinking coffee — transactions that are potentially enhanced by adding a discounted ride on top of it all.

Uber and Lyft have already convinced many urban-dwelling millennials that they can go most of the places they want to without owning their own cars. If they can familiarize them with hitching a ride and making a related purchase at the same time, Uber, Lyft and others could become important traffic-concentrating hubs in the evolving eCommerce ecosystem.

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