Consumers hate standing in line at the store. This is nothing new. Nine out of ten UK shoppers interviewed by Box Technologies and Intel revealed they avoided stores with long queues. When Amazon opened its cashier-less, checkout-less store Amazon Go, many hailed it as a much-needed revolution exactly because it eliminated the need to queue to check out.
Since Covid-19 hit, long lines have gone from being simply a nuisance and a waste of time to a potential hazard.
As a retailer, how can you reduce the risk of lines forming without going the Amazon Go route? Here are six ideas.
1. Bring the register to the customer with mobile POS
Today, the most advanced retail software solutions enable you to run the Point of Sale (POS) on mobile devices like tablet computers or smartphones. Your staff can look up information, scan items, close transactions, accept payments and print receipts anywhere the customers are, both inside and outside the store premises. No need for customers to line up at the register and wait for their turn. Another advantage of mobile POS is that you can easily add more devices when needed, without having to devote space to extra registers. [Download our whitepaper “No more strings” to find out more benefits of adding mobile Point of Sale to your in-store experience]
2. Add special stations for complex processes
Simple sales are usually fast to handle, so a line of customers simply buying items usually flows rapidly. On the other hand, more complex processes like returns, custom orders or loyalty program signups can take longer, and slow down the line significantly. Since simple sales usually outnumber complex ones, you can reduce the average waiting time having a special service station for shoppers who need extra help, for example those needing refunds, exchanges, special orders and more.
3. Experiment with virtual queues
With a virtual queue machine, customers can take a number and secure a place in a queue without actually having to stand in line, close to each other. Although these kind of machines are common in service centers like post offices and banks, they are not as widespread in retail stores, especially at the register. My local electronics store, for example, uses virtual queuing for customers looking for assistance, but relies on traditional lines at the register. Are they missing an opportunity? An added reason to try out virtual queues is that they give customers the time to wander around the store while waiting – a great opportunity for them to see extra items they might want to add to their cart.
4. Set up one-to-one appointments
Not all retail store visits need to be unplanned walk-ins. If a consultation or special attention is required, more retailers are encouraging people to book a time beforehand, so they can be given the time and attention they need. Jewelry chains Watches of Switzerland and Goldsmiths, Mappin & Webb started booking one-to-one appointments with customers as soon as they reopened their stores after the temporary pandemic closures. Craig Bolton, executive director of The Watches of Switzerland Group, says that his company set up 13,000 one-to-one virtual and in-store appointments in the last two weeks of July alone. Although this format may not fit retailers in all industries, reservations can help organize the flux of incoming visitors and ensure that you have the time and space you need for your customers.
5. Add “scan and go” tech
The latest revolution in Point of Sale technology sees the POS move into the consumer’s hands. Scan and go mobile apps allow consumers to self-serve in the shop, using either their personal mobile device or a provided handset to scan items and pay. The process is different from traditional mobile POS, not just because customers take care of the scanning themselves but also because items are scanned as they are added to the cart. Although for now Scan and Go technology is most common in grocery stores, there is no reason why retailers in other sectors shouldn’t take advantage of it. In a fashion, health, electronics or DIY store, customers would benefit from the ability to add items to the basket at their convenience while limiting human-to-human contact.
Scan and go apps have other benefits, too. When they scan aa barcode , customers can see all the product details, including information like nutrition, components or ingredients and care instructions– a great way for shoppers to get all the extra information they need to make a buying decision without having to touch the product.
6. Empower your staff with intuitive, reliable tech
Is outdated, slow technology one of the causes of long lines in your store? One of our customers told us a horror story of their old POS breaking down during the Christmas Eve rush. “It was a nightmare: one of our cash registers locked up, causing all of the systems in our main store to go down. Lines wrapped around the store because we had to process all transactions manually by writing everything down. We easily lost $20,000 that day, and who knows the long term effects it had on repeat business.” His conclusion? “The most important criterion when choosing a system is reliability.” Take a hard look at your technology: is it still serving your customers adequately? When selecting new software, look for systems that ensure short transaction times.
Long queues used to be a luxury problem for a retailer; not anymore. Do you need help finding the right technology to give customers a safe, pleasant experience in your stores? Do not hesitate to contact us.