Recent research from cloud-based platform Qudini reveals that long queues are the largest turn-off for shoppers. Consequently, UK retailers are losing up to £12bn per year with customers becoming frustrated with waiting times, and therefore leaving the store without purchasing.
Assuming there’s enough appeal there in the first place to draw the customer into the store, what happens at the checkout when shoppers with one or two items are waiting in a queue fifteen people deep with no till in sight? The research further shows that over a third (34%) of Brits would rather shop online than visit physical stores and over a third of those were put off visiting stores at the thought of waiting in line.
So how best to tackle the challenge of in-store queuing?
Ultimately, retailers need to focus on actionable solutions to overcome the risks of losing not only the custom of their shoppers, but the subsequent missed revenue as a result. Queueing can sometimes be an inevitable truth of shopping, so instead retailers must learn to effectively entertain their customers and provide what online shopping cannot: the immediate sensory and evocative experience that goes hand-in-hand with its products – in other words, a holistic brand experience.
And whether a customer is buying experimentally or regularly in your store, their attention span is short. You could have anywhere between two to five minutes before the customer decides they’re either committed to the line, or in the worst case, they’re setting the items to the side and walking out the door.
To tackle the challenge of in-store queuing, retailers need to focus on queue management, an action that goes beyond how long the queue takes from the back of the line to the counter. Offerings that can entertain, engage and lead customers to interact in-store, will help perceived waiting times in queues – however long they are – seem considerably shorter and more bearable. Here are some actionable examples below.
For example, high visual-impact digital signage is one effective way to engage customers while they are waiting in line – from sharing news topics and social media feeds to shopping inspiration or even carefully selected television content. Digital displays can be quickly changed to keep up-to-date and in real time with the goings on of the store, and can be a great distraction tool.
In-store music also plays an important role not only to enhance brand conveyance and the perception of waiting time but to allow customers to personalise their environment. Some systems allow customers to influence the music they listen to in the queue and in store. The quality through which this music is heard can also be modified at the most practical levels, including installation of quality sound speakers so that shoppers forget where they are.
The retailers that are going to thrive in the current landscape are becoming much more aware of the sensory and subconscious experience their customers are exposed to. This is now shared not just by visual and audio but can also be augmented by scent. In fact, scent is the strongest sense connected with memory and emotion. We all know that freshly baked bread exponentially increases the chances of selling a house, and the same holds true in retail. This simple solution paves the way for a more stress-free and enjoyable experience in the queue; the desire to remain in-store to enjoy it.
Retailers should also consider installing in-store wifi to keep customers entertained while they are queuing. Not only does this offer an opportunity for customers to stay connected, but it also boosts the store’s social media following as customers are required to follow the store’s social media in order to access the wifi. Additionally, stores can gather important data from their customers from their registration and use this to target customers with more personalised suggestions.
Finally, we’re also seeing a number of retailers like Zara, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonalds using tech-based solutions to tackle the issue head on. For example, Zara is now providing a click-and-collect service whereby robots retrieve the item and take it to a drop box for customers to collect. Dunkin Donuts’ customers can use Google Assistant on both iPhones and Androids to order and skip the queues to retrieve their products, and McDonalds’ app allows you to place your order quickly before you enter the restaurant.
Against the backdrop of failing high street retailers, it’s essential that retailers adapt their customer experience offerings in order to bring in repeat custom and vitally a holistic experience in store. Failing to do so could mean joining a wave of on-going store closures with the likes of Mothercare or House of Fraser.
Tony Rhodes is the UK commercial director at Mood Media. The group offers experiential design and marketing solutions, helping brands connect with their customers by providing solutions that help to improve customer experience.