A recent article from MarketWatch cites research that shows waiting in line has recently become a sort of fad. The article referred to it as a “new approach to shopping” and labeled the phenomenon “queue chic,” stating that time wasted in line is companionship gained.
“Those who study consumer trends say that the shared experience of waiting is part of what drives consumer satisfaction,” the article reads. It’s hard to believe, as waiting in line at places like the DMV is one of the most collectively loathed experiences. However, when it comes to consumer products, especially those that are limited or hard to come by, researchers say we enjoy it.
The MarketWatch story quoted Adam Hanft of Hanft Projects, a New York consulting firm that works with consumer brands, as saying, “Shopping has become a collective event.” It’s a concept known as “social proof.” When standing in a crowd, shoppers see themselves as making the right buying decision – Heck, a bunch of other people are doing it, so I will too! That’s the logic at least; the LineLogic, if you will!
The appeal of waiting runs parallel with rarity and limited availability. Although, with the exception of some Nike Sneaker releases, the rarity aspect is mostly imagined. Take the iPhone 5, for instance. The phone was available for preorder online, yet thousands of people in cities across the country waited outside in enormous queues to purchase it. Sure, if they ordered online they would have waited a couple of weeks, but at least they’d have been in the comfort of their own homes.
Daniel M. Ladik, associate professor of marketing in the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University talks about this in his theory called “the paradox of choice.” He says that shoppers will only get excited when there’s a sense of scarcity – real or imagined. The lines are also good for retailers. Lines mean attention, and attention can translate to sales.