Lyft, Uber and the Rise of the Smartphone Economy

While covering the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Molly Wood, senior tech correspondent for National Public Radio’s Marketplace, half-jokingly stated that the real “big story” to come out of the renowned conference was not a cool new gadget, but rather the arrival of Lyft and Uber, two of the world’s largest ride-sharing services, to the streets and porte-cochere of hotels all over the city. According to Wood, Las Vegas was the “last bastion” of official taxicabs, which had in years past been the bane of many conference goers; cabs being too few and wait time being too long.

The city’s cab companies’ final acquiesce to ride-sharing is a prime example of the rise and power of what could be referred to as the smartphone economy, or an economy made possible by the advent of smartphones. Companies like Lyft and Uber owe much of their success to the technological game changer, which allows for instant communication between users in addition to many other benefits such as Internet connectivity, etc.

As noted in the SMstudy® Guide’s first book, Marketing Strategy, disruptive technology such as smartphones need to be considered in a company’s product strategy. Basing a business on a technology such as smartphones makes it necessary to pay special attention to developments in that particular technology and continual assessment of evolving risks and opportunities for strategic innovation.

The book explains, “Rapid changes in the Internet, e-commerce, telcom, social media, and clean technologies can be very disruptive for existing companies in these fields, but can also generate significant opportunities for innovation.

Another significant factor in the rise of ride-sharing services in the United States is the decidedly anti-ownership mentality of its largest population cohort: Millennials. According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs titled “Millennials- Coming of Age”, “access not ownership” is the Millennial mantra.

The report states, “Millennials have been reluctant to buy items such as cars, music and luxury goods. Instead, they’re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burden of ownership, giving rise to what’s being called a ‘sharing economy’.”

Having a clear understanding of market trends, especially trends related to large demographic groups is also essential for any business hoping to find a home in the current and future economies.

Again, Marketing Strategy includes understanding market trends as one of the six components of a market analysis. In addition, as in the example provided here, data on a specific cohort or demographic can be beneficial when conducting a PESTEL analysis as it can satisfy the “S” or Social Factors of the analysis.

The book states, “social factors reflect the social and cultural state, attitudes, and behaviors prevalent in a market. Changes in these factors may impact the demand for a particular product or product category.”

Ride sharing is disrupting the long-held position of the taxicab industry and if Goldman Sachs’ prediction is correct, the larger idea of car ownership in the United States will most likely be disrupted as we move forward. Tectonic shifts in the US economy are here or on the horizon, and much of it hinges on the accessibility and connectivity smartphones provide.


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