Many retailers have raised concerns that, when shops reopen in two weeks, large numbers of people might gather outside of stores, placing customers and employees at risk. Here’s why a virtual queuing system and appointment booking system are business critical right now.
A recent article by Katherine Griffiths and Callum Jones at The Times highlighted how retail businesses are concerned about safely managing queues on the high street when non-essential shops reopen come June 15.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has asked retailers to use barriers and their staff to make sure queues do not “cause a risk to individuals or other businesses” and advised that queues flow into safe areas such as car parks. The department also recommended retailers work alongside local authorities to manage how queues outside their stores impact public spaces.
However, Griffiths and Jones pointed out that many retailers are skeptical about the logistics of this approach, and believe that, even if local authorities are involved, the responsibility will fall on their shoulders.
Queuing could create chaos on the high street
We British do like waiting in queues – we’ve been known for it on an international scale since our obsession began during the rationing schemes of World War II.
But three quarters of a century on, asking consumers to wait (2 metres apart) in lines outside of stores unnecessarily places consumers at risk of contracting or spreading the virus – which makes very little sense considering the smartphone technology we have available.
And as the lockdown eases and retailers of all types prepare to open, we could easily see queues stretching down the footpath, spilling out onto roads, and clashing with one another.
On the other end of the spectrum, if retailers fail to manage the situation properly, we could see many consumers refuse to visit non-essential stores.
A recent Qudini survey of 2,000 UK consumers found 72-81% of customers were avoiding trips to non-essential stores in the weeks leading up to the lockdown, suggesting that consumers will be skeptical to visit stores even after the lockdown eases unless retailers implement effective social distancing measures.
Solution 1: Allow your customers to join a virtual queuing system
Instead of asking your customers to physically line up outside your stores, many retailers are using virtual queueing systems that allow customers to enter queues remotely through their smartphone devices.
When customers enter a virtual queue, they are given a position in the queue alongside an accurate wait time estimate, and can track their position in real-time. When it’s their turn to enter the store, customers are called forward automatically.
A major retailer that has recently implemented a queue management system is Asda, which allows customers to check in to the system remotely while they wait in their cars or the neighbouring area.
Solution 2: Let customers book time-slots to enter stores
An alternative approach many retailers are planning to implement is enabling customers to select time slots to enter their stores using time-slot scheduling software.
This is a great way to limit the number of customers in your store at any given time and supports social distancing measures. It also stops customers from having to wait in physical queues and allows them to limit their time in public, creating a safe and positive customer experience.
Irish department store retailer, Brown Thomas, which is owned by the same parent company as Selfridges, told The Irish Times that customers will be able to book entry to its stores via the Brown Thomas app by selecting a time that they wish to visit a store in advance.
Solution 3: Create a contactless curbside collection service
Before the Coronavirus outbreak, creating powerful in-store experiences was one of the most effective ways for retailers to build relationships with customers and create demand for their products. But during Covid-19, stores have morphed into customer fulfilment hubs – where customers want to keep their time in-store to a minimum.
As a result, many customers are using click and collect services to pickup items they’ve bought online. However, without the right system in place, these collection services can be just as time consuming and risky as buying products in-store.
Many leading retailers are investing in in-store collection or click and collect software that makes the process quick and contactless. This allows customers to check-in to stores remotely and alert store staff that they have arrived – they then receive their orders at the store entrance, curbside or car park.
Dixons Carphone has launched a contactless curbside collection service at 20 of its Currys PC World stores, allowing shoppers to pickup their goods immediately without having to enter stores.
The electronics retailer uses a virtual queuing system to create a zero contact drive thru model that allows customers to drive to stores with dedicated parking bays where they can pay for and pickup products they wish to purchase while staying in their cars.
Contact tracing customers if a new Covid-19 case emerges in-store
Another benefit of using queuing and appointment scheduling software is the ability to retrace customers who have entered your store at a certain time and date if someone contracts the virus in-store.
Basic consumer details, such as names, phone numbers and email addresses, are often gathered when people enter a queue or schedule an appointment (all abiding by GDPR regulations, of course). This software can enable retailers to easily pinpoint the customers and employees at the store during that time, and help you to make contact or share details with health authorities, to stop the pandemic from spreading or reduce the potential impact.
Find out more about how Qudini is helping retailers during Covid-19 here: