The Innovation Series 1

How UberEats continue to innovate with Design Thinking.

In 2014 infamous ride share company Uber launched into the food delivery industry. The online food ordering and delivery platform UberEats was born and it brought the late night lamb sandwich into question. Now there was a better option that met a need that crossed demographics and geographies. Based in San Francisco UberEats now delivers from restaurants in over 80 cities around the world making in to Perth in 2016.

Why are we talking about food delivery? Well there’s many success stories out there about innovative companies causing disruption. Each one has something we can learn from. What may seem to be overnight success stories are instead ideas that have been formed, research and tested over years. In this Innovation Series by Liv By Design we want to explore what are some of the simple methods that have been used so that we can adapt some learnings and create our own success stories. 

UberEats hits Perth

Here’s some fun facts that were published by WA Today following the arrival of UberEats to Perth and gives a sneak peak of the impact it had.

  • Hungriest time of the week in Perth is on Fridays at 6pm (No suprise there really!)
  • The first ever UberEATS order in Perth was a cheeseburger royale and steak cut chips ­from Jus Burgers in Leederville
  • The total distance travelled by the top delivery partner was 5,440 trips = 13,725 km. That’s Perth to Melbourne and back, twice!
  • The most ordered Indian dish in Perth is butter chicken ­- enough to fill 8.3 swimming pools.

Better results through real market research

Shall we call it Market Realsearch?  

Realising that they can’t possibly understand the intricacies and infrastructure of every city from their offices in San Fransciso they created The Walkabout Program“. We’ll talk about this is more detail but this is what is termed immersion in design thinking

“Every quarter, designers visit an UberEATS city and dive deeply into that market. They learn the city’s food culture. They study the transportation and logistical infrastructures. They interview delivery partners, restaurant workers, and consumers. They eat and eat and eat. Upon return, they share their learnings with the entire team. Each visit helps build a comprehensive understanding of our different markets and customers.” 

They also “Overshadow” another form of immersion where they follow the live deliveries as well as sit in peoples homes to when they are ordering their meal. “Watching our products in the wild helps us better understand the needs of our customers, how well our designs address those needs, and what challenges exist in the real world”.  

The power of a testimonial!

UberEats also actively seek out feedback from delivery partners, restaurants and consumers to try and fill any gaps that might come from the above initiatives. This then gives them powerful insights to dissect and discuss new opportunities. 

This is done via Innovation workshops.  

When they need to develop ideas they form a cross functional team to “generate insights and inspiration, then run creative exercises to generate a range of ideas. These structured brainstorms shake up the mindset of the team, push our creativity, and spawn innovative ideas like pooled deliveries and ‘virtual’ restaurants only available on UberEats.” 

“If you’re trying to design for the future, don’t design for behaviors that are happening now. Design for behaviors that are emerging, that are going to be new behaviors.” 

Lynda Deakin, Managing Director of IDEO’s Design for Food studio 


Why didn’t UberEats just get the insights from big data and deep dive research, surveys and mass market campaigns? None of these methods allow for the insights that are gained from more intimate personal research and if we are talking about true disruption then you won’t have any like products to compare to and certainly no past trends to predict from. 

If we are talking about emerging behaviours then its highly likely that if you’re waiting on industry stats and data to guide your way… then you’re too late. 

UberEats has made innovation and design thinking methods part of their DNA like many other success stories. They realise the power in remaining close to and having empathy for all the parties they serve. From the in-home diner, to the delivery partner to the restaurateur.  

Before you spend thousands on qualitative and quantitative surveys, reports and industry data how about considering a new method. Consider how you or your team can truly gain exposure through immersion in your market or look at external support who can guide you on how to do this and even provide a new point of view to old problems.  

This article is by Olivia O’Connor, Founder of Liv By Design a business solutions company. Liv By Design is dedicated to helping business owners grow their business and start strategically planning their initiatives by harnessing the creativity of their workforce through facilitated workshops.

We also help organisations gather true research of their clients by offering consultancy services in immersion techniques to gather insight that could transform your organsiation.  

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