As the government seeks to ease lockdown restrictions, it has issued some new social distancing guidelines for shops and branches – and we’re seeing retailers turn to virtual queueing apps, as a result.
Last week the government published its Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) guidelines for all types of workplaces, including retail stores. Here’s some of the most relevant requirements for retailers:
- Defining the number of customers that can reasonably follow 2m social distancing within the store, taking into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas.
- Limiting the number of customers in the store, overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways between outside and inside spaces.
- Looking at how people walk through the shop and how you could adjust this to reduce congestion and contact between customers, for example, queue management or one-way flow, where possible.
- Using outside premises for queuing where available and safe, for example some car parks.
- Working with your local authority or landlord to take into account the impact of your processes on public spaces such as high streets and public car parks.
Retailers need to build customer confidence through social distancing
When the lockdown first came into effect, there was talk of a great retail resurgence, where retail shops, cafes and restaurants are flooded with consumers looking to make up for weeks of very little spending. That might currently be the case in New Zealand, but unfortunately here in the UK, we are a fair way off.
And even if the lockdown were to lift overnight, the majority of consumers are cautious about contracting the virus, and it will stay like that unless retailers take action.
In a survey of 2,000 consumers in both the UK and the US, we discovered that 77% of Britons and 82% of Americans were avoiding non-essential stores as much as possible in the weeks prior to the lockdown. We believe these insights are reflective of how customers will behave after lockdown.
Physical queues outside of stores will place the public in greater danger
There are a handful of things Britain is known for on an international scale – our Queen and her corgis, our love of football, an eclectic collection of unorthodox singers and bands that we tend to either love or hate (or love to hate), tea, and our obsession with queuing.
Our queuing obsession began during World War II, when the general public had to line up in lengthy queues to receive day-to-day necessities. But now, three quarters of a century on, every open store you walk by has queues stretching down the street, from banks, to supermarkets, to pharmacies and post offices – which makes very little sense considering the new smartphone technology we have at our disposal.
This approach might be working fine for now, but as the government seeks to reopen non-essential stores, the pavements could soon become overcrowded with customers in queues standing 2m apart, contradicting the essential social distancing measures that will still need to be in place. (This will become even more problematic during the bad weather, and may prompt many consumers to avoid visiting stores).
Without digital queue management, when stores reopen the pavements could become flooded with queues of customers, contradicting the essential social distancing measures we’ve been abiding by for months now.
But with virtual queuing apps, this need not be the case – stores can stay open, pavements can be clear and safe, and customers can be healthy…and happy.
How a virtual queuing system works for retailers
Here’s the type of customer experience that retailers are creating using remote queuing apps to enable in-store social distancing:
- Customers arriving at the store are invited to join a digital queue using a QR code that takes their phone to a website, or via a host with a tablet.
- Once added to the queue, the customer is taken to a weblink where they can follow their place in the queue. They also receive a text message with their estimated wait time and queue position.
- Staff can access the virtual queuing system on any device to manage customers.
- When a customer’s turn draws near, they’ll receive an SMS with their wait time.
The new era of virtual queuing
Before Covid-19, a virtual queuing system was a forward thinking initiative operated by big brands to enhance their brand reputation. But in the Coronavirus era, we’re seeing the software become a retail necessity – keeping customers safe, restoring their confidence to visit stores, and retaining brand reputation.
Qudini has been building our virtual queuing system for more than eight years now, working alongside leading customer-centric brands, including Samsung, Telefonica, Specsavers and Tui – and we’ve seen an influx of brands coming to us in the last few weeks asking about our software. Outside of the current Covid-19 context, our virtual queue management software is proven to increase walk-in retention, customer spend and loyalty, alongside enabling significant operational improvements in productivity, resource allocation and data insights.
We’re excited for what this new era of virtual queuing could mean for brands, not just for keeping their customers safe, but for realising the significant value of offering a good experience that encourages customers to buy more and return more frequently.