Asda prepares for long-term social distancing by trialling virtual queuing system

Dylan Brown
by Dylan Brown

Big 4 British supermarket retailer, Asda, is currently in the process of trialling a virtual queuing system at its Middleton store near Leeds. Could other grocery brands soon follow in suit?

Searching for a long-term solution that eliminates the need for customers to wait in queues outside its stores during the Coronavirus pandemic, Asda is testing a new virtual queuing system that allows customers to line up virtually, The Telegraph reports.

All major supermarket chains in the UK, including Asda, have set up a variety of initiatives to ensure social distancing in-store, from floor markers, to sneeze guards, to one way aisles, yet Asda is one of the first to invest in a virtual queuing system for customers entering the store.

The queuing software allows customers to check in to the system remotely while they wait in their cars or the neighbouring area.

Asda’s Chief Executive, Roger Burnley, said: “So far the weather has been a godsend, but we think that social distancing will still last for the rest of the year.”

Mr Burnley also pointed out that it was “increasingly clear that COVID-19 is set to be part of our lives for months to come”.

Find out how virtual queuing apps work during Covid-19

How will consumers react to using a virtual queuing system?

While lining up in any form simply to enter a store isn’t the ideal customer experience, we live in less than ideal times, and safety has become the number one priority for most.

Asda said two-thirds of customers were still concerned about safety in supermarkets and that “Asda is investing in more longer term measures to support social distancing in its stores.”

This aligns with findings from a recent Qudini survey of 2,000+ UK consumers which found 22% of consumers are avoiding visits to grocery stores completely, while 66% are reducing visits.

And in general, 82% of consumers are eliminating or heavily reducing trips to stores or other public places during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Some consumers might naturally take to the new system, while others might take some convincing, but the majority of consumers are open to new processes and ideas if it means they less at risk of catching the pandemic. In fact, many Baby Boomer consumers in our survey showed a willingness to adopt digital technology such as click and collect services during Covid-19, despite very few being regular users of the service, hinting that many consumers are open to trying new technology during Covid-19.

Read more grocery insights from 2,000+ UK consumers

Could a virtual queuing app work for other stores?

Queuing outside of supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and other essential retail stores has become the new norm, but as the government seeks to ease lockdown restrictions, retailers will need to find new ways to manage customers – otherwise the High Street will quickly become flooded with consumers lining up to enter stores.

Right now the government is currently grappling to find a solution, but it’s also up to retailers to invest in the right tools and processes to support social distancing, and many of them are, such as Asda.

A virtual queuing system eliminates the need for customers to wait in a queue by enabling them to queue virtually and stay updated with real-time notifications as their turn approaches.

Customers are able to join a virtual queue through a variety of channels, including a weblink, SMS, QR code, an app, or a host. They are then provided with a position in the queue alongside an accurate wait time estimate, allowing them to relax while following their queue position and wait time by an in-app or weblink tracker. They will automatically be called forward by SMS, a smartphone or a TV display as their turn approaches.

With social distancing protocols looking more and more likely to stay in place in the months to come, queue management software could help enterprise retailers to restore consumer confidence by not only establishing virtual queues but also by creating contactless click and collect systems, too.

Find out more about how retailers can support social distancing

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