Uber Eats has confirmed its plans to launch a chatbot function later this year to customers in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada. Initially, the so-called AI assistant will help users find restaurant deals and easily reorder favorites on the app. Later, the assistant will help users meal plan, find sales on grocery items and order ingredients from recipes, according to Uber.
Uber has been on a mission these last couple of years to launch new products and features that create stickiness. The goal is not just to attract new users, but also to retain existing customers. And while Uber is retaining customers, why not nudge them to spend a bit more on the platform?
Enter the chatbot. Adding an AI assistant might just be Uber's way of jumping on the AI bandwagon, a wagon that is near to toppling over as companies across industries rush to incorporate large language models (LLMs) in the post-ChatGPT craze. More likely, it's a move to engage customers with a conversational AI that may result in more conversions than Uber's new, and annoying, in-app ads.
Uber's AI assistant will be powered by Google's PaLM 2 LLM and informed by the company's catalog of over 900,000 merchants. Google launched PaLM 2 at its I/O developer conference in May. The LLM will power Bard, Google's counteroffer to ChatGPT.
Using a chat function, customers will be able to ask for specific things -- spicy vegetarian Thai dishes, trending Mexican restaurants in NYC or dumplings for under $15 delivered in 30 minutes, for example. The chatbot will reply with stores and dishes that meet the customer's requirements.
In a demo shown to TechCrunch, the chatbot is asked to "show me popular picnic snacks." It responds with recommendations for picnic snacks, featuring things like Gouda cheese and chocolate chip cookies from a local supermarket. The demo customer responds "Organic options, please." The chatbot replies, "Certainly! For organic options, consider fresh fruit like apples, berries and grapes." It then provides more options that suit the demo customer's desire for healthy snacks. The customer picks an order of trail mix from the local supermarket and adds it to their cart.
Uber says the chatbot feature will help customers save time and effort by removing the need to scroll through menus and navigate across stores.
Other delivery apps are looking for ways to integrate AI into their platforms. DoorDash in August launched an AI-powered voice ordering technology that will answer restaurants' calls for orders on their behalf. DoorDash is also working on its own chatbot.
Instacart has another similar tool, powered by ChatGPT. The new "Ask Instacart" search tool helps customers save time by offering personalized recommendations.