When it comes to surprises, the most you're likely to get from the established taxi industry is another arbitrary fee ($3 extra to pay using EFTPOS? Come on). But, in keeping with its desire to turn the transport industry upside down, Uber often looks to surprise its existing users—and add more new ones—by delivering more than just humans. So, as part of a global campaign that is set to deliver ice cream to 253 cities on Friday, inhabitants of Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown will be able to request a tub of Giapo's hokey pokey gelato. And it's working with Hyundai on the promotion as well.
Last year, the stunt was limited to Auckland and while we tried to get some ice cream delivered to deepest St Lukes, high demand meant we remained unsatisfied. This year, Uber claims to have five times more ice cream than last year and it will be distributed based on the respective populations in each city. And as it's working with Hyundai, which has donated the use of its vehicles for the day in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch, we can only hope there will be more ice-cream specific vehicles on the road.
AJ Tills (Uber marketing manager) and Hannah Morgan (Uber brand ambassador) in store in Giapo.
Uber has officially launched in Auckland and Wellington, but it has been hunting for drivers in Christchurch. So does this double as a launch event in the other three cities?
"We have no current plans to launch Uber in Queenstown and Christchurch, but we’d love to be there! Right now, we are waiting on the recommendations from the Government's current small passenger service vehicle review, which we look forward to seeing in the coming weeks."
Existing Uber users can get two tubs of the Giapo goodness delivered to the CBD and surrounding suburbs for $20 and, like their rides, it will be automatically deducted from their account. New users who sign up with the code 'ICECREAMNZ' get a big sweetener: free tubs (this plays into its strategy of using promotional codes and it has regularly offered free rides at events attended by those in its target market).
Uber wouldn't provide any numbers on how much ice cream it delivered last year, but general manager Oscar Peppitt did say in a statement: "We have five times more ice cream than last year and we expect demand to be through the roof. I’d urge everyone who wants to get their hands on a scoop or two of ice cream to be ready to request their tub at 11am sharp on Friday morning. Although we expect to be delivering through to 5pm. This is a huge logistical exercise, dozens of people will be involved in delivering ice cream in New Zealand including drivers, runners and even deliveries on a dog sled in Queenstown [maybe Uber has been reading satirical websites, or trying to find ways to replicate its work with Mophie at SXSW where St Bernards delivered battery charges for those in need]."
In 2014, the stunt was run in 144 cities, and Auckland was the first cab off the rank (random fact: one third of Tip Top's sales come in winter), so while the incumbents are trying their hardest to put their finger in the dyke and stop Uber from stealing its business, the fact that the promotion is now being run in 253 cities shows how quickly the service is expanding.
Interestingly, what started off as one-offs like ice-cream, cats or Christmas trees looks set to become a legitimate revenue stream for the company. There's money in delivery. And Uber is testing how its on-demand service can be used in other ways, with Uber Eats, Uber Fresh and Uber Essentials among the experiments (it has recently cancelled its pilot Uber Essentials in Washington DC and Uber Fresh is nowhere to be found, however). Google and Amazon are also investing heavily in the logistics area and Urban Sherpa, a service that allows people to get anything (as long as it's legal) delivered to their door by bike, launched in Auckland recently (as High Maintenance shows, there's a delivery service for the illegals too).
"Uber Ice Cream is not linked to the any other on demand service we have launched in other markets," says Peppitt. "While we always look whether innovations from other markets are suitable to New Zealand, at present we have no plans to launch any on demand services in New Zealand."
Uber doesn't release download figures and when asked if it would divulge percentage growth of rides or drivers in New Zealand compared to last year, Peppitt said in a statement that the service launched in New Zealand just over one year ago and in that time "tens of thousands of kiwis have chosen Uber as a safe, reliable and affordable way to move around their city, while 1000 driver-partners are enjoying the well paid and flexible income the platform provides".