Supermarket 'sat nav' Ubamarket drives customer loyalty and sales

Dubbed the world’s most sophisticated retail app (The Grocer), Ubamarket, is putting cutting edge tech in the hands of consumers and driving shopper loyalty and supermarket sales, as a result.

Ubamarket provides retailers with their own ‘white label’ scan and go in-store app - an off the peg solution that can be tailored to an individual store group’s needs complete with corporate branding and even including an existing loyalty scheme.

The company was spawned in 2011 by founder and CEO William Broome and born out his own shopping frustrations and a lightbulb moment.

“I was working in London but living out of town. On my way home I’d get this great big shopping list texted to me for a very large, nearby supermarket. I’d stare at the list and think ‘bloody hell’ but then thought wouldn’t it be great if the text put everything in the right order, so that I could find the black peppercorns, for example, and make my life easier.”

Broome swiftly realised he wasn’t alone in his thoughts as he observed people in all sorts of stores simply staring at their phones or shopping lists on scraps of paper.

It was then he coined and trademarked the concept of a ’magic shopping list’ and Ubamarket was conceived.

However, Broome quickly recognised that while the new app could offer the greatest functionality for creating and organising shopping lists, it needed to be truly multi-purpose to have maximum consumer appeal.

“I quickly decided that the app would have to do everything from writing lists, guiding users through offers, tracking their loyalty points, provide a running total of what they were spending, offer pay in app and e-receipts,” he says.

In short, Ubamarket needed to provide all of a user’s shopping history in one, easily accessible location.

Broome set about researching the market to determine how people shop. The findings have since been translated into an insightful Ubamarket Retail Trends Report, which focuses on behavioural insights and key decision drivers that define consumer shopping habits on- and offline including payment, loyalty and what customers are really doing in-store.

The company began building the app at the back end of 2012 but very soon realised the scale of the project and what a huge task it was for the app to recognise every type of bar code. “At that stage, we realised we were no longer building something for a few grand but it was a multi-million pound project and we had to go down the raising money route,” Broome recalls.

Fast track to today, and Ubamarket is rolling in retail stores across the UK, a year after its initial launch in Warner’s Budgens in Moreton-in-Marsh.

“We are now in four Budgens stores and about to launch in a couple of Londis stores as well,” Broome reports. “Each store group has its own app so there’s a Budgens app and a Londis app - it’s done by store brand.” That opens up the technology to any retailer operating under those banners, provided the individual store chooses to participate by engaging with the checkout process.

According to Broome, what sets Ubamarket apart is that it’s been built entirely from the consumer perspective and the app’s performance to date suggests that’s winning real cut through.

The initial results from Budgens indicate people are visiting the store more frequently and spending 21% more, for example. Shoppers are also completing shops of £100.00 or more using the app; a significant uplift on the £14.00 average basket size. It’s a sticky technology too. Broome reveals that shoppers who have used the app will continue to use it 92% of the time.

Broome himself has found his store loyalty to Budgens has improved through the app, which negates lengthy queues at competing stores.

As well as promoting shopper loyalty, Ubamarket enables retailers to personalise offer and offer items at discounted prices but in the right slot on the shopping list. Retailers don’t even need to run their own loyalty programme to enable this types of push marketing. Budgens, meanwhile, has incorporated its existing loyalty scheme into the Ubamarket app, which means it can do away with a physical loyalty card.

The technology allows users to use the app in two key ways. They can simply pick products and scan as they go or write a list and be guided around the store to locate products.

For the retailer, the Ubamarket software integrates with any existing EPoS system and hardware. The company also creates its own data file, which sits alongside to machine learn and continually update, if prices change and products relocate, for instance. Ubamarket also provides full store mapping of all products and locations, across all stores - a whole store can be filmed in two hours, Broome reports.

While the app aims to save shopper time and help them quickly locate and identify a product on their list, it’s not prescriptive. If a shopper is looking for milk, for example, Ubamarket will point them to the diary aisle 2 and on the left hand side. “We want to encourage people to shop more openly so direct shoppers to a general area. That also means that when things move around, they can still locate it plus, they don’t just buy a specific item,” Broome explains. The time saving benefits of the Ubamarket app look set to generate positive consumer sentiment for the stores where it’s deployed. This was neatly illustrated in a BBC One Supermarket Shopping Secrets video, which pitted the app against a traditional shopping list and demonstrated how Ubamarket makes food shopping quicker, easier and more rewarding for shoppers. Crucially, it removes one of consumers’ biggest shopping gripes - long queues since products are scanned and users can either pay in app or quickly at the till by scanning a QR code.

Staff meanwhile can be redeployed from the till points onto the shop floor and can engage with shoppers to introduce them to the new tech.

The app has already won appeal in the initial Budgens store where the average shopper age is 53. “Just imagine how appealing it will be in a store with a demographic of 23,” Broome says.

Ubamarket is exciting the entire grocery retail marketplace despite its initial aim to focus solely on independent retailers and symbol groups. Broome reports every single major retailer has now approached the company and that there are “prospects of three of them doing something quite major”.

Broome reckons that’s for a number of reasons: a. they don’t specialise in tech. b they have lots more to deal with and c. that the app is based on the consumer experience, which goes against the grain of what they have previously built.

Broome is acutely aware of the need for the consumer focus and fast pace of change. Ubamarket is already in its fourth phase of development. “Once you’ve built it you can’t stand still because in six months it will get out of date. It’s a monster that you need to keep feeding,” he says.

With that in mind, Ubamarket’s latest version of the app has a new favourites feature; while a function to shop the ingredients of a recipe will soon be incorporated. It’s a great feature and fit since with a recipe you don’t tend to be familiar with the ingredients and therefore you don’t know where they all are in store.

Ubamarket has legs not least because it’s been created for one of the most complicated and diverse retail sectors. Grocery retailers typically handle 30,000 skus.

Surely, there’s potential then in other retail environments where there’s lot of skus and a healthy shopper appetite for assistance in finding products plus project led purchases such as DIY?

“Grocery is the sector that I’ve been most vocal in and I’m seeing another big major next week,” says Broome. “I’ve not spoken to anyone in DIY, yet,” he adds.

Watch this space.

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