Uber revives product deliveries with person-to-person 'Connect' trial

Uber is returning to the goods delivery business due to the coronavirus.

Andrei Stanescu via Getty Images

Uber is dipping its toe back into the goods-delivery game. The move is a bid to boost revenue in a time where people are using its existing ride-hailing and food-ordering services less and less, due to the coronavirus outbreak. As the Financial Times reports, the company will be trailing two new initiatives, Direct and Connect, in an offering that echoes the goods delivery service it originally launched in 2015 and subsequently canned in 2018, due to lack of demand.

Uber Direct is essentially a refreshed take on its previous delivery service — the platform will be open to retailers and other businesses that want to get goods to customers ASAP. Initial partners will include New York’s pharmacy brand Cabinet, Australian pet food supplier Pet Barn and Portugal’s postal service, CTT. Uber Direct will also be used to deliver medication in South Africa in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The second initiative — and one that could prove particularly popular in these unprecedented times — is Uber Connect, which allows users to send items to friends and family across town. This means people will be able to share their stockpiled toilet roll and freshly-baked sourdough bread with loved ones without having to leave the house — a win for effective social isolation. Connect – which will operate as a “contactless” service — will first be trialed in 25 cities across the US, Australia and Mexico.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that given the issues similar initiatives faced two years ago, the new programs may only last as long as the current lockdown, designed to help businesses, consumers and drivers in these unusual circumstances. “Our primary focus is the immediate: quickly adapting our technology to meet the evolving needs of communities and companies,” he said.