Tell me about the origins of Ubamarket, and your role in the company.
Years ago I would navigate my local supermarket using a text or notepad shopping list and would waste so much time zig-zagging around the store hunting for items. I was sure that there must be a simpler, more efficient way. Initially, I thought it would be great if my shopping list magically jumped into the right order and guided me from item to item. I built on this concept and founded Ubamarket, a white label retail app covering everything from in-store navigation to in-app payment for shopping.
How do you see Ubamarket, and automated shopping more broadly, growing in the future?
Beyond the original concept, I researched the market extensively and discovered that 66% of shoppers were frustrated by the in-store experience but that 71% didn’t like shopping for groceries online, meaning supermarkets weren’t satisfying their customers with either service. A frictionless in-store experience where the customer is in control results in more frequent store visits, greater loyalty and up to 20% higher spend per customer.
There’s a lot of hype around big innovations like drones, driverless cars and blockchain, and the impact these could have on foodservice. To what extent is the impact of these innovations in the field being exaggerated?
I don’t think it’s being exaggerated but it is topical. It’s the equivalent of jumping straight from horses to hover-board, but it doesn’t quite work like that without the correct infrastructure in place. What’s more, certain concepts are not currently feasible as they’re too complicated and expensive to implement. I’ve designed the Ubamarket product to not rely on any additional hardware or expensive equipment. It works with existing store systems – all you need is your phone.
What do you think has been the most striking innovation in recent times, changing the way people shop?
The most striking innovation in foodservice technology is the accessibility of quality take-aways. Services like Deliveroo and Just Eat have revolutionised the take-away world and have given the grocery world a much-needed kick. Uber is an even better example of disintermediation, albeit in another sector. With Ubereats, the two have been married together. Indeed, an emerging trend in the grocery sector is fresh, healthy ‘Food to Go’ and, as a result, the sector is fighting back strongly.
What’s the long-term outlook for physical supermarkets? Could the onward march of technologies like drones confine them to the dustbin of history?
Look at Amazon, the most powerful online retailer in the world. Its move into bricks and mortar stores is a statement. More and more people will come back to the in-store experience if it becomes more convenient and more instant. Ubamarket is designed to be a hybrid. It marries the benefits of online and in-store as the future of convenience.
So convenience is key?
In a world where we’re frustrated by Love Island buffering for five seconds before it plays on our phones, how can we possibly accept trawling round a supermarket looking for products before having to stand in a queue for 10 minutes scanning everything and packing it back up again? Customers deserve their in-store shopping experience to receive the same level of innovation and improvement as in other industries – ones that have seen booking cabs and ordering takeaways made so much easier.
What’s your advice for foodservice consultants, trying to strike a balance between being on the cutting edge of food tech while also optimising the existing customer experience?
Take one giant leap at a time. Implement an affordable end-to-end solution, which will work in conjunction with your existing hardware. As the sector evolves and more people get used to the technology, you can start removing tills, relying less on hardware, reducing costs dramatically and increasing margins significantly. This technology is available right now, at a fraction of the cost of a single till.