Last week, we came across a couple of apps in foreign markets that are addressing the friction of customer queuing in stores or in stadiums.
The first example was a remote queuing app launched by U.K.-based mobile carrier O2 in 100 of its stores. "When a customer is queueing, their mobile number is taken and they are kept updated on their position in a queue via text message so they can continue with their day and return to the store when an advisor is free," wrote Retail-Innovation.com.
Seeing your number in line is better than having a time window for returning to the store.
Showing where you are (by number) in line is great. Instead of giving someone a time window for when you need to come back to the store, you can see it count down. I like that this solution is optional for people. I think if spun correctly, this can be seen as a service for people. It allows consumers to be in charge of their own time and allows them to run to another store or grab a coffee while waiting in line.
The second example we looked at was called "RapidQ," which allows fans to pre-order food or drink at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland (pictured above).
"Once fans have downloaded RapidQ they pay for their order through their credit or debit card and then show staff at the pre-order collection point a code on their phone and walk away with their choices," wrote BusinessAndLeadership.com (Feb. 11).
This is cool in that you pre-order and pick up at the stadium without having to pay. It, however, assumes your order is ready when you come to grab it. The article does not indicate whether the buyer gets a notification on their phone, letting them know their order is ready. Other leagues/stadiums have been delivering food right to your seat, when ordered via an app.
Ordering food to your seat in a stadium is amazing. Also, having a pickup window at the concession reduces queues overall.
That said, having a pickup window can help alleviate congestion and reduce the amount of time you spend in a line. If I can just pre-order something and pick it up at the counter, it can often feel like hacking the process. I know the A&W beside my office has this and any time i have used their self-serve checkout machine my order becomes available right away. It kind of feels like butting ahead in line and getting the VIP treatment. Solutions like this have great potential to reduce employee workload and clear customers, especially in situations where there is a huge line and you can just keep making product and fulfilling orders. This also reduces the amount of time employees spend handling cash.
The take home message here is that reducing the barrier to purchase for customers is a good thing. This is especially true in situations like these, where product is seen as very similar, creating experiences and differentiating yourself through service offerings and purchase experience is what gives a company an edge over another. As these new processes become the norm, businesses will be expected to offer them.