Have retailers solved their long line problems?
Outside line monitoring, reservations, time limits and mobile checkout are some ways retailers have been managing customer queues during the pandemic.
Lines outside grocers and big boxes seen at the beginning of the pandemic are expected to return in many locations as COVID-19 cases spike across the country. In California, regulations introduced at the beginning of December limit indoor capacity for retailers in some harder-hit areas to 20 percent. Retailers are also likely to be dealing with lines for vaccine shots at in-store pharmacies, in turn leading to longer lines to enter stores and drive queues.
Wegmans stands out for installing live camera feeds at its highest-traffic stores to enable shoppers to see if there is likely a long wait. Among the measures to manage lines outside, Target introduced a microsite in October, Target.com/line, that lets shoppers check to see if there is a line outside their local store and, if so, reserve a spot. Shoppers receive a text message when they can enter.
Other chains, including Apple, Best Buy, Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus and Williams Sonoma, also offer shop-by-appointment but haven’t played up the service, with crowds less of an issue in recent months.
Inside some smaller stores, owners have used uptempo music and gentle persuasion to encourage customers to shop quickly and make way for those waiting outside, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The article noted the capacity limits have particularly impacted smaller locations.
Some restaurants have adopted time limits and museums are issuing time-entry passes.
To minimize in-store checkout lines, self-checkout with a mobile device or mobile checkout via an associate are a newer focus for many stores.
Writing for The Atlantic, Elissaveta Brandon says she suspects distractions, such as those employed by Disney to keep patrons entertained in lines, may be used more to reduce the boredom of waiting in lines due to the pandemic. She’s hoping new apps, AI-driven technologies to determine crowd conditions and other advancements triggered by the pandemic will reduce the need for lines. Ms. Brandon wrote, “If your greatest asset is time, why waste it by waiting in line?”
- Safety Remains Our Top Priority this Holiday Season – Wegmans
- Wegmans’ Live-Action Thriller – Winsight Grocery
- Target Introduces New Safety Measures for the Holiday Season – Target
- Target shoppers can now make reservations to avoid holiday crowds – The Washington Post
- Latest Covid Restrictions Mean There’s a Line for Everything – The Wall Street Journal
- Reservations for grocery shopping? DeCicco’s partners with OpenTable – Rockland/Westchester Journal News
- OpenTable launches tool to help you avoid long lines at restaurants, grocery stores – USA Today
- The Pandemic Could End Waiting in Line – The Atlantic
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the pandemic helping to drive innovation around line management? Which emerging solutions do you see being most beneficial in minimizing lines outside stores or at checkout?