The problem with queuing (UK retail)

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

During normal times, queuing poses a very real threat to the retail sector – even more so during a global pandemic.

Retailers stand to lose money and loyalty from all customers, but most importantly from their higher value customers: higher household income groups and younger demographics (who are growing in their spending power and whose interests will reflect the generations to come).

This is a problem outside of Covid-19 and has been escalated by it.

Revenue lost by queuing sits at an extortionate £3.4 billion in the UK alone, according to a previous Qudini study which was featured in the Retail Times.

A recent survey of 2,000 UK consumers by Qudini has unveiled some interesting insights into why customers hate waiting in queues both during and outside of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The impact queuing has on customers

Before Covid-19, 48% of consumers admitted to regularly avoiding entering stores or walking out of stores without buying anything because of queues and waits for service: 10% said they did so “often” and 38% said “sometimes”. Millennial and GenZ customers and higher household income groups were most likely to do so.

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 61% of consumers agreed with the statement “A long waiting experience would make me less likely to return to a retailer” (26% strongly agreeing and 35% somewhat agreeing). Higher household income groups were most likely to agree.

This problem has exacerbated during the pandemic

Half (48%) of consumers said they are even more likely to avoid entering or walkout out of stores without purchasing: 20% said “much more likely” and 28% said “more likely”.

Higher household income groups are 2-3 more likely to avoid entering or to walk out of stores without buying something because of queues and waits.

Millennial and GenZ consumers are 1.7 times more likely than Baby Boomers to avoid entering or to walk out of stores without buying something because of queues and waits.

Female consumers are noticeably more likely than males to avoid entering or to walk out of stores without buying something because of queues and waits.

Why queuing is a top concern, particularly during Covid

Our September 2020 survey showed that even when stores have been open, a large proportion of customers (63%) 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 behaviours for 69% and 41% of customers respectively.

Find out more about virtual queue management software.

Queues making consumers feel undervalued

The survey also found that younger generations and consumers from higher income households actually feel undervalued by brands that have queues outside stores.

This shows that retailers wanting to retain high priority customers need to reduce or eliminate queues at all costs, or they will end up paying the price.

How long customers will wait in queues

It doesn’t take long before customers walk-out of stores and never return. Overall, 21% of consumers stated they are not prepared to more than 3 minutes within stores, 19% would only wait between 3 and 7 minutes and another 19% will only wait between 8 and 10 minutes.

We also looked at how long consumers were willing to wait in queues by sector. The graph below shows that consumers are willing to wait longer at essential retailers like grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as at stores with big ticket items like cycle stores or estate agencies, while they’re prepared to wait the least amount of time at book stores and shoe stores.

For more useful insights into the cost of queues during Covid-19, click here to download the full survey.


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