Survey insights: How retailers can benefit financially from deploying virtual queuing systems and hosts with tablets

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Having a store host to meet and greet customers entering a store and to provide them with wait time information for services or with the ability to join a virtual queue can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the customer experience, especially during Covid-19.

We recently surveyed 2,000 UK consumers in order to better understand the needs of consumers during Covid-19, and we discovered some interesting insights.

Read: The problem with queuing and how it is costing retailers during Covid-19

Store hosts help improve the customer experience and sales

Overall, consumers responded positively to the idea of a customer host managing their waiting experience at the front of busy stores, stating that:

! These results demonstrate that retailers with long waiting experience could obtain a significant return on investment through using customer hosts to manage customers.

A host managed waiting experience is more likely to drive younger generations to make purchases both online and in-store. Compared to Baby Boomers, GenZ customers are twice as likely to buy something in-store and Millennials are 38% more likely. Both Millennial and GenZ customers are 3 times more likely than Baby Boomers to buy something online with the retailer as a result of a good experience.

Compared to other generations, Baby Boomers state they are 31% more likely to be retained by a host managed waiting experience and 25% more likely to think better of the retailer. They are also slightly more likely to return to stores again.

These insights show what we all instinctively know to be true: driving sales and loyalty now needs to take place across all channels rather than solely within stores like it has in the past.

And as these younger demographics increase in their spending power, retailers offering great store experiences will have even more to gain across their entire omni-channel offering.

Customers hosts resonate well with consumers from higher income households

Higher earning households are also significantly more likely to be converted to in-store and online sales and to telling their friends about brands as a result of a host managed waiting experience.

Find out more about customer host apps

Virtual queues also help improve the customer experience and drive sales

Across all age groups, two out of three (62%) of customers said they would find virtual queuing systems useful in some stores.

Younger consumers are significantly more likely to want virtual queuing software in stores than older consumers.

This suggests that investing in virtual queuing software and other in-store technology is crucial for retailers to stay relevant with younger consumers and keep them engaged.

Many leading retailers are in the process of implementing this software across their store portfolios, meaning these numbers are bound to increase as consumer awareness grows.

Female consumers are slightly (9%) more likely to find virtual queuing systems useful in some stores.

Consumers from higher income households are also much more likely to want virtual queuing software in the stores they visit, with 93% of those earning between £150k and £300k and 100% of those earning upwards of £300k stating this to be the case.

This indicates that retailers could increase their revenues through use of virtual queuing software.

When looking at the consumer demand for virtual queuing software across sectors, particularly amongst the younger generations, interest is highest within grocery stores (35%), pharmacies (26%) and banks (25%).

Interestingly, these retail types were all deemed as being ‘essential’ during the lockdown period and are all playing a vital role in helping consumers to go about their day-to-day lives during Covid-19.

In addition, interest is also high in shopping malls (24%), fashion/apparel (22%), shoe stores (20%), department stores (17%) and electronics stores (16%).

Across all industries, GenZ and Millennial customers are significantly more interested in the idea of a virtual queuing system than Baby Boomers, with the exception of opticians/eyewear stores and garden centres.

Baby Boomer interest in virtual queuing systems is closer to that of Millennial and GenZ customers in essential retail store types: grocery stores, pharmacies, banks / building societies and DIY stores, as well as in higher price categories such as travel agencies and car dealerships.

Find out more about virtual queues

The impact virtual queues have on consumer behaviour

Overall, consumers responded positively to the idea of using a virtual queuing system to escape physically queuing, with 81% of Millennial and GenZ consumers seeing some benefits, stating that:

! These results demonstrate that retailers with long waiting experience could obtain a significant return on investment through using customer hosts to manage customers.

Overall, the concept of virtual queuing systems has much greater appeal amongst younger demographics, particularly GenZ and Millennial demographics.

Similar to the host managed waiting experience, a virtual queuing system is 2-3 times more likely to drive GenZ, Millennial and GenX customers to make purchases both in-store and online than it is with Baby Boomers.

However, unlike host managed waiting experience, the younger generations are also much (c.35%) more likely than Baby Boomers to have improved retention, relationships and perception as a result of a retailer using a virtual queuing system.

Comparing these insights demonstrates that host managed waiting experiences are more necessary for retaining and converting older generations, while the younger, more digitally-minded demographics are equally, and often even slightly more, positively effected by virtual queuing over their phones.

The greater appreciation of virtual queuing via phone amongst younger generations indicates that there could be a far bigger future for virtual queuing beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

The positive impact on customers if a retailer with queues used:

1) A host to manage your waiting experience, vs.

2) A virtual queuing system to queue by phone

Higher earning households are also much more likely to be converted to an in-store and online purchase and to telling their friends about brands as a result of a retailer using a virtual queuing system.

This further suggests that virtual queuing software could help to increase retailer revenues.

94% of younger generations see some benefit in using a virtual queuing system, while 65% of Baby Boomers also see a benefit.

The most appealing benefits of a virtual queuing system to consumers were the ability to the reduce risk of contracting Covid-19, followed by saving time and avoiding poor weather conditions. Younger generations are more concerned with using their time productively and fair process while older generations are more concerned with avoiding poor weather conditions.

All household incomes are equally likely to see the health benefits of a virtual queuing system. 90% of customers with household incomes of more than £50,001 see some benefit in using a virtual queuing system, compared to 79% of those with household incomes of less than £50,000.

How consumers prefer to join virtual queues

When asked how consumers would want to engage with the virtual queue, it was interesting to see that consumers were most likely to join the queue by texting an SMS code (47%), followed by through a host with a tablet (46%). Interestingly, consumers were only slightly less likely to want to join a queue by a self-service tablet kiosk (43%) or a QR code (45%).

Half of customers (48%) said they were willing to give their mobile number purely to receive updates about their queue position, while a quarter (27%) said they would opt into marketing messaging.

Baby Boomer consumers are slightly more likely to join the queue via host or by SMS code than they are by QR code or a self-service tablet kiosk, whereas Millennial and GenZ consumers are equally likely to use all methods and are, interestingly, slightly more likely to use their phone or a self-service kiosk over a host.

Younger generations are 22% more likely to give their mobile number and 35% more likely to opt into marketing messaging.

Interestingly consumers from higher household income groups are more likely to join the queue by SMS, QR code and most methods in general. They are also more likely to give their mobile numbers and twice more likely to opt-in to marketing communications.

On average, female respondents are slightly (18%) more likely than males to join the virtual queue by each method and to provide their mobile number purely to receive SMS updates about their queue position.

However, both genders are equally as likely to opt-in to marketing messages, at 26% (a quarter of respondents).

How long should queues be before retailers use virtual queues

Most consumers considered anywhere between a 0 and 15 minute wait time as the appropriate length before using a virtual queuing system. There was a near even split in the correlation between joining a queue via phone or store host and the wait time. This was especially interesting, as we had assumed that people would require a long wait before joining the queue by phone rather than through the host.

Looking at the mean wait time that customers said that joining the virtual queue via a host vs by phone would be useful to them, and we can see people would find virtual queuing to be useful at a mean wait time of 9.02 minutes with the wait being just 1 minute less for the host to become useful.

In general, Baby Boomers are the least patient and would find a virtual queuing system system at a lower mean wait time of 7.6 minutes by phone and 8 minutes by host. Whereas Millennial and GenZ consumers appear to be more patient with a mean wait time of 9 minutes for the host vs 10.7 minutes for joining the queue by phone.

Those from higher income households think a higher wait time is acceptable before a virtual queue comes into effect.

 

Creating effective signage for virtual queues

In order to get the most out of virtual queuing software, retailers also need to create effective and easy to understand signage.

The image below shows the formula we use for creating effective virtual queuing signage that drives customers to check-in.

To help our clients to create clear signage for their virtual queuing offering, we’ve pulled together a guide.

How to create effective signage for virtual queues

Overall, our survey insights found that while queuing is a challenge that costs retailers significant revenue opportunity, virtual queuing systems serve as a powerful antidote that can even enable retailers to turn a typically negative experience into something that increases sales both online and offline, while driving strong customer relationships in the process.

Download the full survey for more in-depth insights here.

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