How Long Wait Times Hurt Retail Sales

February 01, 2013Perry Kuklin

long wait times

There is much more to a customer’s experience in a retail environment than whether they find the right item at the right price. The amount of time spent waiting in a checkout line is truly a make-or-break point when it comes to customer satisfaction and resulting retail sales. The foot traffic that a store receives is certainly not equivalent to the number of sales a store makes. There are four ways that long checkout lines impact the customer experience and resulting sales:

  1. Cart Abandonment: It is wishful thinking that people who have shopped for an hour (or even five minutes) and filled their carts will not leave without their hard-won purchases. To the contrary, retailers know that customers can and do abandon their carts and often simply because the line is too long. Research shows that a third of customers report they have abandoned the checkout line when forced to wait for more than five minutes.
  2. Put-Backs: Some shoppers don’t reach the checkout line at all. While they’re shopping, they catch a look at the lengthy lines that await them and simply put their items back on the shelves and head for the door. At this juncture, customers who see that the checkout process is being actively managed are more willing to wait.
  3. Drive-Bys: There are shoppers who won’t even make it past the front door, window, or parking lot if the lines are too long – or merely perceived to be too long. Sales lost to drive-bys are hard to measure yet nonetheless important to minimize.
  4. Reputation Damage: Only a small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied with their service ever actually complain to the store or company – but they’re spreading the word among friends, family, and acquaintances. As a result, nearly half of customers surveyed avoid stores because of someone else’s negative experience. And some studies suggest that nearly half of all customers will actively avoid the retailer or brand in the future if the wait in line was longer than five minutes.

Focusing on Queue Management

The good news is that there is plenty that can be done to expedite a checkout line and give valuable customers a pleasant and memorable shopping experience so that they will come back and offer rave reviews to people about their experience. Simple efforts can do the trick even if a major overhaul of the queue isn’t possible. Retailers who focus time and energy on queue management solutions have the edge over direct competitors. Talk to a Lavi expert to learn more about improving your checkout lines.

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