If our experience at Retail’s Big Show this year was any indication, getting rid of waiting lines, or at least minimizing their negative impact on the in-store experience, is something retailers are focused on. And they’re realizing the power of technology to help them. Virtual queuing captured a lot of attention at the Show as we spoke to retailers representing a wide range of store types about the many ways virtual queuing can improve their waiting lines and the shopper experience.
What is virtual queuing?
Virtual queuing disperses waiting crowds and eliminates the need for a physical waiting line, instead placing each customer in a virtual waiting line and calling them for service when their turn is up.
In retail, virtual queuing can be used in many areas to minimize wait times, boost impulse sales, improve service efficiency, and keep shoppers happy with the in-store experience. Here are 4 ways virtual queuing is taking hold:
Have you ever found the perfect store associate who just ‘gets it’? The one who knows your style, your likes, your dislikes, and the one you trust to help you make the right purchase? For some shoppers, these chosen associates become the only ones they’ll ask for when they are ready to make a purchase. Retailers can facilitate the relationship between shoppers and associates with a virtual queuing program that allows for pre-scheduled appointments. Customers can schedule their shopping trip for the exact day and time that their associate is working and ensure they get the personal attention they seek. Luxury retailers, in particular, are looking at virtual queuing as a powerful way to increase sales and customer satisfaction.
The growth in buy online, pick up in store (known as BOPUS or BOPIS) is leading retailers to rethink their queuing strategy when it comes to taking care of customers who arrive to pick up the orders they placed online. Neglecting to manage these waiting lines can quickly create the inconvenience shoppers were hoping to avoid in the first place. Shoppers like the store pickup option because it allows them to bypass the register and go straight to pick up their items without waiting for or having to pay extra for shipping. Retailers also benefit from the added foot traffic as they have an opportunity to give customers an in-person experience and impulse buying opportunities that can serve to solidify customer satisfaction boost sales. In fact, when shoppers come to the store to pick up items ordered online, 37% make additional purchases that they were not planning on, according to new research from OrderDynamics.
Mobile queuing systems can improve the in-store pickup experience by giving customers the opportunity to avoid the waiting line when they arrive in-store to claim their goods.
While no retailer likes to witness customers returning or exchanging merchandise, smart retailers see an opportunity to turn these interactions into new and future purchases. In fact, recent research from Medallia found that a great product return experience actually encourages customers to spend more money at the store. And Zappos has credited its seamless returns process for its astounding 75% repeat customer rate. To the contrary, a recent Comscore survey revealed 85% of customers would not return to a company with a difficult returns process.
Virtual queuing is being considered as a tool to avoid long waiting lines and facilitate returns and exchanges, freeing customers to pre-schedule their return or shop around while they wait for their turn to be served.
Probably the most unsung, yet powerful, benefit of virtual queuing relates to its ability to empower store associates. Virtual queuing allows retailers to capture information about customers when they register for the waiting line. With this, store associates can better anticipate the needs of each customer and match them with qualified associates to handle everything from returns and exchanges, repairs, personal shopping, and more. It can also allow businesses to batch process customer requests instead of dealing with customers one at a time, creating extreme efficiencies. For example, an associate can retrieve multiple customer packages at once for in-store pickup. When it comes to virtual queuing, service efficiency = ROI and this is a very powerful motivator for retailers today.
As retailers look to improve the in-store experience and meet the increasingly stringent demands of shoppers, virtual queuing is worth considering. From personalized shopping to handling returns and exchanges, waiting can be made better when it’s virtual.