Retail Stores Look to Combat Long Lines During the Holidays

Anyone that’s gone shopping in the month before Christmas knows long lines are a pain for customers. The holiday shopping craze seems to intensify more every year. Online retailers are capitalizing on common customer grumbles for in-store shoppers like lengthy waits, jam packed stores and ransacked shelves because they don’t have to worry about those problems.

In the past, customers would accept you have to suffer to get good holiday deals. That’s no longer the case with the rise internet retail giants. They’ve got other, more convenient options. They don’t have to wait in line for hours to get what they need. Brick & mortar retail stores have to proactively address common problems that might keep shoppers away from stores during the busiest shopping season of the year. Here’s some practical solutions to cut down on long waits for your customers this holiday season:

Planning Ahead

Supermarket giant Kroger has resorted to using infrared cameras, commonly used by the military and law-enforcement, to track people in-store. These cameras, which detect body heat, sit at the entrances and above cash registers at most of Kroger’s roughly 2,400 stores. Paired with in-house software that determines the number of lanes that need to be open, the technology has reduced the customer’s average wait time to 26 seconds. That compares with an average of four minutes before Kroger began installing the cameras in 2010.

Kroger’s infrared cameras is an extreme case of planning ahead, but for most retailers simply studying previous holiday shopping season numbers can help you keep wait times down for customers. Were some times worse than others in terms of long lines and wait times? Analyze that and plan to be adequately staffed or have extra staff on call.

Some retail stores might feel hesitant about overstaffing during the holidays. If you’re understaffed and only offering customers long waits, they don’t have to wait anymore. In most cases, they have too many options to justify standing in a checkout line for longer than five minutes. Keep that in mind during your holiday preparation.

Self-Checkout

Self-checkout has been an evolving concept over the last decade. Large retailers instituted self check-out lanes where customers checked out in a traditional lane as their own cashier. These type of lanes didn’t solve the problem though. Customers still have to wait in those lanes to check themselves out and often customers won’t checkout faster than employed, experienced cashiers.

In recent years, mobile has exploded and started to take over a sizeable chunk of internet traffic. As more and more people have smartphones, self-checkout on mobile is the way of the future.

In-store mobile shopping technology used to be only reserved for large retailers like Starbucks and Walmart with insane budgets, but not anymore. ShoppinPal’s mobile commerce app was created for small and mid-sized retail stores and can simplify shopping for both the customer and retailer. With point-of-sale integrations with leading POS systems like Vend and LightSpeed, retailer’s can launch a mobile app in their stores in a couple hours with ShoppinPal’s solution.

Forget customers waiting in long lines. Customers can use their phones to scan items into their mobile shopping cart as they’re placed into their physical cart. The checkout process can be reduced dramatically at the end of the shopping experience.

Checkpoints

Some retailers have extra employees, but a limited amount of cash registers. If you don’t choose to give your customers a mobile shopping option, try forming a single line where an employee guides customers to the next open register. Customers will feel like they’re moving and making progress. If one register has an issue during the transaction, a whole line of people won’t be stuck waiting on that transaction to conclude. Also, try making the checkout process like an assembly line with your employees. In each lane, designate an employee to scan items and one to bag up items or tell customers about upcoming sales. By doubling up effectively, you’ll ensure that customers are moved in and out of the store quickly and efficiently.

Long lines are a problem for customers and retailers. They cause frustration and disrupt positive shopping experiences for a lot of customers who have a lot options as to where they shop. However you choose to combat long lines, what’s clear is that you can’t do nothing.

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