There is no denying that the ride-sharing industry has sped up exponentially over the past few years. But between Ola, Uber and Lyft, both consumers and drivers are platform-agnostic: There’s low loyalty adherence to one brand. Drivers are working multiple platforms, while riders have downloaded multiple platforms. Both groups are typically choosing the platform based on convenience, price and which comes quicker: customer request and driver acceptance.
But despite the issue of “platform-agnostic,” the ride sharing companies have attempted to make their brands unique. Earlier this month Uber launched its Indian wedding–centered service and its prepaid commuter cards in certain large American cities. Back in August, Lyft announced its new expense report app as an attempt at gaining more business riders, surmised the future of the car ownership in the U.S. and paired up with Starbucks to entice sleepy and caffeine-needing riders.
But many experts argue that it’s going to take more than just a few announcements to gain loyalty. And that loyalty is ever more important as valuations increase and these ride-sharing companies have to deliver of their returns.
As a result, ride-sharing companies are focusing on the technology to drive away from the competition with those customers aboard.
How? Uber has taken the software approach, which Lyft and Ola decided on the hardware route.
Back in November, Uber debuted its new version of its app that includes scheduling rides and logging consumer behavior. The version is arguably more intuitive than before as it guesses where the rider wishes for a destination based on previous history. And it goes one step further by making it mandatory for the rider to enter the destination, which wasn’t previously the case. The estimated price will appear, locations can be synched with personal phone contacts, and Yelp and even Snapchat can send pictures to those contacts.
In addition, Uber paired with its sibling UberEats for food delivery options and recently partnered with Birchbox and Tipsy Elves for special holiday promotions involving free gifts for riders.
Meanwhile, Lyft took its own approach and focused on the driver, rather than the rider. The pink-logoed company launched a bluetooth device called amp that swaps out its pink-LED mustache and glows different colors in order to signal to passengers that the car is indeed theirs. It’s an attempt toward enhancing its self-dubbed nickname of “the friendly” service. Some argue, however, that this pill-shaped enhancement may not be enough, but it will help speed up the connection between rider and driver when it’s dark outside.
Ola, in India, also invested in hardware to gain loyalty with customers by adding tablets connected to the operating system of the car. The initiative was through a partnership with Qualcomm and allows riders to choose the music as well as pay with Apple Pay. The plan is to integrate the tablets through a series of apps and other digital enhancements for the riders. Some experts argue that this addition is unnecessary and is certainly expensive for the company.
As for which of the three will win in the competition to gain the most share, the answer may still take time, and it may depend on how each city’s riders and drivers embrace each technology platform more.