Long Pandemic Wait Lines Are Becoming Meaningful Brand Touchpoints
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken retail and the consumer experience along with it. Social distancing guidelines and capacity limitations have quite literally altered the path to purchase: shoppers face queues several people deep inside and outside of stores.
To be honest, we are all eager to return to normal. But until that time comes, retailers have a big opportunity to improve the in-person customer experience.
We think the long COVID queues are ripe with inspiration and have the potential to improve the consumer journey for the long run. We’ve seen some brands nailing this, reframing long lines in ways that keep consumers happy and creating new brand touchpoints along the way. Here are a few of our favorites.
Put the Customer in Control
Look for ways to simplify the store’s queuing system and give customers real-time information about their place in line. A virtual queuing system, using QR codes, digital apps, or digital check-ins, can keep consumers informed when it comes to wait times and capacity. It can also be used to get them excited about what’s new inside the store.
The Swedish technology company, Ombori, has created a virtual queuing system that manages queuing for stores and restaurants while reducing wait times and frustration. Here’s how it works: a large QR code is displayed on the store’s front window. Shoppers can quickly and effortlessly scan the code to join the store’s virtual queue, check the current occupancy, and see when it is their turn to go inside.
In addition to decreasing the number of people standing outside in a line, consumers will appreciate knowing exactly when it is their turn to shop.
Boost the Energy
Some retailers have embraced creative ways to keep their customers happy, entertained, and occupied while waiting in line. The UK-based department store, Selfridges, is welcoming customers back to their stores by providing entertainment during the wait. They’ve partnered with local street performers to entertain consumers while in line. DJs are pumping out lively music inside the store to keep shoppers in high spirits and feeling energized.
Another brand to watch is Chick-fil-A. They have their COVID queuing process down to a tee and have evolved it to meet the challenges and emotions of the pandemic. Banners with uplifting messages like “Choose Joy” and “The Sweetest Gift is Time Together” greet guests. Energetic, Chick-fil-A ambassadors with custom, branded masks take orders from customers while waiting in line at the drive-thru, allowing the queuing and ordering process to be much more efficient and enjoyable for all.
These examples inspire brands looking to make their long lines more efficient and enjoyable. Is there an opportunity to take customers’ orders while they are in line, and then have them ready when they reach the door? Or, what about conducting live demos outside to show consumers how to use new or featured products while they wait?
Embrace Experiential Entry Sequencing
Shoppers want to feel like they are valued — especially if they’ve been waiting in a long line to get inside or at the checkout. Show them they matter by welcoming them as they transition to each new area or “zone” of the store with an immersive experience that also doubles as a social distancing measure.
It helps to think of a store as a home: there are multiple areas and rooms instead of one large space. Different rooms are for various activities (or, in the case of a store, different products). The Danish fashion label, Ganni, brought this idea to life when they opened up their first UK flagship store. It is meant to resemble a Danish home with different colors, wall sizes, and lighting, creating an inviting space where people want to stay awhile and hangout.
Providing distinct, thoughtfully designed zones and divisions within the store allows retailers to incorporate procedures like timed entry and capacity restrictions into a shopping experience that feels more luxurious and less harsh, not to mention an opportunity to up-sell. Some quick ways retailers could try this include:
- Adding in different sized displays.
- Creating designated paths to follow.
- Color coding each section of the store.
The idea is to make the entire buying experience more enjoyable, even when waiting in line. It also provides an opportunity to showcase new products and add stylistic design elements into the retail spaces in ways that make them feel more inviting and pleasant, which can have positive effects that go beyond the era of COVID-19.
Your Brand’s New Touchpoint, Just One Queue Away
COVID-19 has brought to light some of the weaknesses in the consumer retail experience. But, nearly six months in, stores are learning to adapt. And once they’ve mastered the science of creating a safe space for shoppers, it will be time to get back to the art of creating engaging spaces, starting with making the most time-consuming step in the consumer journey — the queue — a new brand touchpoint.
Here at COHO, we’re looking forward to a vaccine and the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Until then, we’re also looking forward to seeing how brands set themselves apart with innovative ways to transform the time shoppers spend in line. We think it will be worth the investment, with the potential to impact the buying experience for good.
If you’re working to inject some strategic energy into your consumer journey, contact us at COHO. We’d be excited to help you transform the ways people interact with your brand.