Is Uber Sneaking Into a Massive Delivery Move?

So what does the most highly valued and buzzed about startup in the world do? Well, if you’re Uber, you decide to start racing with the big boys over at Amazon and Google in the same-day delivery race.

According to reports, Uber is making its merchant delivery move that will tap Uber and UberRUSH drivers to deliver goods same-day to online shoppers.

And it seems Uber is fairly far forward in developing this plan, as TechCrunch has obtained training documents for the Uber drivers and couriers who are part of the merchant delivery pilot program.

As for the merchants? According to TC’s sources, the specific names being bandied about are all fairly high-end at the moment –  Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Hugo Boss are all in talks with the Uber Merchant Delivery program. However, at least one TC source did point out that there are over 400 different merchants currently in talks (or already testing) with Uber for same-day delivery, so the total list may be a bit more diverse.

And it seems Uber has found some mobile shopping parters: Spring is part of the initial test of the platform with a limited set of brands and has even sent out an email to customers advertising the alliance.

“Experimenting and finding new, creative ways for the Uber app to provide even greater value to our riders and driver partners is a way of life at Uber. We have been piloting UberRUSH with multiple retailers for the last year,” an Uber spokesperson told TC when asked for a comment.

And while that is technically true, it largely downplays the degree to which the program outlined in the manual obtained by TechCrunch points to a bigger play than has been indicated with UberRUSH – and a separate one, since Uber has apparently built a separate app just for merchant deliveries.

While the details are a little unclear, the program – as outlined in the manual – indicates that Uber drivers/couriers are are now taking merchant orders through a different app (and even a separate phone) than the one they use to receive regular UberRUSH orders. The end-game, however, seems to be for Uber drivers to be able to leverage an intelligent routing system such that they will be able to accommodate both human passengers and Uber Merchant orders.

The Merchant Delivery service seems to be yet another toe in delivery for Uber – which has also done some limited runs of UberFRESH (which delivers produce) and UberEATS – which allows users to order curated meals and have them dropped off curbside.

A source told TechCrunch that Uber’s current plan is a deviation from its original, which was more focused on emulating large eCommerce retailers like Amazon and eBay. Ultimately, Uber found that sourcing inventory from warehouses wasn’t worth the effort – but that getting inventory from local stores was economically viable.

It’s a difficult logistics business, but then, logistics are arguably what Uber does best – and it has thousands of drivers and couriers organized all over the world already to prove it.