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Why the Best Place to Shop Might Be the Backseat of an Uber

Uber riders now have a new way to stave off boredom: backseat shopping.

On Wednesday, the ride service announced a partnership with e-commerce app Cargo, which has been stealthily raising $35 million to promote shopping while riding. In its earliest form Cargo served as a sort of mini mobile convenience store, peddling low-cost snacks and goodies to hungry passengers.

But now the Cargo app features products ranging from snacks to Apple Airpods, Ray Ban sunglasses and more, wrote Neal Watterson, head of guest products and services at Uber in a blog post.

In order to use the service, “rideshoppers,” as Cargo calls its users, must download the Cargo app (which is separate from the Uber app) and scan a QR code located in the driver’s car. From there, they can access deals on a variety of items, along with daily deals and discounts on certain products. Purchases are shipped for free within 2 to 5 days from a nearby warehouse, Watterson said.

The arrangement benefits both passengers and drivers. For every purchase made during a ride, Uber drivers earn $1, while riders earn a 10 percent credit on their purchase to be used toward future rides.

Even without making a purchase, riders can win prizes through the app just by checking in. The process opens up access to a card game where consumers can win prizes like Uber vouchers and tangible products ranging from electronics to apparel and beauty.

The Cargo app also offers deals on entertainment for riders commuting long distances—like to and from an airport, for example. Cargo’s partnership with Universal Pictures offers single-movie options for $5 or $10, or bundled options for $15 or $20.

The partnership with Cargo demonstrates Uber’s hunger to compete in arenas beyond ride sharing and transportation. It’s also a way for the company to differentiate itself from other competitors in the sector, like Lyft. While it may be some time before the company can compete with e-commerce’s undisputed leader—Amazon—the company is actively diversifying its portfolio of offerings.

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According to digital solutions firm Avionos, Uber’s retail success will depend upon whether the Cargo app is up to speed with consumers’ lofty tech demands. According to their research, 64 percent of respondents who shop online said a brand or retailer’s in-app experience is a make-or-break factor in purchasing decisions.

Should the app manage to satisfy and delight Uber riders, Avionos believes there are significant upsides. According to the firm’s research, 97 percent of online shoppers said they would be likely to make repeat purchases after a positive experience with an online brand or retailer.

If Cargo takes off, analysts said, Uber may gain the competitive edge it’s seeking.