When retail stores first reopened, the challenge many brands faced wasn’t managing the crowds, it was attracting them. Now, with footfall figures slowly increasing, many retailers have been quick to realize a new crisis in waiting – winter!
Asking consumers to wait in queues outside of stores first became a thing when the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect at the end of March, where the select few retailers that were allowed to remain open (supermarkets, banks, post offices) reduced the number of customers allowed in stores by asking others to wait in socially distanced queues outside.
And while the majority of retailers have now reopened, a shocking number are still asking their customers to wait in queues outside of stores, placing their customers and store associates at risk and creating a poor overall experience.
But winter is well and truly on its way, and retailers need to be realistic about the knock-on effect this will have on footfall figures. Will your customers really be willing to wait outside your stores in the rain or snow before being able to enter your store? And will the customers that make it passed your front doors be in the buying mood after waiting in the wind and rain?
Winter is coming, and so are the masses!
The Game of Thrones “Winter is coming!” reference might be a little outdated, but a bitter warning about how the upcoming winter weather will impact retailers couldn’t be more timely.
Consumers won’t be letting Covid-19 slow them down this festive season. A survey by Rakuten found three quarters of consumers around the world are not planning on reducing their spending during Christmas this year, and 87% of global shoppers will still be shopping for Christmas and other seasonal holidays. In fact, a survey by Ebay found more than a quarter (27%) of UK consumers are planning to start shopping and preparations for Christmas earlier than usual this year.
But it’s up to retailers to create compelling, engaging and safe experiences that customers actually want to visit, and return to, and this will be almost impossible to do if you’re asking them to wait in a long queue every time they want to tick another item off their shopping list.
Here’s how to effectively manage customers this holiday season and hit your Q4 targets:
Allow customers to join a virtual queue
If your store has reached capacity, a virtual queuing system eliminates the need for physical queues by allowing customers wanting to enter a virtual queue.
Here’s how it works:
- Customers can join a virtual queue through their mobile phones by simply scanning a QR code or by sending an SMS with a code. They can also do so via a store host with a tablet device, or through a kiosk.
- Once in the queue, customers receive an SMS providing them with their queue position, estimated wait time and a weblink where they can actively track their position.
- When it’s time to enter the store, customers receive an SMS notification letting them know to return to the store entrance.
Enable customers to book a time-slot to enter stores
Another approach many retailers are taking is allowing customers to book appointments to enter the store using appointment scheduling software.
- Customers are directed to a page on your website or app where they can book a time-slot appointment to enter a store.
- They receive a confirmation email and SMS, and they receive reminder messages on the day of their appointment.
- When it’s their time to enter the store, customers visit the store entrance.
John Lewis and Waitrose are trialling a virtual queuing system and time-slot scheduling
Well-known UK department store retailer, John Lewis & Partners, and supermarket chain, Waitrose & Partners, are currently trialling Qudini’s Queue Management System and time-slot scheduling software across a number of its stores to eliminate the physical queuing process.
While the majority of John Lewis’ stores have been open for a while now, the brand is aware that asking its customers to wait outside during the winter will pose a very serious threat to the customer experience. This way consumers can join a queue remotely or book a time to visit a store, significantly reducing their time waiting around in public places.
Waitrose Director, Peter Cross, says:
“We are thrilled to work with Qudini on this brand new trial which will let you wait for your turn in line from the comfort of your car or home, ensuring everyone can continue to shop safely and seamlessly.”
Asda trial virtual queuing system
Supermarket chain Asda, which is owned by Walmart, is currently trialling a virtual queuing system across a number of its stores to eliminate the need for customers to physically queue outside.
“With two-thirds of customers still concerned about around safety in supermarkets, Asda is investing in more longer term measures to support social distancing in stores,” says Asda’s Chief Executive, Roger Burnley.