US survey insights: How retailers can benefit financially from virtual wait lines and hosts with tablets

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Having a store host to meet and greet customers entering a store and to provide them with wait time information for services or with the ability to join a virtual line can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the customer experience, especially during Covid-19.

We recently surveyed 2,000 US consumers in order to better understand the needs of consumers during Covid-19, and we discovered some interesting insights.

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

Store hosts help improve the customer experience and sales

Overall, consumers responded positively to the idea of a customer host managing their waiting experience at the front of busy stores, 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.

Customers hosts resonate well with consumers from higher income households

Higher earning households are also significantly more likely to be converted to in-store and online sales and to telling their friends about brands as a result of a host managed waiting experience.

Find out more about customer host apps

Virtual wait lines also help improve the customer experience and drive sales

Across all age groups, three quarters (78%) of customers said they would find virtual wait line systems useful in some stores.

Younger consumers are more likely to want virtual wait line software in stores than older consumers.

This suggests that investing in virtual wait line software and other in-store technology is crucial for retailers to stay relevant with younger consumers and keep them engaged.

Many leading retailers are in the process of implementing this software across their store portfolios, meaning these numbers are bound to increase as consumer awareness grows.

Consumers from higher income households are also much more likely to want virtual wait line software in the stores they visit, with 93% of those earning between £150k and £300k and 100% of those earning upwards of £300k stating this to be the case.

This indicates that retailers could increase their revenues through use of virtual wait line software.

When looking at the consumer demand for virtual wait line software across sectors, interest is highest within pharmacies (41%), grocery stores (40%), and banks (36%).

Interestingly, these retail types were all deemed as being ‘essential’ during the lockdown period and are all playing a vital role in helping consumers to go about their day-to-day lives during Covid-19.

In addition, interest is also high in phone stores (28%), department stores (28%) and electronics stores (27%).

Find out more about virtual wait lines

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.

The most appealing benefits of a virtual line system to consumers were the ability to the reduce risk of contracting Covid-19, followed by saving time and avoiding poor weather conditions. Younger generations are more concerned with using their time productively and fair process while older generations are more concerned with staying informed and updated as well as avoiding poor weather conditions.

All household incomes are equally likely to see the health benefits of a virtual wait line system, while those from higher income households are more likely to see the opportunity to increase productivity and have a more enjoyable wait.

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 for more in-depth insights here.

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