Amid Flurry Of On-Demand Activity, Via Takes A Location-Based Approach

Ride-sharing app Via launched its own kind of egg hunt on Easter: For the week following Easter Sunday, the company will pick a “secret” location each day that users can ride to and from for free. In order to figure out the destination, users must follow Via’s Instagram account and put together the clues — and then hail a ride accordingly.

The first location? The Manhattan Municipal building. Users who guessed correctly cruised to and from downtown Manhattan for free on March 28th.

The effort looks to be an attempt to build on the success of Via’s recent neighborhood spotlight promotion, which provides discounted ride to highlighted NYC areas in conjunction with brick-and-mortar retailers (most recently Frye) who have a vested interest in driving foot traffic to the area.

This place-based “secret location” search will likely work in a similar way, giving customers an incentive to ride to a new spot and do some exploring. It also has the added bonus of boosting Via’s social following — the company currently has around 2.3k followers to Uber’s 168k and Lyft’s 28.9k.

It’s a busy time for on-demand apps. Uber announced the launch of the standalone UberEats app earlier this month, further distinguishing itself as more than a ride app: The major on-demand player is making strides as both a tech innovator and, with a series of retail and restaurant partnerships, a marketing platform in its own right.

A such, there’s no doubt that Via needs to think outside of the box if it hopes to expand beyond New York and stake a claim in this space already so dominated by Uber and Lyft. But with this promotion, the company is doubling down on its inherently location-based approach to discounts, which makes it interesting for retailers that have a vested interest in driving traffic to particular neighborhoods or even city blocks.

One potential stumbling block for Via: As of December 2015, almost a third of its riders were over 55, and a significant percentage are even older. It remains to be seen if such social media promotions will bring in a younger customer base — or alienate the riders that look to Via for ease and affordability, not scavenger hunt thrills.