The pandemic has forced many businesses to re-evaluate their operations. In many cases, retailers made significant changes to stay afloat. For retail businesses, this has meant everything from shifting their focus to e-commerce to shuttering their doors. However, as vaccines rolled out and restrictions began to lift, many businesses remained hesitant to return to normal operations.
In addition to the changes in retailers, the pandemic significantly changed consumer behavior. With shoppers returning to stores, many now prefer contactless shopping options. But when you combine short-staffed locations with the return of shoppers, long lines are bound to form, and consumers, wary of the “new normal,” are willing to seek out brands to meet their new expectations.
Long Lines and Loyalty
Long lines and wait times are one of the biggest pain points for businesses and shoppers. Above normal wait times lead to lost sales and customer frustration. In the worst circumstances, shoppers will walk out, never to return. Businesses, where long lines are perceived as the norm, will quickly develop a negative reputation.
The strain of long lines isn’t just reserved for the customers. Employees feel the stress of just trying to keep up. When forced to deal with angry customers, the ability to perform at the desired level is diminished. And for the organization as a whole, productivity plummets.
The net impact can be astounding. The net impact can be astounding. In fact, one study revealed the average business loses 75% of those customers who have to wait in long lines. The study also found that long lines are one of the top reasons shoppers leave stores without making a purchase. Most shoppers would abandon a purchase if the line were too long, with nearly 83% of shoppers preferring retail places with moving queues.
How to Win Against Wait Times
Retailers know their long lines and wait times must be addressed before their customer base turns their back on them. But, as it turns out, very few solutions can be universally effective across a wide range of retailers. Nor may solutions be impactful across different locations of the same retailer.
Peeling back the layers that cause long lines is the first step to solving the long-line challenge. Then it is up to management to select potential solutions that can resolve the problem quickly and be sustained.
Adding staff – Perhaps the most obvious solution is adding more staff. However, this solution is often not feasible, requiring time and resources to recruit, train, and manage new employees and hope they are retained long enough to recoup the investment.
Self-checkout lanes – New technologies are making self-checkout lanes a popular option for businesses looking to reduce wait times. Self-checkout lanes require employee assistance as they are not always intuitive to use while some customers may take advantage of these systems increasing the potential for theft. Additionally, the technology is expensive and complicated, requiring additional employee training, and rigorous maintenance.
Expand space – The problem may be traced back to limited space for businesses with adequate staff. Especially in urban areas, floor space can be limited. Expanding customer service and checkout space could reduce wait times while reducing product display space which can result in decreased sales.
Extend store hours – Opening earlier or staying open later has the potential to spread customer traffic throughout the day. However, this solution may not be feasible for businesses already operating on a tight budget or with limited staff availability. Additionally, this solution only works in certain locations and for a customer base wanting to shop during these hours.
Queue management system – Implementing a queue management system helps businesses control customer traffic and reduce wait times. Using various sensors and quantifying demand, these systems identify when and where staff should be best utilized to meet customer expectations.
Speed up service time – This solution requires businesses to seek ways to speed up one or more of the processes that result in long lines. This may include streamlining ordering processes, offering small order check-out, or providing more self-service options.
Appointment Scheduling – Although not possible for many retailers, appointment scheduling is a solution that provides convenience for customers while reducing staff requirements for retailers. The downside is missed appointments by customers, which limits new foot traffic and potential new sales.
Smart Lockers – This list would not be complete without mentioning Smart Lockers. Contactless and intuitive, Smart Lockers are devices that automate the deposit, storage, and pick up of items. Smart Lockers afford many benefits for retailers while pleasing the customers they serve.
Choosing the Best Solution for Long Lines
Combating long lines at your stores can seem like an unwinnable battle. However, by analyzing underlying causes and deploying smart solutions, retailers who tackle lengthy wait times will certainly find themselves with a valuable advantage over the competition.
Smart Lockers are fast becoming a popular choice of all the solutions available in the marketplace. Orders placed into a Smart Locker automatically trigger a notification to customers that their order is ready for pickup. The notification includes scannable codes, which let customers pick up their item on their own time with a simple scan of their email or text.
The investment into Smart Lockers can provide a significant return compared to many alternatives, including adding staff, expanding space, or purchasing self-checkout systems. But, more importantly, Smart Lockers thoroughly delight the customer, which will boost brand loyalty.
To learn more about how your organization can maximize smart lockers to reduce cost, increase revenue, and delight your customers, contact the ParcelPort team online by visiting www.theParcelPort.com, email at sales@theParcelPort.com or calling 1-800-818-0870.