Uber is doubling down on its growing “deliver anything” ethos with the news that it’s vastly expanding its burgeoning grocery delivery business. The company announced that it’s integrating its platform with Cornershop, an on-demand grocery delivery platform that operates in Latin America, Canada, and — soon — the U.S.
Last October, Uber announced plans to acquire a majority stake in Cornershop, and although the deal was supposed to clear all regulatory hurdles in early 2020 this has yet to happen — this is also perhaps why Uber called this integration a “partnership” during an online briefing with journalists yesterday. However, Uber did say that it expects the deal to close “in the coming days” outside of Mexico, and the duo are continuing to work with the competition authority in Mexico where Cornershop is headquartered.
With the ride-hail industry struggling throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Uber has been putting more resources into other areas of its business such as Uber Eats, while it also recently unveiled a new service called Uber Connect which repositions its platform as a courier service that allows anyone to transport almost any item. And yesterday, Uber confirmed that it was buying U.S. on-demand delivery giant Postmates for a cool $2.65 billion.
Grocery deliveries isn’t an entirely new vertical for Uber though. Back in 2014, the company piloted a short-lived “corner store” program in some U.S. markets, allowing users to order convenience store goods such as diapers and toothpaste directly through the Uber app. But the San Francisco-based company has been slowly building up steam in the grocery realm over the past year, striking partnerships with local chains in the U.K. and Australia, and over the past few months Uber has inked similar deals with grocery outlets in France, Spain, Brazil, and elsewhere.
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These grocery delivery “experiments,” as Uber calls them, have been conducted with more than 9,500 merchants across 30 countries through Uber Eats, and has led to a 176% increase in grocery orders since February, according to Uber. With the Cornershop integration, Uber is now positioning grocery deliveries front-and-center in both the Uber and Uber Eats app, with a dedicated grocery tab that allows users to shop at Cornershop’s partner grocery stores in 19 cities across Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Canada.
It’s worth noting that Cornershop soft-launched in its first U.S. markets — Miami and Dallas — back in May, which gives a strong clue as to where Uber will be bringing grocery deliveries to next once Cornershop has properly honed and localized the service.
“I can say that our our ‘launches’ in Florida and Texas are very much at the bare minimum of operations, just to tweak the model, figure everything out, make sure the product is working correctly, and make sure that the payment methods that shoppers use in-store [are working correctly,” Cornershop cofounder and CEO Oskar Hjertonsson said during the press call yesterday. “So [there are] a lot of things in each country, and in this case in each state, that are quite particular to this model. We’re still a few weeks from launching in a bigger fashion [in Miami and Dallas].”
Founded in 2015, Cornershop’s model is similar to that of other on-demand delivery services such as Instacart and Postmates, insofar as anyone can sign up to become a Cornershop “shopper” and driver. However, this doesn’t meant that existing Uber drivers will automatically be able to deliver groceries — they will still have to sign up and be vetted through Cornershop’s usual process. So Uber and Cornershop are being kept as distinct brands for now, though only time will tell if this remains the case in the future.
Looking to the longer term goal here, it seems clear from both Uber’s Postmates acquisition, its integration with Cornershop, and its other recent “experiments” over the past year, that food and grocery deliveries will be a major focus for the company moving forward — in the Americas and elsewhere. The company said that it plans to “roll out improvements to the grocery experience for shoppers and merchants alike globally” throughout this summer and beyond.