Is Airbnb The Next eBay, Uber The Next Amazon?
Are Airbnb and Uber the next big pillars of Internet commerce?
In the next wave of technology, Airbnb could be the next eBay and Uber could be the next Amazon, according to Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst and partner at Altimeter Group.
While these changes could be years away–Airbnb and Uber declined to comment–it’s an interesting theory about the future of ecommerce, and commerce generally.
Amazon has dominated the ecommerce market for everything from books to electronics, and eBay has been known for its peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used products (although it has moved more towards fixed priced products).
But with the growth of the sharing economy, consumers want to rent or share products from peers rather than buy new or even buy used. People are also looking for unique localized, personalized experiences, Owyang notes: “From the desire for local and real experiences, from keeping costs down instead of global shipping, the market force for local, personalized experiences will only increase.”
Experiences in the sharing economy derive their value (my story here) from that unique personal experience from local experts that customers typically cannot get from large corporations.
That gives Airbnb a leg up on a whole new market as the biggest company in this sector. While Airbnb currently focuses on sharing homes and other spaces for travelers, Airbnb could partner with service providers such as restaurants, retailers and artisans to help travelers. (Airbnb already has been testing a program called Local Lounges in San Francisco cafes that provides WiFi and other help for travelers.) And Airbnb could also expand into other product verticals such as furniture or clothing, Owyang believes. Of course cars are the most lucrative market after homes. Following this line of thinking, people could rent a car from another individual through Airbnb instead of buying a used one on eBay or other sites.
Airbnb’s Brian Chesky has told me in interviews that he is focused on scaling out Airbnb’s existing business, which is plenty to keep the company occupied. But eventually he wants to provide a complete travel experience. My guess: that could mean partnering with (or buying) startups to provide home cleaning services for the host from services like Homejoy or tour guides for travelers from services like Vayable. More complicated but also possible are car sharing or ride sharing for travelers from the likes of Lyft, Sidecar, Uber, FlightCar, Getaround or RelayRides.
That doesn’t mean Airbnb won’t expand into other areas outside of travel. Since Airbnb has such a large marketplace, it has the marketplace expertise, as well as the buyers and sellers to build out another vertical. It also has the expertise specifically in the sharing economy, which is much different than other online marketplaces. Still, each of these verticals is so different that building a new marketplace in, say, cars would be a massive undertaking and the customers or users may not directly overlap.
Meanwhile for Uber, the San Francisco startup is known as a simple, convenient on-demand black car service or more recently ride sharing company through its UberX service. But the company’s future may be just as much about on-demand delivery of products. It has built expertise on the intricacies of managing car inventory and getting cars to where demand is in a fast and efficient manner.
In the past, Uber has delivered BBQ to conference attendees at South By Southwest and delivered roses on Valentine’s Day. It has also experimented with other forms of transportation such as helicopters and boats. And as Owyang points out, the company for one day did ice cream delivery recently.
Uber could eventually move into delivering a wide variety of goods. Its sweet spot would be high-demand, local products with idle inventory. While Amazon has become the expert in quick delivery of the broadest set of products, Uber could specialize in the fast on-demand delivery of local products. “It could be on-demand high quality services for everything, if they do this right,” Owyang says.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been open about the fact that the company is testing delivery of various products. A focus on delivery of products–not just people–would add a whole new business for Uber, while still using its core technology and expertise. Kalanich recently said in an interview:
“I mean, the way we look at what Uber is is it’s the cross between lifestyle, which is give me what I want and give it to me right now, which we’ve seen online, right? We all — remember, it was like instant gratification. It was like the wave of the future in the early 2000s, right? Give me what I want, give it to me right now, and the logistics to get it to you, right? So today, we’re in the business of delivering cars. We’re delivering a car to you that you, then, can do whatever you want with. Well, the car has a driver as well. But we’ve done things like last Friday we did Uber ice cream. 33 cities around the world. It was essentially on-demand ice cream trucks, right?… So the answer is, yes, we’re thinking about it. What we’re doing right now is we’re in the experimentation phase where you sort of find some interesting ways to do promotions like Uber ice cream.”Meanwhile, realizing the massive potential, existing incumbents are also moving into on-demand delivery. Amazon, eBay and Google have experimented with same-day delivery recently through AmazonFresh grocery delivery service, eBay Now, and Google Shopping Express, respectively. There are also startups like Instacart, Postmates and Caviar that provide delivery service of various products.
The thread tying these two services together is the local, on-demand and personalized nature of the services these companies provide. And while Uber does not focus exclusively on ride sharing, it does have the sharing economy connection with Airbnb.
In the future, commerce will be on-demand available at the touch of a button on your app. It will also be shared commerce, not just buy once and thrown away. If and when that happens, Airbnb and Uber are well positioned.
Is Airbnb The Next eBay, Uber The Next Amazon? - Forbes