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What Uber’s App Update Means For Brands

The ‘Geo-Spatial Dream Team’ that Uber has assembled to improve its mapping system is sure to please users who update the app. But it’s also got important implications for its brand partners.

While many Uber drivers rely on a number of digital navigation services to get their passengers where they want to go, the on-demand car service app is promising faster load times and improved GPS that could help promote its brand partners with today’s latest update.

Uber iOS App Update
Uber’s iOS App Update

Whether consumers notice the app’s improvement will be known soon enough. But brands, such as Hilton, Starwood, American Express, and others, will likely be the ones to feel the benefits most perceptibly.

A Smooth Ride For Brands

Just last week, Hilton HHonors, the hotelier’s rewards program, expanded its collaboration with Uber to offer its members the ability to order an Uber straight from the HHonors app. Plus, Uber riders can now view their hotel stay information and check-in, all accessed via the Uber app en route to their hotel.

The expanded partnership builds on the success of the companies’ Local Scene and Ride Reminder partnership – digital features more than 250,000 travelers within the U.S. have used to simplify their stay.

While getting guests to their hotel faster may seem like an incremental benefit, that’s the point: it adds up. More importantly, when the route is wrong, consumers notice and are less apt to engage with either app the next time they’re on a trip. As Uber faces increased competition from the ride services such as Lyft and Via, giving consumers a clear reason to keep using it can’t be understated.

The Location Dream Team

Uber has been particularly driven when it comes to building up its own navigation capabilities over the past year, as the recognition of that first party geo-data becomes to important. Rather than relying on Google Maps, Uber has decided that as its marketing partnerships become as essential as appealing to riders and delivery requests through its burgeoning Uber Eats sibling app, it can’t afford to surrender that information to outside partners.

But the problem is, getting accurate navigation through in-house sources is costly and time-consuming.

But with a valuation of roughly $62 billion, Uber can move more quickly than its rivals.

At the end of a year that saw Uber working with Dutch navigation software company Tom Tom to use parts of its mapping technology, it began assembling a “dream team” of digital mapping specialists. In December alone, Uber hired former Google Maps executives Manik Gupta and Daniel Graf, as well as location-based services veteran Marc Prioleau.

In addition to working quickly to upgrade Uber’s mapping capabilities, Prioleau, Graf, and Gupta were also charged with generating business development and partnership opportunities, with a focus on creating and managing deals with geospatial content and technology suppliers on a global basis.

The first fruits of those efforts are appearing fairly quickly now.