When Uber turned off surge pricing shortly after a taxi strike in opposition of the ban (the strike was in effect from 6 to 7 p.m., and the tweet announcing the lift in surge pricing appeared at 7:36 p.m.) it was read as an affront to the protesters and social media rage hit ride-hailing company like a brick. Former Uber devotees shared screenshots of their reasons for deleting the app in droves — much to the delight of rival Lyft, which capitalized on the controversy (and a public $1 million pledge to the ACLU) and overtook Uber in total App Store downloads for the first time ever on Sunday.
Uber even acknowledged difficulties deleting user accounts as public sentiment appeared to have turned against the ride-hailing giant (the app didn’t have an automatic client to handle account cancellations until Monday night).
But how effective was the #DeleteUber movement, really? It got Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to step down from Trump’s advisory economic council, but did everyone actually follow through on their online anger and stop using the app? Or was last weekend just a blip on Uber’s radar, yet another moment of viral anger to be forgotten?
But the hashtag was still shrouding Uber in negativity, even if only a small percentage actually deleted their accounts. To further investigate the extent of the impact, we looked at web traffic numbers and app installation data from both Uber and Lyft. It’s important to note that we compare different stats across multiple platforms, so the analysis won’t be a full picture — but we can get a good idea of what happened outside of the social media echo chamber.
Let’s break it down by platform.
SimilarWeb, a digital market intelligence company, pulled the numbers for Jan. 4 through Jan. 28 for Uber’s online HQ, uber.com. This data was for the period as a whole, so the impact of the #DeleteUber weekend isn’t obvious at first glance, but by comparing the numbers to those of December 2016, we can see some dramatic changes.
SimilarWeb found the term “delete uber account” was the 12th most popular source for driving traffic. To put that in perspective, the term was the 177th most popular in December 2016.
Among uber.com’s pages, the support portal for deleting the app did show a substantial increase in visits compared to the month before. The page was the 14th most visited on the site. In December 2016, it was ranked 82nd.
To track App Store stats, we reached out to SensorTower, a mobile data insights provider. They provided us with estimates of the daily download numbers for both the Uber and Lyft apps for the last week of January and the first few days of February.
Lyft’s surge is obvious here, as the app’s download totals essentially swapped places with Uber on Jan. 30 and 31.
After things died down in the first few days of February, however, the ranking stats show Uber back on top, with only a slight dip in ranking as Lyft’s momentum falls away. Importantly, no re-downloads or uninstalls are reflected in these figures, so it’s unclear how many repentant Uber users contributed to the data.
The iOS data shows that #DeleteUber made a quick impact — but the damage it caused was fleeting.
SimilarWeb’s report claims there was a spike in the total downloads metric for Lyft on Jan. 28 (the start of the movement), suggesting #DeleteUber may have had some impact. Still, the firm determined the influx was not significant enough to influence the general trend.
In addition, their data shows there was no significant change to install percentages (which the firm defines as current installations of the app as a percentage of all Android devices in the U.S.) on Android devices for Uber or Lyft from Jan. 4 to Jan. 31.
While the data shows us #DeleteUber didn’t have a significant effect on the app ecosystem, it isn’t a true barometer.
The real impact of hashtags like #DeleteUber is corporate action — which is exactly what we saw with Kalanick’s resignation from Trump’s advisory council.