The original post can be found on my weekly Inc.com column, Uncensored.
You've seen the constant barrage of negative stories and social media flare ups that have surrounded United and Uber this year. The negative press and reasons behind it do have consequences, as seen by the ouster of Travis Kalanick as Uber's CEO, but not necessarily when it comes to consumers spending dollars. You would not be alone in thinking people have abandoned these companies but you would be absolutely wrong. The app's performance data tells a very different story than the narrative the media is creating.
The media loves a good villain. Showing people a dramatic video of a man being assaulted and dragged off an airplane or reposting a blog about the sexist culture at Uber, causes an emotional reaction. Some people leave a negative review on the app, others take to social media, liberally applying #DeleteUber at the end of their posts... but how many of these people are putting their money where their mouth is? Uber is reliable and inexpensive, I'm definitely still using it and I bet you are too. Both companies have had several negative incidents just this year, but let's look at a major one from each that received massive media coverage.
Uber drives more users
Ex-employee Susan Fowler's eye-opening post on February 19th proposed blatant sexism and HR mishaps at Uber, which reinvigorated the #DeleteUber movement on social media and spurred Uber to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder to review the company's practices across the board and provide recommendations for change. According to research from my company, Apptopia, from February through June, monthly active users have actually increased within the United States by 60 percent. This lends itself to the idea that all press is good press. Even 30 day user retention in the U.S. consistently improved month over month from January through May. When looking at the Uber Driver app, daily active users are near all-time highs.
United doesn't fall
The day the New York Times reported a paying passenger being dragged off of a United flight was April 10th. On this day, United's mobile app had about 19,000 active users just within the United States. While some might be checking in 24 hours beforehand or booking a flight months out, many of these active users are presumably pulling up their mobile tickets to board a plane that day. Since that day, the number of daily active users has not dropped. Similar to Uber, it has actually increased. What about new users? New downloads in the U.S. remain consistent as well. They are not growing but they certainly haven't taken a dive.
Why is this?
So why does the consumer outrage you see online not match the consumer behavior?
-The people being most vocal on the issues are not core users of the services in the first place
-Consumers have strong relationships with these companies and might trust the company more than the media or another consumer
-Consumer habits are hard to change, especially if alternatives cost more
-Consumers judged the complaints and events for themselves and sided with Uber and/or United
These types of crises tend to affect new hires, funding, and maybe potential business partners more than they do the customers. In the case of Uber, it's about culture and sexism within a tech company and not something that affects the riders. With United, it was a one time incident that probably would have never happed to a different passenger, and it received so much publicity that people can easily bet it's not something that would happen to them on their next flight.