Over the last few years, online shopping has begun posing a significant threat to brick and mortar retail stores. According to a study cited in the Wall Street Journal, about 33 percent of Americans in 2010 said they planned to shop online during the holiday season, while in 2011, that number rose to nearly 50 percent. This year, experts expect to see the percentage rise yet again.
Though some signs are present that retail still thrives, brick and mortar retailers need to take a proactive stance toward the shift in shopping standards. In order to do this, they must first understand a bit behind queueing theory, and get into the heads of waiting customers.
Here’s some techniques that might ease the wait for your customers, and help your store thrive this holiday season:
1. Mobile Checkouts
Connected mobile cash registers in the form of smartphones and tablets can bring a serious reduction to the time your customers wait. At many Apple stores, employees carry these devices, making points of sale much more available and cutting the average wait time (except of course, when the newest product is released).
It’s really very simple. You signup for an account at a place like square.com, download the app for your tablet or mobile device, link the account where you’re transferring funds, attach the hardware, and you’re ready to go.
2. Entertaining Customers in Line
Disney World does a stellar job with this one. Not only do they use signage to tell their customers how long they’ll be waiting (and overestimate that time), but they also send entertainers to lines that are moving slowly. They actually have an entire command center dedicated to crowd control.
3. Efficiency at the End
Once the customer reaches the register, the approach must switch from entertainment to efficiency. Customers are likely to judge their entire wait experience on the final moments. If the cashier is friendly, fast, and efficient, the customer will leave with a better overall perception of their experience.
4. Shorten Lines Proactively
Adding a screen or staff person to direct shoppers can ease stress and decrease agitation among waiting shoppers.
If adding technology and staff is something you can’t afford, simply take the lead from stores like Wegmans and Home Depot. They’re doing this successfully with the resources they have on hand by simply instructing their available cashiers to walk to the end of their lines and call shoppers over from busier lines.
5. In-Line Merchandising
In-line (or in-queue) merchandising keeps your customers occupied while they wait in line. Even further, it keeps them occupied looking at more of the stuff you’re selling. Read more on in-line merchandising here.