Is virtual queuing the solution to social distancing?

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

As the lockdown eases and shops reopen, enabling customers to join virtual queues to enter stores using a retail queue management system could help keep social distancing in place on the High Street.

We were all a little taken aback when we first saw the queues. The long lines of people, standing 6 feet apart, waiting to enter the grocery store or bank. But now, it’s become a part of everyone’s day-to-day lives.

Most retailers and consumers alike would agree that queuing outside stores isn’t ideal – it minimises the risk, but the risk is still there, nonetheless. And as the government toys with the idea of reopening all retail stores to the general public, there’s a big concern amongst retail leaders that this could lead to excessive queues outside of stores, placing the public at even greater risk.

Report: How stores can safely reopen after lockdown

Imagine the chaos that would ensure if the High Street was flooded with lengthy queues of consumers waiting to enter fashion retailers, or furniture stores, or beauty brands? It would completely contradict everything we as a nation have been fighting for. Would an effective queue management system solve all this? We investigate…

Consumers will avoid stores unless social distancing is in place

To better understand how consumers are behaving during Covid-19, we surveyed 2,000+ UK consumers and discovered 80% are currently eliminating or heavily reducing unnecessary trips to stores and other places as a result of the pandemic. Breaking this percentage down further, 37% of respondents said they have eliminated non-essential trips to stores, 43% have heavily reduced trips, while only 7% said they have not changed their behaviour at all.

Two thirds of respondents who regularly visit bank branches said they are avoiding making visits, while 27% said they are reducing the number of visits. When looking at pharmacies, 37% said they are avoiding stores while 47% said they are reducing visits. Only 22% of respondents said they are avoiding grocery stores, yet 60% said they are reducing visits.

For all other retail store types, 72-81% of customers admitted they were avoiding trips to stores in the weeks leading up to the lockdown, suggesting that consumers will be skeptical about visiting stores even after the lockdown lifts until proper social distancing measures are put in place.

Read more about our survey – download the report

Physical queues are not only outdated – they’re not safe

Some of the most hard hitting pictures of World War II were of people queuing for hours on end to get food (or rations of food). 

Yet now, three quarters of a century on, it seems unfeasible that retailers are asking consumers to do the same thing – especially with the abundance of new technology we have at our disposal. 

Physical queues are not only outdated, but they unnecessarily place people at risk of contracting the virus as they wait. 

When the lockdown eventually lifts, customers will still be avoiding trips to stores as much as possible. To create customer confidence, brands will need enhanced customer management processes that ensure social distancing inside and outside of stores. 

Virtual queues eliminate the need for lines outside of stores

Instead of asking your customers to wait in queues, retailers can use virtual queueing systems that allow customers to enter queues digitally, such as through their mobile devices.

Customers are given their position in the queue alongside an accurate wait time estimate, and can track their position in the queue in real-time – and when it’s time to enter your store, customers are called forward automatically.

Find out more about Qudini’s Queueing System

Alternatively, asking consumers to preselect a time to enter your store using appointment scheduling software is another effective way to manage footfall.

We’ve had many retailers approach us in the last few weeks to talk about our queuing and appointment scheduling software, and many have said they will not open their stores without it – suggesting that social distancing is a top priority for retailers as well as consumers.

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