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Lipstick on a Supermodel – How Uber Could Leverage Gamification

Lipstick on a Supermodel – How Uber Could Leverage Gamification

Rob Mullany

09/06/2012

By Robert Mullany, Sales Engineer, Bunchball
robert.mullany@bunchball.com / @RobertMullany

The classic warning about putting "lipstick on a pig" has reached a level of cliché in the world of gamification. You can’t attend a conference with gamification on the agenda and hope to avoid this ubiquitous metaphor. However, sometimes there is less discussion about the flipside of this scenario. How does the lipstick look on a certifiable supermodel?

Uber is just such a super model. Since its start in early 2011, the company has rapidly gained users by providing a valuable service that solves a real problem through an extremely easy-to-use application. For those who may not be familiar with Uber, the company provides a mobile app that connects users to nearby Town Cars, allowing a user to easily book a ride at the touch of a button. At the conclusion of the ride, the app automatically pays the driver using a credit card linked to the user’s account. As anyone who has tried to hail a cab on a rainy evening to no avail or ordered a cab over the phone only to be stood up can attest, there is huge value in this service.  

On a recent occasion, as the perfectly scented air wafted over me in the back of an Uber car, I realized something was missing from their service. There’s no rewards program in place to transform me from a user who uses the service a couple times a month when I can’t find a cab, to a user whose first instinct is to break out the Uber app when I need to get somewhere. The luxurious, almost exclusive feel of the service itself almost begs for a rewards program. As much as I may tell myself that I’m just trying to get from point A to point B, I know I’m splurging when I order a car from Uber.  I can’t deny  it feels good when a blacked out town car rolls up with the leather seats and ample leg room that no one would ever confuse with the gum-encrusted rubber seats of a cab.

So what kind of program might pique the interest of Uber’s professional clientele? Here are a few quick thoughts:

Status – Whether we want to admit it or not, some of the appeal of luxury goods and services is the status that results from their use. By recognizing active users with different status levels, Uber could not only provide users with the good feelings that result from such recognition, but also achieve far reaching benefits as users socially share their status. No amount of paid advertising could compare to the social proof achieved by friends and family validating the service. Additional social sharing opportunities are abundant – prompt users to post to Facebook or Twitter at the end of a ride, reward users for inviting friends, and the list goes on.  

Exclusive Events – The service caters to an urban, professional audience that has a magnetic draw to anything that includes the word “exclusive” and contains some element of food, wine or cocktails. Invitations to such events for regular customers could be a great way to incent and reward regular usage.

Priority Booking/Discounts on Demand-Driven Price Increases – Uber has bravely pioneered dynamic pricing that increases in line with demand. I have a lot of respect for this approach, not only for the way it benefits their business, but as a user it’s nice to know that if I really need to get somewhere, I can get there, even if it will cost me a bit more. That said, offering a reduction in this fee for above-average usage could incent users to book a few more cars a month.  For example, a user who averages 2 rides a month receives a discount after booking 5 rides or a user who averages 10 rides a month receives a discount after 15 rides

These ideas are obviously only the tip of the iceberg of how  Uber – or any successful company – could leverage gamification and rewards to further improve an already stellar offering. I would love to hear other ideas on ways that Uber  - or other successful companies  - could leverage gamification and recognition to drive additional revenue.

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