Survey insights for UK phone stores: how consumers want to shop during Covid-19

Ben Abbitt
by Ben Abbitt

On 25 September 2020 we surveyed 2,000 UK consumers about their shopping behaviours in phone stores and online during Covid-19 and unveiled some interesting insights for phone retailers.

Our insights show that most consumers are avoiding phone retail stores as a result of health concerns caused by the Coronavirus. The insights show that getting too close to other people and queuing in stores are key customer concerns that are costing phone retailers revenue opportunity across multiple channels, both before and during the pandemic. The survey suggests that phone retailers who combat these challenges by using digital tools to choreograph their customer experience will see significant business case benefits through improved omni-channel sales, greater loyalty and advocacy amongst some of the highest value customer groups: younger generations, higher earning households and women.



Who normally visits phone stores outside of the pandemic and how often?

Before Covid-19, 68% of the shoppers within our survey said they visited phone stores. 4% said they did so often, 18% said they did so sometimes and 46% said they did so rarely.

Younger age demographics are 9 times more likely than older generations to visit phone stores often and 3 times more likely to visit sometimes.

Consumers from higher income households are 5 times more likely to visit phone stores often than those from lower income households. They are also twice as likely visit phone stores sometimes.

Men are more likely than women to visit phone stores often and sometimes.



Customers are visiting phone stores less as a direct result of the Coronavirus outbreak…

As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, 60% of phone store customers are visiting these types of stores less than before. A third (35%) are visiting them the same as before. Only 4% of customers are visiting these types of stores more than before.

Baby Boomer consumers are the most likely to reduce their visits to phone stores during the Coronavirus outbreak, with two thirds visiting less. On the other hand, 8% of Millennial and GenZ customers have increased their visits.

Higher household income groups are the least likely to reduce their visits to phone stores as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Over a quarter (25%) of higher income households are visiting phone stores more than they were before and only 35% are visiting phone stores less.

This perhaps suggests a widening economic gap created by the Coronavirus in that the higher income groups are disproportionately less financially impacted by the crisis.

Throughout our survey we found that women are more cautious and concerned by the health impact of the Coronavirus outbreak than men. These results match our findings by showing that women are more likely to visit phone stores less than before.


Why are customers avoiding phone stores

We asked customers why they were avoiding stores in general and found that health concerns are the main reason, with 69% of consumers stating this to be the case. This was followed by an increased use of online shopping (41%) and financial concerns (31%). All age groups are increasing their use of online shopping channels equally.

Financial concerns and, interestingly, environmental consciousness has proved greatest amongst GenZ consumers and lower household income.

The fact that younger generations are 3x more likely to avoid stores for environmental reasons than Baby Boomers or GenX customer is something phone stores retailers need to become increasingly aware of, as it will effect the way consumers shop as they increase in spending power.


What concerns people about shopping in stores in the Coronavirus era?

When it comes to visiting stores, customers’ biggest concerns are getting too close to other people (54%), other people not wearing masks (52%), touching products that other people have touched (43%) and queuing (36%).

A quarter (25%) of customers are concerned about having to wear masks themselves, half that of those concerned about others not wearing masks.

An additional 25% are concerned about the idea of having to queue outside of stores and 18% are concerned about queuing inside of stores.

These insights suggest that phone stores who address these top 4 concerns and prioritise customer health could increase customer confidence and drive more footfall to their stores.


How queues effect phone store sales before and during the Coronavirus

With queuing proving to be one of the top concerns for customers when visiting stores during the Coronavirus era, we wanted to find out more about how queuing impacted customer behaviour and why it was a problem.

Our report found that not only are customers visiting stores less because of the pandemic, but when they do visit stores they are less willing to queue, even compared to before the pandemic.

Outside of the Coronavirus outbreak:

Retailers of every type are losing revenue as a direct result of queues, particularly from some of their key customer groups (younger generations and higher household income groups).

83% of customers have avoided entering stores or have walked out of stores without buying anything because of queues and waits for service: 10% said they would do so “often”, 38% said “sometimes’ and 35% said “rarely”.

GenZ and Millennial age groups were the most likely to avoid entering stores or walkout of stores without purchasing because of queues and waits for service.

Higher household income groups were also more than twice as likely to be deterred by queuing and waits for service than those in lower income brackets.

During the Coronavirus outbreak:

The lost revenue caused by queuing is further exacerbated, particularly amongst the key customer groups: younger generations, higher household incomes groups and women.


Do queues have a long-term impact on phone sales?

To add to this challenge, our survey showed that not only do retailers stand to lose immediate revenue opportunity due to long waiting experiences, but they also lose out on future repeat visits and resulting revenues;


Why is queuing such a big concern to customers?

With wait times proving to severely impact immediate and long-term potential phone store revenues, the second part of our survey focussed on understanding how customers felt their experience could be improved.

To help phone retailers to understand how to improve their waiting experience to minimise the revenue and loyalty loss caused by queuing, we asked shoppers what most concerned them about queuing in the present period and found that health and lack of comfort are the biggest reasons consumers dislike queuing:

These insights suggest that customers most dislike queuing because it makes them feel out of control, uncomfortable and like they are wasting time. Phone retailers could allay these concerns by using virtual queuing and appointment booking solutions, as this would allow them to offer safer, more comfortable and informed waiting experiences that don’t waste customers’ time.

High value consumers are also more likely to take queues personally:

The fact that these groups take queuing so much more personally (almost as an insult to them from the brand) suggests why they are both more likely to walkout of a store without making a purchase because of a queue and are also less likely to return to a store where they experienced a queue.

The fact that these valuable groups are so much more personally insulted by a need to queue shows that retailers need to work harder to minimise queues if they want to retain the long-term affection of these customer groups.


How long customers are prepared to wait for service within phone stores…

When asked how long customers are willing to wait in phone stores we found that:

23% will only tolerate a wait of up to 3 minutes. 17% will wait between 3-7 minutes and 18% will be willing to wait between 8 and 10 minutes. In total, this means that more than half of phone store shoppers (58%) will only wait up to 10 minutes for service.

These insights demonstrate that the wait time does not need to be long before significant revenues can be lost.

Interestingly, despite being more likely to walkout without buying anything and less likely to return to the store if they are forced to wait, Millennial and GenZ customers have a higher mean wait time threshold than older generations when it comes to waiting in queues at phone stores. They are more patient of longer waits, though less tolerant and also, more personally insulted if a wait exceeds their expectations.

Interestingly, the survey found that consumers from higher income households are more willing to wait, although less forgiving of the brand when returning. However, 21% of those from the highest income group aren’t willing to wait any longer than 3 minutes when waiting to enter a phone store or to receive service.

Phone store wait time tolerance is similar to that of other retail store types offering small to medium priced purchases such as jewellery stores, gardening, lingerie and makeup stores.


How do customers want their experiences to be managed within phone stores…

To understand how Qudini can help our phone retail clients at this important time, we sought to understand which of our four key Retail Choreography tools customers wanted to see within phone stores to better manage their experience. So we surveyed customer opinions on:

  • Virtual Queuing Systems: To manage store capacity and to enable customers to queue virtually using their phone or through a host with a tablet.
  • Appointment Scheduling Software: To enable customers to schedule store visits and in-person service or virtual service 24/7 from any channel.
  • Contactless Collection Check-in: To enable customers with online orders to check-in when they arrive at store so that store teams bring their order to them outside of the store.

How do customers want their experiences to be managed within phone stores…

Customer priorities of these tools specific to phone stores were as follows:

For Millennial and GenZ customers:

1. Store appointments (16%)

2. Contactless online order collections (15%)

3. Virtual queuing (14%)

4. Virtual appointments (14%)


For Baby Boomer customers:

1. Store appointments (11%)

2. Virtual appointments (9%)

3. Virtual queuing systems (8%)

4. Contactless online order collection (5%)


Overall, consumers earning between £50k and £100k where the most likely to want Retail Choreography solutions from phone retailers, especially store appointments and virtual appointments. Contactless click and collection, on the other hand, is particularly popular with those with a household income upwards of £150k.

Female consumers were more interested in each solution than male consumers. This suggests that for phone retailers primarily targeting female consumers, there’s an even greater business case for investing in these in-store experience tools to drive sales.

When asked why customers would find virtual queuing and appointment booking software useful within retail stores during the pandemic, it was clear that most customers felt the solutions could alleviate their health concerns, alongside their concerns around wasted time, poor weather conditions, lack of information and fair process.


What impact would using these solutions have on phone store customer spend, advocacy and loyalty?

The survey responses also indicate that phone stores who use any of these five solutions to choreograph their customers’ experience stand to gain significantly through improved revenues and brand relationships across channels.

This is particularly prevalent amongst Millennial and GenZ customers where an average of 77% state that the solutions would positively impact their interactions with retailers in one or more of the following ways:


Could Covid-19 be a catalyst for a new era of omni-channel phone stores ?

Our survey found that Millennial and GenZ customers are 3-4 times more likely to find Retail Choreography tools useful within phone retail stores.

When compared with Baby Boomers across all types of retail stores, these younger generations also report that if a retailer used such tools to manage their experience, they would be:

All this confirms what we all instinctively know to be true – Millennial and GenZ customers want retailers to use digital tools to improve their experience, and they will be driven to spend more and to engage more across a retailer’s entire omni-channel offering in return.

The significantly greater interest in Retail Choreography tools from younger generations suggests they may have wanted these kinds of tools all along and that Covid-19 will prove to be a catalyst for a new era of omni-channel retailing as retailers realise the powerful business case benefits behind offering such tools.

To further add to the business case benefit of using Retail Choreography solutions within phone stores and the conclusion that Covid will prove to be a catalyst for a new era of omni-channel retailing where queues are eliminated and in-store or virtual appointments and curbside pickup become the norm.



The survey insights showed the powerful business case benefits for Retail Choreography tools within phone stores

Our survey also showed that, when compared with their lower household income peers, higher household income groups were 1.6 times more likely to be driven to buy something online or in-store as a result of a retailer using these tools.

21% said they were more likely to make an in-store purchase and 19% were more likely to shop with the retailer online, compared with 12.5% of those from lower household income groups.

Overall, our survey shows that a long wait time is more likely to deter younger generations and those from higher household income groups from visiting stores or returning in the future. To combat this, the insights show that Retail Choreography tools offer a powerful antidote, as these same demographics are also the most likely to be driven to purchase in-store and online across a retailer’s channels, and the most likely to return again as a result of a retailer’s use of digital tools to choreograph their experience.



Improving profitability and driving lasting brand relevance

These insights show that both during and outside of the Coronavirus, phone stores have much to gain by using Retail Choreography solutions to manage queues, to offer in-store and virtual appointments and to provide contactless click and collect pickup services.

Our many case studies with leading phone stores have also shown the same. For more information on how we can help your brand take a look at our customer success stories or get in touch with our team for a demo at


Thank you!

A member of our team will be in touch.