Transforming the Retail Customer Experience with Queue Software
Every industry received a major shakeup during the pandemic. Whether it was the education industry, where schools around the world had to close and move online, or the healthcare sector, where overburdened workers were tasked with tackling a global crisis. The retail industry might be among those that were hit the hardest. Stores across the countries were forced to shutter, and even as we return to normalcy, the retail sector is still looking to adjust.
One of the biggest modern changes in every industry, not just retail, is a focus on the customer experience. A smooth, efficient customer interaction that creates a satisfied customer is imperative to retention, and businesses worldwide are investing in initiatives that help create a more positive shopping experience. According to Grandview Research, the global customer experience market is valued at $8.79 billion and is expected to continue to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 18.1% from 2022-30.
Many retailers are searching for new technologies and initiatives they can implement that will help them to create a more positive customer experience. One solution many enterprises have turned to is adding a digital queue management system. Virtual queues enable businesses to streamline customer flow and create a smoother, more independent experience for the people that visit their stores.
With customer queue management software like QLess, businesses enable customers to check in remotely for appointments or lineups. Using the software either through a desktop, mobile device, or app, customers can virtually enter a lineup, track their wait time with real-time SMS updates, and head to the front of the line when it is their turn. It is a powerful tool that will have an important impact on customer satisfaction.
Queue software can help streamline the customer experience in several crucial ways that the modern retailer must pay attention to. Below, we’ll explore why now is a pivotal time for retail businesses to key in on the customer experience and how a virtual queue system can help.
Why Focusing on the Retail Customer Experience is Imperative
Focusing on the customer experience can improve your bottom line in almost every industry. Happy customers are repeat customers, and improving customer loyalty inevitably increases your profits. It also has an impact on gaining positive reviews, which are likely to help your business’s brand and lead to more customers. A good experience can ensure a customer frequents a retailer rather than their competitor. But unlike most other industries, retailers aren’t just trying to compete with other competitors. They are trying to compete with a whole other way of shopping.
Brick-and-mortar retail was the only option available until recent years, so it started with a strong head start. But ecommerce is closing the gap on brick-and-mortar shopping, particularly due to the pandemic. According to Statista, the share of retail sales in the United States that were ecommerce has grown from 4.2% in the first quarter of 2010 to 14.5% in the second quarter of 2022. That number has steadily climbed every year and spiked to an all-time high of 15.7% during the pandemic.
The trend is continually pointing up for ecommerce, which eats into brick-and-mortar businesses. In some countries, the share of ecommerce spending outranks brick-and-mortar. This is the case in China, where more than 50% of retail sales come from ecommerce. We are still a long way away from that in most countries, but ecommerce unquestionably poses a threat to physical retailers around the world.
So what can be done if the growth of ecommerce seems inevitable? The answer is that there is still a lot of hope for physical businesses. By focusing on the retail experience and ensuring customers are happy with how they are treated, stores can still achieve the growth they hope for. According to CNBC, 81% of Gen Z, the most smartphone-driven and online generation, still prefers to shop in-store. As long as stores continue to innovate and key in on the customer experience, they can remain ahead of ecommerce and appeal to their customers. With a queue management system for retail, businesses can provide an improved customer journey that makes them stand out.
Eliminate Long Physical Queues
There are many things customers don’t like in the shopping experience. If staff are unhelpful or rude, that contributes to dissatisfaction. If displays are confusing or messy, customers might prefer the organized simplicity of a website. But of all the customer complaints, the biggest issue the average customer is likely to have will come from long lines. Few things create irate customers more than a long, in-person wait. Standing in a line that seems to stretch forever will lead to unhappy customers and walkaways, both of which are harmful to a business.
Most customers have little patience for extended waits and no qualms about leaving your business and heading to another. According to a QLess survey of 250 US adults, 39% of respondents consider a wait from 0-5 minutes a long wait time, and 64.4% of respondents said they’d only be willing to wait 0-5 minutes for something non-essential. 69% of respondents also stated they’d be willing to patronize a competitor’s business if it had noticeably shorter wait times. Generally speaking, while most customers still prefer the in-store experience, a long in-person queue can be all the push they need to look elsewhere.
Most enterprises accept these waits as a standard cost of doing business, but an arduous wait is not a necessity. The queue management tools of QLess make it so businesses can empower their customers to wait however they want. The queue management software allows customers to remotely check into a lineup. If they have the product already picked out, they can check into the lineup from wherever they are, enter the store before it is their turn in line, grab the product, and head to the front of the line when it is their turn. This is a much more positive experience than standing in a congested physical queue.
The ability to wait on their own terms is something customers will value. Convenience is one of the top priorities for the modern consumer, and QLess helps create a more convenient waiting process away from the stress and exasperation of a long line.
Compete as an Omnichannel Retailer
There are many different ways to look at the situation with physical stores and ecommerce. There is certainly a competitive aspect to it, as ecommerce sales cut into brick-and-mortar. But the alternative approach is to look at ecommerce and brick-and-mortar and consider the potential for them to co-exist and optimize the customer experience. This blend between ecommerce and physical shopping is called an omnichannel shopping experience. It is where customers shop using multiple touchstones from businesses.
An example of omnichannel shopping is curbside pickups or click-and-collect. This is where customers order something online and head to a physical store that houses the product to pick it up. This type of shopping surged during the pandemic. According to a Deloitte study, the share of click-and-collect purchases jumped from 15% of purchases to 25% of purchases during the pandemic. Now, more than 50% of retailers have click-and-collect capabilities enabled, according to Digital Commerce 360. This is just one example of the potential usage of omnichannel retail. Many businesses are innovating in this space, but you need the right tech infrastructure to succeed as an omnichannel retailer.
QLess can help blend the digital and physical shopping experience for a business. Look no further than the click-and-collect example to see where QLess can be an asset. Customers can order their products from an online store and receive a link to check in whenever they want to pick up their purchase. When they tap the link, they can check into the collect line and be placed in a spot to receive their product. This is an efficient way to manage a curbside pickup system and ensure it remains organized.
Today’s average customer favors omnichannel shopping, as it is more efficient and communicative. According to a Harvard Business Review study, 73% of customers prefer shopping through multiple channels. Adding customer journey software like QLess, which is an additional touchstone that simplifies the shopping experience and is entirely digital, will align with this trend toward multi-channel shopping.
Identify Bottlenecks Obstructing the Customer Journey
Every retail store will have aspects of their experience where they meet or exceed customer expectations and aspects where they fall short. Every operation has its strengths and weaknesses. Learning more about your weaknesses and taking steps to overcome them is an important step to giving your customers the seamless retail experience that they deserve. For that, you need a tool capable of collecting high-value, actionable insights that clearly illustrate your operation’s performance in the customer experience sphere. QLess is a significant aspect here.
QLess has business intelligence features that collect, store, and report valuable insights to businesses that can shape their decisions. These features showcase important customer experience insights that can show businesses’ flaws in their operations. The reported data includes appointment no-show percentage, number of customers serviced in the virtual queue in a day, and median wait times. It can be segmented according to times of day, days of the week, service type, and so on. The data from this is reported in charts and graphs that allow retailers to decipher the information and spot trends easily.
Armed with data and analytics, businesses are more equipped to make effective decisions. According to Tech Jury, businesses that use data and analytics can make decisions 5x faster than those that don’t. Seeing where your business is struggling is important and is the first step toward implementing plans that improve your position. If the QLess analytics show that your curbside pickup wait times are significantly longer than other kinds of waits, then you need to change your process. Having that data shows important flaws and is also the benchmark you can use to gauge improvement.
Retailers that continue to improve and tweak their operations to optimize the customer experience will see the benefits. The more a business factors hard data and analytics into its decision-making processes, the better it will be able to understand its performance and the areas that need improvement. QLess provides the concrete analytics a business needs to make these important adjustments.
Drive a Personalized Shopping Experience
Customer expectations today are different from what they were previously. Before the internet and the rise of customized shopping, customers would have been happy to walk into a retailer, browse, find an item, purchase, and leave. Now, consumers expect their shopping to be experiential. They don’t just want to feel like they are any other shopper; they want to feel like they are an individual. Customers now expect a personalized experience when they enter your store, and it is important businesses provide it for them.
Customers prefer personalized shopping experiences, and if businesses can provide it for them, they will see direct results in their bottom line. According to Google, people are 40% more likely to spend more than planned when they identify a shopping experience as highly personalized. But what most retailers struggle with is providing a personalized experience at scale. It is difficult to make every customer that enters feel like they have a customized, personal experience. Implementing QLess and its bi-directional communication can assist here.
With QLess, retailers can message their customers and receive responses. This is good for inquiries, like if a customer wants to ask a staff member where certain sections are, this feature ensures staff is always accessible. The automated messaging features similarly ensure that the experience feels personal. Retailers can set up automatic messages through the QLess system that are triggered when a customer takes a certain digital action, like checking in the line. These messages can include greetings, well wishes, and more. It is a small thing that requires minimal effort from the business, but it contributes to making the customer feel more seen.
Customers want the shops they use to communicate with them and tailor their shopping experience to their individual needs. QLess opens the door to a more communicative retail experience with features that enable back-and-forth digital conversation and automated messaging.
Learn from Your Customers
Ultimately, the people that define the customer experience are the customers. Businesses can have a million different ideas of how they can make in-store retail shopping better for their customers, but the people that possess the true answer to that question are the actual customers. Your customers are a goldmine of insights and information; if businesses fail to mine them for these useful insights, they will be overlooking the value that customers can provide. Taking the time to learn from your customers will allow your retail store to better suit their needs.
QLess provides customer feedback features that allow businesses to send pulse surveys so their customers right after they leave the store. The immediacy increases the likelihood that the customers will respond, and because they are sent via SMS, it won’t get buried in the inbox. Retailers can customize their survey questions to try and get the best information possible from their customers. Ensuring the survey is fast and easy to answer guarantees more customer responses.
Customers like to talk about their experiences, whether they are positive or negative. And if you aren’t asking them for information, they’ll simply tell others. According to InMoment, 95% of customers share bad experiences with others, but the average business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. That is a waste. Dissatisfied customers are a negative, but understanding why they are dissatisfied can yield long-term better results.
QLess for retail allows businesses to collect and store customized customer feedback surveys and ratings. Businesses can analyze customer feedback and see if they notice any recurring themes in what is causing customer complaints. If customers are confused about the layout of stores, unhappy with how they are treated by staff, or disenfranchised with long lines, this information is all good to know. Understanding why customers might not be happy with their experience allows retailers to make changes that ensure these issues are improved. The most important feedback on the customer journey comes from the customer, and QLess enables the collection of these pivotal insights.
Accommodate the COVID-Conscious Consumer
The habits of consumers all over the world were changed as a result of the pandemic. More and more consumers started to have second thoughts about entering stores or waiting in lines. This drove consumers further into ecommerce and has made it harder for retailers to rally after the pandemic. Even though there are vaccines and cases are down substantially, many still have lingering feelings of discomfort in stores or in crowds. After two long years of worrying and stress, it is only natural that many customers continue to reel and feel a sense of concern in brick-and-mortar stores. Accommodating pandemic-conscious consumers is important.
According to an Axios-Ipsos poll, the number of consumers still concerned about COVID and unready to return to normal life remains high. 46% of Americans say they have already returned to their pre-COVID life, and 57% say they are concerned about the pandemic. This is reflected in people’s attitudes towards waiting rooms and physical queues. According to a QLess survey of 250 US adults aged 45+, 59.4% responded that they associate long lines and crowded waiting rooms with unsafe conditions. Many remain uncomfortable in these situations, and QLess can help by decongesting store areas.
QLess’ remote check-in makes it so customers don’t ever have to stand in a physical queue if they don’t want to. This is a significant appeal for those who feel anxious surrounded by others. Customers can simply take out their phone, stand or sit in a less crowded area, and enter the virtual queue system. This will remove the need for physical lines and congestion in the store, limiting the chance of contagion and ensuring maximum comfort for customers who remain anxious about the pandemic.
Focus on the Mobile Shopper
Consumers have developed many different habits that will define the next several years of shopping. One of the most significant is the modern consumer’s love for their smartphone. This is something that exists across generations. According to Statista, a majority of people in the United States spend five or more hours on their phones every day. The usage of phones doesn’t stop when people enter stores. Shoppers are mobile-driven, and integrating that love for smartphones into your customer experience can help your retail business stand out.
According to PYMNT, the share of customers who use their smartphones to shop in-store grew from 28% in 2020 to 34% in 2021. There are many different ways that the average smartphone user can have mobile integrated into their shopping experience. According to Insider Intelligence, customers use their smartphones for things like looking up reviews, comparing other products, and browsing for offers while they are in the store.
Using mobile channels to augment the retail experience is made easier with QLess. QLess allows customers to interact digitally with businesses through communication features and virtual queuing software. The virtual queuing software is a final touchstone that replaces physical queues, but the communication features are useful throughout the shopping process. Customers can inquire about product availability, receive information on exclusive offers, and ask questions about return policies. It is a way to ensure that customers that demand a mobile component to their in-store shopping receive one.
Investing in the customer experience is investing in the sustained growth of your business. For any company to survive and grow, they can’t just attract customers; they must keep them. That requires a seamless customer journey. A long physical wait is one of the biggest bottlenecks to an efficient customer journey. An extended physical queue immediately puts customers in negative spirits and can contribute to walkaways, negative reviews, and one-and-done customers.
A waiting line management system like QLess for retail is how businesses can combat this problem. Virtual queuing solutions eliminate the need for customers to stand in line. Instead, they can remotely enter a virtual queue from their phone, receive real-time updates on the wait, and proceed to the front of the line when it is time. This is a solution that significantly improves the waiting process and empowers customers to wait from wherever they want. With a host of other impactful key features, QLess is an all-in-one retail customer experience solution.