How Uber enters new markets and introduces new brands globally

A blog by Wyatt Bales, B2B CRM Manager at at Uber

Uber is one of the biggest brands that has entered many different markets in a short period of time. What is their secret? And how do they enter new markets? Wyatt Bales, CRM Lead, Enterprise - EMEA, ANZ & APAC at Uber tells the way how Uber operates globally and introduces new companies to expand their brand even further.

How do you find and research a new target group when you’re are introducing a new brand? 

“The way we do that at Uber is quite unique. We have a data science team that will do market research. So, for example, Uber Elevate is one of the new, what we call big bets that we’re taking, and we saw an opportunity that there is a lot of congestion in cities like Los Angeles and New York City. We’re able to see that there is a strong demand for people seeking other forms of transportation and other cities that are lacking a good infrastructure realized that they don’t have mass transportation available to them. So, we’re able to see that demand by that just simply from doing focus groups and by doing market research with data science. And then we also see that our existing platforms such as Uber Eats could benefit from that. So, having drone deliveries for example. For us, it’s kind of a combination of two things of how we’ve analyzed the research to see that there is a demand to address a big gap or request that people have. And if that is the case, then it does benefit the other verticals in our business. And if you look for every other company, I think the most important thing to do is research. And use your data and use that to your advantage and apply it to that. I think focus groups and combining that outcome with data science is very valuable.”

Which tools or technologies are key for scalable cross-border business? 

“For the B2B side of the business, we use a combination of Salesforce and Adobe platforms such as Marketo. And everything that we do at Uber is global, so we use our tools also globally. We don’t have any specific tools for certain regions. All our teams are central, and everything has to be scalable. I could say that that is the key ingredient for our brand and to be successful in so many countries. For a brand to be successful it needs to be easy to use. Not only for the people who work there but especially for the people who are using the products or services a brand is offering. I think the ease of use for us was the biggest reason why we’re able to quickly launch in markets. So, the ease of use on a consumer level, but also on a partner level is very important. An Uber driver uses the app and can adopt a platform that is very easy to use. In some markets, we have some local legal issues, but when you combine ease of use with internationally experienced people then you will do very well. And that is why my advice would be to always hire more senior people that have done it before when you are trying to expand your business internationally.”

Is experience key? 

“Yes. It maybe sounds like it’s a no brainer, but younger companies really struggle with that. They think they can hire somebody that’s very sharp and young. But yeah if they haven’t gone across all the different legalities such as if they haven’t understood the nuances between the French consumer and the German consumer or the Taiwanese consumer then you will make a lot of mistakes. And I think we at Uber could avoid a ton of mistakes if we would’ve hired more senior people earlier.” 

Does the digital transformation of a business change the way it operates in other countries? 

“It is very interesting that the way we launch the digital transformation in some countries is dramatically different. What I mean by this, is that people think because 4G and 5G are now available that we have these big really cool sexy apps, but what we’ve seen is that if you’re not careful you’ll leave other countries behind that maybe don’t have the same digital infrastructure. So, we actually have different versions of our apps for let’s say markets like Ghana or South Africa where they don’t have the 3G infrastructure and so the download speed and the functionality need to support a network that is not as advanced as other markets. And. What I mean by that is you have to make sure that not every country is in the same progressive step of the digital transformation and so we had to accommodate every version of that.”

Uber's business models are disruptive and are often accused of threatening legal sectors. Do you notice local differences in how markets react to you when you enter a market? 

“Oh absolutely. I think some markets are definitely open to us as an idea. If you look at traditional taxi companies, they are probably the most aggressive when we enter a new market. Most of them are strongly against us for obvious reasons. But other markets are very consumer-orientated. So, for example, in several markets like Germany, we haven’t been able to penetrate very well because there is such a strong taxi union. So that’s where it comes back to having an international experience where you can’t have some American that launched in San Francisco and Seattle try to come over to let’s say Dusseldorf and try to launch it there. The nuances in the markets are just dramatically different. So, we see a strong opposition. If you would have asked Uber four or five years ago it was growth at all costs, and we burned some bridges that way. Now we’re much more diplomatic. We’re definitely much more involved with local policymakers and we’re seeing that when you do have the right policy in place the business relationship is a lot longer standing.” 

Is that something you research beforehand or is it something you just figure out when you’re entering a new country?

“The old Uber would just figure it out the hard way, unfortunately. But nowadays we do research. We now have over 25.00 employees and we have a lot more resources available to us, but back then when there were only a couple thousand employees. We just went and made a mistake and you just learn from your mistakes. Now we have a very strong policy team and very strong legal teams so there’s really not a market not today that we’re not able to have a strong policymaker over the legislative partnership with.”

Before we already talked a little bit about data, but how important is data really nowadays? 

“I think it’s always been very important. The issue is that a lot the companies have too much data now and they don’t know how to index that or slice and dice it. So for us, we definitely have an abundance and an overwhelming amount of data about app usage and consumers. And it’s fascinating as a marketer to have all that data. The issue is that unfortunately, Uber has suffered from a lack of the fundamentals of how to use that data. So our attribution model and consumer level are missing a lot of the key pieces. Luckily in B2B we’re pretty mature and we understand how to use that data, but I think unfortunately we have every possible piece of data you can imagine. But to attribute it back to an attribution model or revenue influence that is something that we’re still working on today when you thought that usually is the first thing you put in place.”

With which tools you work to process all that data? 

“For the B2B side of Uber, we work with Salesforce and marketo. For the three big divisions, we use Salesforce and then we have Marketo that syncs with each one of those divisions. So, we use Marketo globally for all of our onboarding, acquisition, sales channels and our return on investment. But we use a quite standard implementation. I mean there’s some of these business divisions that we started like Uber Eats, I started with three years ago and then it was nothing. Now it’s a 14 or 16 billion-dollar company in three years. So for us, we didn’t have time to build out a bunch of customizations and crazy complex things and that is frankly a good thing. We always push back on that, there’s diminishing returns and complexity. So, when people start talking about customer statuses and custom objects and all these crazy and complex complexities, I just say who’s going to support that. Who’s going to be on a scale that when we need a launch in 60 cities in the next two weeks which is what we’re doing in the U.K. sometimes.”

Do you have any last advice for companies that want to enter new markets?

“I mean there’s a chart that you use in terms of minimum effort and maximum impact. For us, if you can scale quickly on a market and have a large impact in terms of the number of consumers whether that be revenue impact, we’ve seen that as the biggest successes. The heaviest and the most competitive markets such as Russia and South-East Asia or the Middle East you’ve seen us get into partnerships. We can learn a lot from our competitors there. And because of that, there are exciting times ahead.”