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How queues kill retail stores

TRENDS & ANALYSIS

Queues Queues Placehoder

Every year, queues cost brick-and-mortar retailers billions in lost revenues, and consumers are growing more impatient about standing in line. To survive the competition from e-commerce, stores need new innovations that can help kill queues. Together with our customers, Bambora is leading that development.

If you have ever waited in a long line at the grocery store, for luggage at an airport or for a waiter who doesn’t show up, you know what a pain it can be to wait. In fact, the human psyche seems to prefer almost anything to just standing around waiting.

A good example of this is Houston’s airport that used to get a lot of complaints about slow baggage handling. The airport’s solution to the problem was to move the arrival gates and luggage carousels further apart. That way, passengers spent their time walking instead of standing around waiting – and the number of complaints plummeted.

Another interesting example of this is a survey where the consultancy firm Newton asked 4 000 British consumers about the most frustrating elements of their shopping experience. According to that survey, long lines were actually considered more annoying than not finding the products they were looking for; indicating that many of us would rather not buy something than have to stand in line to get it.

Billions lost annually
Apart from ruining moods, queues also have financial ramifications. Last year, the software company Qudini carried out a study of how much queues and long wait times actually cost British retailers. The study found that British stores lost 10 percent of their footfall due to queues and wait times in stores. They also found that 26 percent of the customers who left a store because of long lines discontinued their purchase completely. For British retailers these figures translate to 3.4 billion pounds of lost revenues every year — this despite the Brits' self-professed penchant for queueing.

Another interesting aspect of queueing is that our patience seems to be growing shorter. Another British survey from 2018 found that younger consumers were a lot less willing to stand in line than older ones. That observation also fits nicely with global studies showing that younger consumers are a lot more open to queue reducing technology, like self-service checkouts.

Innovations are needed to compete
Fighting queues is an important focus for brick-and-mortar retailers, who are faced with growing online competition and more impatient consumers. As a result, we now see the global market for self-checkouts exploding, while other companies are abandoning traditional checkouts altogether.

At Bambora, we work with a lot of technology that can make the shopping experience smoother. One example is that all our payment terminals are equipped with NFC technology that enables quicker purchases through contactless cards and mobile payments. Together with one of our retail customers, Lagerhaus, we have also developed a self-checkout solution that lets the customers handle the purchase on their own. The results of that cooperation has been both reduced queues and larger average purchases.

The need to reduce queues is not, however, only limited to retail. Among restaurants and bars we also see a growing demand for solutions that can reduce queues and waiting times.

Our customers Happy Order and OrderX are two good examples of this. Both these companies have developed apps that let the customers handle paying and ordering on their own. The customers send their order in via the app and either get their food and drink brought to them or pick it up themselves when the order is ready. In addition to reducing queues and making customers happy, both these solutions have proven to increase sales.

Considering what we know about our attitude towards waiting, and the financial losses that long queues can lead to, we only see these types of solutions becoming more and more prevalent. The successful brick-and-mortar companies of tomorrow will be the ones who dare to challenge the traditional way of buying, ordering and paying. In that development, Bambora serve as the perfect payment partner.