Will Broome, the entrepreneur behind Ubamarket which is due to launch in September.
Billy Wood

Entrepreneur Will Broome talks us through his ‘magic shopping list’ app Ubamarket

The woes of the nation’s biggest supermarket chains have been well documented in recent years, as greater competition and changing consumer habits have shaken their once predominant position in the UK’s retail landscape.

All of the so-called ‘big four’ have had to adopt online strategies to adapt in an era where the weekly grocery shop is increasingly becoming an anachronism.

The big question for supermarkets nowadays is how do they stay relevant in the age of convenience where consumers can simply rattle a desired item into Amazon and have it delivered to their door within 24 hours?

“If only this shopping list was a magic list that told me everything in order.”

Entrepreneur Will Broome believes he has the perfect riposte to this dilemma with his new app Ubamarket.

Dubbed ‘the smart shopping list’, the app, which has been four years’ in the making, claims to solve some of the biggest issues consumers complain about when trudging through the supermarket for groceries, and provides a number of enticing commercial benefits to retailers too.

Speaking to Bdaily on the cusp of Ubamarket’s launch, Will described how the inspiration came like a bolt of lighting in the middle of a humdrum visit to his local supermarket.

“About five years ago I get back from work and my wife would text me a shopping list,” he explained. “I’d go into the store and I’d have this long shopping list on my phone and I’d be knackered anyway. I’d go in like a typical bloke, I was going from aisle 6 to aisle 9 to aisle 4 back to aisle 6 again.”

It’s a common experience for anyone despatched to their local grocer armed only with a hastily scribbled list of items for company.

“If only this shopping list was a magic list that told me everything in order. Then I look around and everyone in the store was doing this,” Will added. “I counted 9 people looking at their phones, the rest were staring at a scrappy shopping list.

“So I said, there’s got to be a better way to do this.”

From this germ of an idea Ubamarket was born and now, four years, £300k of investment and countless hours of effort later, the app is ready to launch.

The app, which has already been soft-launched on iOS ahead of its mid-September official unveiling, stays true to Will’s original vision of a magic shopping list, but now has a whole range of bells and whistles that should make it an attractive proposition for both consumers and retailers.

“Everyone I’ve mentioned it to, all the few people I’ve mentioned it to, everyone keeps saying that it’s the most amazing idea.”

In its simplest form Ubamarket acts as a digital shopping list, allowing users to input their items and then, by specifying which store they are visiting, the app automatically orders the items dependent upon their location in the shop.

Users are also able to scan their items using a barcode scanner which Will describes as ‘the best to ever come to market’, utilising the apps extensive database of UK grocery products and keeping detailed track of spend and any offers.

They can then pay for their items by simply tapping their smartphone at a payment point, negating the need for checkouts and long queues.

It is one of those classic ideas that brings a simple and convenient tech solution to an everyday problem and Will describes overwhelmingly positive early responses which suggests he may have a blockbusting concept on his hands.

“Everyone I’ve mentioned it to, all the few people I’ve mentioned it to, everyone keeps saying that it’s the most amazing idea. Amazingly everyone seems to think it’s really great,” he explained.

“For the supermarkets this is a way to make a hybrid with all the convenience of online shopping with all the experience of in-store shopping.”

Its long list of early fans also includes some crucial development partners and investors who are backing the project, not least DMI, one of the largest app developers in the world, who were so impressed with Will’s idea that they decided to work directly with a startup for the first time ever.

Magnus Jern, President at the app developer believes Ubamarket has the potential to disrupt the industry and predicts it will ‘turn the supermarket segment upside down’, giving smaller players the chance to compete with the big retailers.

Ubamarket and Warner’s Budgens

One such smaller player is Warner’s Budgens who, under the stewardship of Managing Director Guy Warner, operate a chain of stores in the Cotswolds and who, in their Moreton-in-Marsh store in Gloucestershire, will be the first retailer in the country to support Ubamarket.

From the 12 September, shoppers will be able to automatically rack up loyalty points, benefit from itemised shopping lists and pay using compatible point of sale terminals at the Budgens store, with Warner keen to roll out the service across the whole portfolio.

“For the supermarkets this is a way to make a hybrid with all the convenience of online shopping with all the experience of in-store shopping.”

Asking Will what sort of benefits the service poses for retailers who adopt it, along with the potential for 100% loyalty uptake, the ability to provide online convenience in a bricks and mortar store is one of the app’s key selling points.

He said: “The stores themselves are under massive threat from online shopping. People, if they can really avoid it, like going into the store, because for grocery shopping they don’t like having replacement items, getting an avocado that’s rock hard and they wanted to feel the avocado in store.

“For the supermarkets this is a way to make a hybrid with all the convenience of online shopping with all the experience of in-store shopping.”

That’s not to mention the wealth of customer data that provides all sort of locational and behavioural insight that far surpasses that provided by traditional loyalty points schemes.

“The big killer app as well is data because loyalty has always been based purchase patterns, but for the first time ever Ubamarket records everything you’re doing in the store,’ he added.

“It knows what was on the list, what wasn’t on the list, what you dumped off your list, so you can build up a picture of shoppers of what they like, how they like to shop, what aisles they like best, did you sell more milk to this type of person when it was in this aisle?”

Such depth of insight can then be fed back into the design, Will said, putting the customer at the centre of the store’s design as well as providing targeted offers to boost customer loyalty.

Along with Budgens, the London-based startup has also struck up a partnership with loyalty and payment supplier HTEC, which counts the likes of Morrisons, Nisa and Spar amongst its portfolio, with full compatibility and integration with the firm’s point of sale systems.

This means that, in theory, Ubamarket has the potential to be rolled out to over 6,000 retail stores in the near future.

But Will does not just want to stop there, he’s confident enough in his killer idea that he’s targeting wider national and, if all goes well, international expansion by the end of the year and he even has a patent pending to ensure no one can rip off his big idea.

He said: “We’ve invented so many new things in this that I’ve filed a patent as well on the unique and inventive aspect of it; which I wanted to protect as far as possible because I know this is way the world the market is going.”

“The world is going to copy this as soon as they see how it is working,” he concluded.

The Ubamarket app has already been soft launched on iOS and can be downloaded from the App Store now.

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