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How is technology helping to eliminate queues?

How is technology helping to eliminate queues?

How is technology helping to eliminate queues?

In a traditional retail environment, click & collect technology has been in use for some time. Customers at stores like Marks & Spencer embraced the online ordering functionality (whether for delivery or collection) long ago. Those that don’t want to queue, and aren’t wedded to trying on outfits in advance of a purchase, have been the greatest beneficiaries.

More recently, food retailers have been using technology to eliminate their own in-store queues. Food-to-go shops, like Vital Ingredient, take the majority of their turnover during the busy lunch period. When queues snake out of the door, stores like this inevitably lose the custom of people, turned off by the thought of waiting to be served.

There’s an acknowledged science to this. A study by researchers at University College London found that people will wait for an average of six minutes in a queue before giving up and that they are unlikely to join a queue that has more than six people in it.

By pre-ordering and paying for their food or drink choice via a store’s mobile app – or website – customers simply turn up, bypass the queue, pick up their orders and go. It sounds simple, and it is.

Of course, the technology facilitates queue elimination, but other, operational considerations are also necessary for success.

Without an adaptation of store layout, queues can grow, not shrink. Just look at the issues Starbucks faced when it first launched its pre-ordering technology. Customers didn’t know where to stand and the pre-order queue was as long as the one for walk-ins. That’s why Vital Ingredient has a dedicated click & collect fridge where pre-made orders are stacked ready for speedy collection – no queueing or confusion necessary. It’s also why companies are investing in ‘locker’ collection systems, supplied by the likes of apex, which help takeaway customers get in and out in less than a minute.

Will the queue ever die completely? It’s unlikely – there will always be people that choose to queue, whether it’s because they distrust technology or because they enjoy the human interaction, but it will shrink. And technology will be the reason why.

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