US survey insights: Why consumers want to use virtual wait lines in retail stores

Raj Sangha
by Raj Sangha

New consumer survey demonstrates the demand for virtual wait line software for service and store visits during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A newly published Qudini survey of 2,000 US consumers, which took place on the 26th of October, 2020, found that the vast majority of consumers would appreciate being able to join virtual wait lines at retail stores during Covid-19.

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

Before Covid-19, 47% of consumers admitted to regularly avoiding entering stores or walking out of stores without buying anything because of wait lines: 10% said they did so “often” and 33% said “sometimes”. Millennial and GenZ customers and higher household income groups were most likely to do so.

Half (53%) of consumers said they are even more likely to avoid entering or walkout out of stores without purchasing because of wait lines: 28% said “much more likely” and 25% said “more likely”.

Overall, 20% of consumers stated they are not prepared to more than 3 minutes within stores, 17% would only wait between 4 and 7 minutes and another 16% will only wait between 8 and 10 minutes.

Not only are retailers losing immediate sales revenues if they have waits for service but they are also losing long-term sales and customer loyalty, because 63% of consumers agreed with the statement “A long waiting experience would make me less likely to return to a retailer” (30% strongly agreeing and 33% somewhat agreeing). Higher household income groups were most likely to agree.

A large proportion of customers (64%) have been avoiding stores where possible, with Millennials, women and those from higher income household groups being the most likely to avoid stores. The main reasons for avoiding stores are health concerns and increased online shopping behaviors for 69% and 41% of customers respectively.

Find out more about virtual wait line management software.

The impact virtual wait lines have on consumer behavior

Overall, consumers responded positively to the idea of using a virtual wait line system to escape physical lines, 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.

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 wait line system.

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

How consumers prefer to join virtual wait lines

When asked how consumers would want to engage with the virtual wait line, it was interesting to see that consumers were most likely to join the line by texting a code (56%), followed by a retailer’s app (54%). Interestingly, consumers were more likely to want to join a line by self-service tablet kiosk or through a host than by QR code, although this may come down to a lack of awareness surrounding QR codes.

More than half of customers (58%) said they were willing to give their mobile number purely to receive updates about their position in the line, while a third (32%) said they would opt into marketing messaging.

Millennial and GenZ consumers are more likely than Baby Boomers to prefer all methods of joining wait lines, with approximately half saying they would use each method. The starkest difference between Millennial and GenZ consumers and Baby Boomer consumers is in their interest of QR codes, at 51% and 30% respectively.

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

How long should wait lines be before retailers use virtual wait lines

Most consumers considered anywhere between a 0 and 15 minute wait time as the appropriate length before using a virtual wait line system. There was a near even split in the correlation between joining a wait line 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 line by phone rather than through the host.

In general, Baby Boomers are the least patient and would find a virtual wait line system at a lower mean wait time of 8.7 minutes by phone and 8.1 minutes by host. Whereas Millennial and GenZ consumers appear to be more patient with a mean wait time of 12.9 minutes by phone and 11.1 minutes by host for Millennials and 12.2 minutes by phone and 12.1 minutes by host for for GenZ.

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

Creating effective signage for virtual wait lines

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

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

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

How to create effective signage for virtual wait lines

Overall, our survey insights found that while wait lines are costing retailers significant revenue opportunity, virtual wait line 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 report here

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