Queuing app, ufirst, is launching in the UK ahead of a Covid winter when queues at supermarkets, retailers and other businesses are likely to be a fact of life. The app was trialled at several Sainsbury’s stores in the summer and reduces physical waiting times for customers to a few seconds or minutes at most.

ufirst, developed and headquartered in Italy has appointed as partners, Sean Gogarty and Jat Sahota, former senior executives at Unilever and Sainsbury’s respectively, to manage its UK launch and drive business development. They will do this via RangeFinder, an investment vehicle set up by the pair aimed at supporting ‘technology solutions’ driving growth and margins for retailers and brands.

The retail sector, and grocery in particular, acknowledges that it faces a perfect storm in the months ahead, having to contend with panic buying triggered by the recent announcement of further Covid measures, staff potentially needing to take time off sick, enforcing Covid compliant behaviour among shoppers and Black Friday, then Christmas bringing additional demand.
Moreover, physical stores still account for around 60% of transactions even for grocery retailers with well-developed online offers. And while much of Black Friday trading takes place online, click and collect is preferred by retailers as a means of protecting margins. Getting the in-store experience right is therefore a priority and retailers who can keep their queues moving efficiently will drive profitability and build their brand reputation in the longer term.

ufirst, available via app and the web, allows users to join a single queue or different queues remotely, showing them where they are in each queue, so that they only need to turn up in person when their turn is approaching. It can also be used to check whether a specific time and date to access a service is available and to book.

It works as a digital virtual queue management system that is licensed to client businesses. It can be set up quickly via remote installation online and without any hardware investment

Jat Sahota says: “Retailers have done a great job of implementing Covid-compliant measures inside their stores, but few have properly thought through how to manage queues in the cold, wet months ahead. Best in class queue management will be a vital part of the customer experience. A business that can organise its queues efficiently will win in the safety stakes and stand to gain market share in the difficult times ahead.”

Matteo Lentini, ufirst managing director adds: “During the early days of the pandemic, Italy was the first European country to learn the hard way, that a highly organised approach to queuing was the only way to ensure that people got the essential goods they needed, safely. Our technology helped the Italian people to do this, eliminating the need for lengthy queues where social distancing can be difficult. I am very proud that we played our part in helping the fight against Covid-19.

“We are excited to be bringing our technology and experience to the UK, a key market in our international expansion strategy and one that is highly receptive to innovative products like ours. We look forward to bringing a better customer experience to UK business and consumers.”

During the pandemic, ufirst helped more than 2 million Italians do their grocery shopping. It is used across many public and private settings in Italy including local government, universities, and hospitals/healthcare settings as well as by IKEA, McDonald’s, Italian supermarket Esselunga, mobile operators TIM and Wind3 and banks including Unicredit and BNL BNP Paribas.