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Your Guide to Uber Direct: The New Retail Delivery Service

By: // Updated: September 17, 2020

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Delivery services are more important than ever. The ever-rising global demand for convenience, paired with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has consumers everywhere seeking new ways to escape the in-person shopping experience. With its new Uber Direct service, Uber is creating a solution for customers and drivers yet again.

While Uber was once solely known for its ridesharing services, the technology giant is clearly one to beat in the gig economy as a whole. It dominated food delivery with Uber Eats, took on commercial trucking with Uber Freight, and even began its move into aviation with Uber Copter.

Fittingly, with Uber Eats’ recent expansion into grocery store and convenience store deliveries, the brand is now making a big move beyond food and transportation. With Uber Direct, the company is proving its willingness to deliver just about anything.

We’ll guide you through everything that’s known about how Uber Direct works and how you can use it to access essential supplies (or to earn).


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What Is Uber Direct?

Uber Direct is a delivery service that connects users to products from retailers and manufacturers in their area.

As of May 2020, the service is focusing on helping consumers access essential supplies like medicine, pet food, and toilet paper through no-contact deliveries. By doing so, Uber Direct is helping users stay home and commit to safe social distancing practices.

For now, the service acts as an extension of Uber Eats, the food delivery app. Uber Direct retailers are joining the increasing types of merchants that you can reach straight from your smartphone.

All while helping you get access to the supplies you need, this new platform is also helping rideshare drivers who were hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. After a massive drop in ride-hailing requests, these drivers can now turn to Uber Direct requests for new opportunities to earn.

Where Is Uber Direct Available?

Motion blur of pedestrians crossing the street in big city

Uber Direct can only be requested in New York City, Australia, Portugal, and South Africa during its pilot. The pilot will only connect users to items from specific partners in each market, as follows:

There are no exact plans to expand Uber Direct to other cities, but expansion is the goal for the future.

How Uber Direct Works

Screenshot of Uber Direct medicine options

There isn’t much public information about how users are accessing this platform around the globe, but in New York City, you can already request OTC medicine from Cabinet just by searching for the store on Uber Eats.

Once you reach the storefront, you can scroll through Cabinet’s products, add them to your cart, and check out. Just as they would on a normal Uber Eats order, a nearby driver will pick up your order from the merchant and deliver it to your door as soon as possible.

For more information on how you can use Uber Direct in your area, it’s best to contact Uber support.

How Much Does Uber Direct Cost?

Again, there isn’t a lot of public information about how much Uber Direct costs — and pricing may change in the future as the pilot ends. Changes are especially likely in South Africa, since Uber Direct deliveries are currently being sponsored.

However, it does appear that the platform will follow a similar fee structure to Uber Eats. This means that you can expect a set delivery fee, with potential surge pricing during times of high demand, as well as a varying service fee and a small cart fee when applicable.

Tipping your driver 15% or more is custom across all Uber services, so don’t forget to consider gratuity when you make your first Direct request.

Driving for Uber DirectWoman orders Uber Direct on her phone

All UberX drivers are eligible to drive for Uber Direct, so if you’re an active rideshare driver for the brand, this delivery service can be your new earning opportunity. If you’re in a market that offers Direct, you just need to head to the “Driver Preferences” section in your Uber Driver app to toggle on Uber Direct trips.

Once Direct trips are on, requests may start coming through. These requests will look a lot like Uber Eats requests, as you’ll need to pick up orders from a retailer or manufacturer, then drive to your customer’s location for a drop-off.

Because you’ll be delivering necessary supplies, your Direct trips are considered an essential service. If required by law for essential workers in your area, you may still be required to carry an essential services letter (provided by Uber) and a photo ID as you fulfill requests. Make sure to take these items when you’re outside of your vehicle, as well.

Like all Uber drivers, Direct drivers in high-risk areas for COVID-19 will have access to sanitizing supplies — such as disinfectant sprays and face masks — while they last.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’ve learned all about Uber’s new platform in its early stages, read our answers to these frequently asked questions to get more insight.

1. Will Uber Direct continue after the coronavirus pandemic ends?

There’s no definite future for Uber’s new Direct platform, especially since the service is still in its pilot phase, so its continuation will likely depend on its success and the post-pandemic demand. After all, the rideshare company has already shut down a similar courier service called UberRUSH once.

If Uber Direct does continue, it’s very likely that it will look different than it does now, moving away from its focus on essential supplies. A recent press release also calls Uber Direct a “delivery platform,” rather than a service, so it’s also possible that it moves away from the Uber Eats app.

2. Can businesses sign up for Uber Direct to get help with deliveries?

Uber Direct hasn’t opened up to a broader group of merchants quite yet. However, business owners can request information about how they can use this new platform in the future by filling in this form.

3. How does Uber Direct compare to Uber Connect?

Uber Connect is the delivery service that launched alongside Uber Direct in the midst of COVID-19, but its function is quite different. Instead of connecting you to deliveries from retailers, Uber Connect is a peer-to-peer courier service that helps you quickly send care packages and other personal deliveries to your friends and family. While Uber Direct is an extension of Uber Eats, Uber Connect is a part of the Uber app.

4. Does Lyft offer a service that’s similar to Uber Direct?

Yes. Also in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Lyft launched its Essential Deliveries service. Although it similarly delivers essential goods like medical supplies and meals, it differs from Uber Direct in the fact that it’s not available to the general public at any capacity. Lyft Essential Deliveries can only be requested by direct partners, which include nonprofits, government agencies, and business and healthcare groups.

Essential Deliveries is also available in more markets, so drivers in all of the following cities can make up for their loss in ridesharing income by doing deliveries: Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio, and Seattle.

Access the Deliveries You Need

Now more than ever, home deliveries are booming across industries. Uber Direct has turned this delivery boom into a new opportunity for customers to access essential goods, as well as for drivers to earn more money. Through this innovative service, Uber is broadening its reach even further and doing more to help local businesses, drivers, and customers meet their goals.

Although the future of this service is uncertain for the time being, it certainly is a step toward greater convenience for all.

As the demand for delivery continues to rise, Amazon is another company that’s stepping up to the plate. As it takes on the challenge of meeting demand, it (like Uber) is turning to independent contractors to fulfill orders — both for essential supplies and non-essential goods. If Uber Direct hasn’t landed in your city yet, but you want to start earning now, learn how you can become an Amazon Flex driver today.

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