Uber is testing adding trains and buses to its app in the UK so customers can book long-distance ground rides through a fully integrated link to Berlin’s multimodal travel platform. Omio.
The latter has built its own apps for customers to book long-distance and international travel using a wide range of supported modes of transport in nearly a decade of operation. But in recent years, he has been investing resources in building a b2b line, giving his partners access to his resources through an API so they can add transport booking options to their own applications and platforms.
According to founder and CEO Naren Shaam, Uber is not the first such connection for Omio. But he told TechCrunch it’s the first partner to have full access to its ground transportation inventory, which so far covers more than 1,000 transportation providers in 37 countries.
“Uber is the first partner of this magnitude, but also the first to access our full ticketing API so you as a customer can do everything in the Uber app – so this is a first for a product we offer.” he says.
Omio’s earlier b2b partnerships include some transport providers such as Britain’s LNER, as well as travel search engine Kayak and smartphone maker Huawei.
The taxi-hailing giant is also Omio’s biggest b2b partner: Shaam says the collaboration will put its inventory in front of more than 5 million Uber-announced customers in the UK market.
And while Omio’s own app includes non-land transportation options (like ferries and even flights), he says his platform remains the strongest in terms of inventory for booking trains and bus trips — which is why it’s starting with Uber. Although Shaam hints that there may be more. “This is the start of our partnership; it will expand—not just geographically,” he suggests, noting that Omio b2b partners can “pick and choose” from a range of supported transport models to offer to their own customers.
“It is very clear to me that we will never have 100% of all eyeballs in the wall using only Omio, so the company is turning into a company with more data, where data and our inventory become the main asset. he adds, discussing the increased focus on b2b along with what he calls a highly scalable B2c business of his own.
“We spent years building very unique inventory… so actually during the pandemic… we realized that what we created – the asset core – is a unique inventory that is very hard to access anywhere, so we started create a team for b2b”.
From the outset, connecting to ground transportation via the Omio API will allow UK Uber users to book international trains if they choose to.
While actually leaving the country for France may prove to be more of a challenge – given the recent post-Brexit travel chaos hitting vacationers at borders and airports (linked to post-pandemic staffing issues), not to mention the ongoing train strikes linked with wages. summer… (Schaam confirms that Omio has seen some of these disruptions in its UK data, such as users switching to shorter journeys, but he says he expects such changes to be temporary.)
Commenting on the agreement in a statement, Andrew Brem, general manager of Uber UK, said: “We are delighted to present our new travel offering this summer, which will enable seamless door-to-door travel across the UK. The partnership with Omio will accelerate our efforts to turn our UK users into a travel app.”
Rides booked through the Uber app using the Omio API generate commission for Omio, a portion of which is returned to Uber for revision. (The distribution of the commission has not been disclosed.) He also receives income from Uber by licensing his technology.
For its part, Uber has long been expanding its main travel platform integration of additional functionality – aiming to be a convenient city center (also known as a “super app”) where you can order everything from dinner and a movie, as well as book a ride there.
So adding long distance ground transportation will add another thread to this game and could help it handle the last mile trip, say both ends of a train ride. Or (re)generate some revenue from users who can switch from taxis to cheaper train or bus options if they can be persuaded to make those orders on his app.
Uber also has trouble making a profit. After reporting second quarter earnings yesterday, he still couldn’t confirm it, but he did generate another quarter of free cash flow and was rewarded by investors pushing his stock price up on yet another positive signal that suggests he may at least Least self-financed, so don’t literally burn yourself out. from cash.
Returning to the Omio connection, Schaam says the ground transportation booking functionality provided by its API will be added to the Uber app in stages with a core set of features at launch today – he expects Uber to build it in the coming months.
“This is a new product for Uber, and while we have a lot of knowledge about building intercity ground transportation, Uber focuses primarily on urban public transportation and the use cases are very different. For long haul, you have multiple fare classes, cancellation, reservation system, seat reservation, etc. – a product that is very different from a simple taxi hailing product – so it will be phased in as they add multiple products.
“So the first one will be on your ‘transit tab’ – where you can search from, say, London to Manchester or Oxford or even the Heathrow Express, or London to Paris on Eurostar and you can fully transact with the transit product. Uber. distant train or bus.
“I think all the core aspects of the product should be there first — I believe that add-ons come along as they bring the magic of Uber to life,” he adds.
But will Uber users, who usually use the app for a quick taxi ride or a hot lunch, really decide to use its platform for less spontaneous purchases, such as taking a train or bus to another city or region?
In response to this, Schaam points out “great overlap” in terms of customers, despite the fact that the two products are built for very different use cases, and also highlights some “additional” segmentation between these respective customer bases (noting, for example, that Uber a higher proportion of business travelers among its users). So the sentence is quite similar as well as the difference between their communication platforms to drive new business for both of them.
Shaam doesn’t want to share any internal estimates of how many Uber customers he expects to attract, but he says they hope the merger will help Omio substantially increase its UK market penetration, which he confirms isn’t. one of its biggest markets at present.
Asked if Uber would roll out the ride booking feature to other markets such as the US, he also expressed hope, confirming that today’s launch is a test to see how users react to it. So it remains to be seen how far this long-haul booking feature will take place in Uber’s digital space.
“The partnership is hopefully not limited to the UK, but this is a new product for Uber and they need to launch it in one market, test it, and then hopefully depending on the success of that – for both parties – we intend to scale very strongly. it,” he adds.
Omio is generally coming out of travel freezes due to COVID-19 and the disruption of the pandemic in high spirits – announcing an $80 million Series E addition to its funding in June and reports a recovery in demand, which Shaam is repeating again now. He remains optimistic about the scope of mobile booking opportunities yet to be exploited when it comes to demand for long-distance and long-haul travel, which Omio has made it its mission to serve.
“One of the bets we have made during the pandemic is the massive shift from kiosks to [based-booking] on mobile because of what happened with COVID-19,” he says. “It’s amazing to me that 50%+ of the entire rail industry is still selling tickets at a kiosk. If you actually look at it, both hotels and airlines have a higher basket – a higher average basket – a slightly more complex experience, and no one I talk to can remember ever booking a flight. offline or in the offline world so it’s very much still an industry that’s pretty much offline and it’s all coming to mobile – because of the simplicity of how train products work (depending on geography) .
“Most of them, I think, will go mobile, and our own data shows that 80% of all our tickets are sold by phone. Incredible when compared to other travel segments. So for me it’s a natural trend that’s accelerated due to COVID-19 – so that’s something we can comfortably bet on; The move to mobile will be accelerated with more products and additional service links.”
A mobile app, compared to booking through a kiosk, can engage travelers by helping them get through (at least some of) the queues, he suggests, or by avoiding unfriendly user interfaces at outdated ticket counters that may not even support the user’s local language, and infrequently is being modernized.
It can be said that Omio’s vision for its travel business after the pandemic is “forward, upward.” as well as outward” – with a strategy of spreading its usefulness by integrating it into all sorts of other applications (or super-applications) that travelers might want to use to get where they need to go. And Shaam confirms that he has further b2b partnerships.
“The purpose of our b2b business is very similar to SaaS,” he adds. “You connect once and then hopefully add an annual recurring income and we just add more partners in different verticals…in parallel industries and give them some of our income, so the economy is also attractive to anyone who wants to sell vehicles, but not would definitely like to or have the capital to… make an effort to restore 1000 integrations in 37 countries, because it is a single API with a delay of less than one second. You connect to Omio, and then you connect to our entire ecosystem.”
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