Tackling the Challenge of Shoplifting – How Ubamarket will Improve In-Store Security

This is a blog from Will Broome, Founder & CEO, Ubamarket Ltd.

Unfortunately, shoplifting is nothing new in the world of retail, and with the implementation of self-scan checkouts in supermarkets, additional challenges have arisen as retailers have relied on the honesty of the consumer. Recent research from Statistic Brain found that there has been a 20% increase in theft using self-scan tills. Furthermore, additional research from the University of Leicester – which thoroughly audited 1 million shopping trips – found that 6 million items in the study were individually scanned while 850,000 items, equating to 4% of the total value of goods, were shoplifted. This is a major issue for retailers in the supermarket industry and when establishing Ubamarket it was a critical issue that we had to address.

Currently, supermarkets operate a system of ‘security by obscurity’, which generally involves a manual presence from a security guard to perform spot checks at the exit. Retailers also have to rely heavily on CCTV to pinpoint the unscrupulous thieves that drop items in their bags while avoiding the weighing scales at the self-scan checkout. Although stores are already quite savvy when it comes to spotting repeat offenders and moving swiftly to identify then prosecute them, minimising in-store theft is something that definitely needs to be tackled further.

How Ubamarket is Approaching the Security Challenge

To improve the shopping experience and notify the stores of any stock discrepancies, Ubamarket records the consumers’ habits and actions in-store, meaning shoppers leave a detailed ‘digital footprint’ in the supermarket and are therefore far more conspicuous. For privacy reasons, each shopper has an anonymous user ID; however, details can be accessed by the store (for the benefit of the shopper). This is a major breakthrough for in-store security, as Ubamarket’s behavioural mapping and receipt tracking will make it far easier to pinpoint any missing or unpaid stock items and align it with anyone that has been in that aisle or section at a particular time. The deterrent alone of knowing your actions in-store are tracked is significant to a thief and Ubamarket makes this very clear to all of our users from the outset.

Furthermore, Ubamarket shoppers are less likely to make a mistake than with a self-checkout station, as they’ll clearly see what’s been scanned on their list and will be alerted if they try to checkout prematurely. Shoppers will be unable to check-out unless every item on their ‘checkout list’ has been successfully scanned. Receipts are automatically logged on your phone and all scanned items are highlighted in green, making it clear if a payment has not been made and thereby helping to eradicate accidental theft. The only way to circumnavigate this system would be to not add the stolen item to your list in the first place, thus defeating the object of using Ubamarket to plan your journey around the store. By omitting items from your list you will also miss out on savings as the more products on your list, the greater deals you’ll receive thanks to Automatic LoyaltyTM, which is integrated in the app – this acts as a further disincentive for thieves.

Exacerbated by the implementation of self-checkout tills, theft is a major problem in all supermarkets, to such an extent that many stores already add a contingency in their budgets for shoplifting. Therefore, a further argument that some progressive retailers have made is that the savings of using self-checkout outweighs any theft-related losses by reducing operational costs. Furthermore, the cost to install a single average-priced self-checkout machine is about the same as an entire license fee to integrate the Ubamarket system, so the savings with Ubamarket are far greater. However, we firmly believe that a streamlined operation can co-exist with a crime free one too.

Practice Makes Progress

One day, in the not too distant future, Ubamarket and self-scan apps will be mainstream practice – consumers and retailers just need a little time to adjust, as with all innovative new technologies. After all, there was a time when we were terrified to put our card details into a budget airline’s website and now we wouldn’t dream of booking a flight any other way. We cannot eradicate all shoplifting and we are by no means promising to reinvent the wheel when it comes to in-store security; however, what we can do is work alongside retailers to support their current infrastructure.

With behavioural mapping; receipt tracking; the inability to check-out without scanning your full list; and user-registered purchasing data which can be accessed by the store owners and requested by the authorities; the app does not increase the threat of shoplifting. Instead, these technological advantages enable Ubamarket-ready retailers to manage security more efficiently as well as give shoppers every reason to be more honest! We can’t stop the odd individual from trying to slip out of the store with something concealed on their person, but what we can do is let you know who they are as a bolt-on to current security systems.

This is a blog from Will Broome, Founder & CEO, Ubamarket Ltd.

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