While the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, U.S. retail is re-opening. We don’t know yet how quickly brick-and-mortar retail will rebound as there will be some headwinds, including consumer apprehension and numerous regulations intended to reduce the risk of virus spread.
However, there is cause to believe that consumers still value the ritual of going to the store to complete a purchase rather than waiting for home delivery. Some major retailers are reporting higher sales numbers after reopening their stores. Even after COVID-19 turned the world upside-down, the oft-predicted death of in-person retail may not be part of the “new normal.”
Over the past few months, stores have put through the paces their buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS)/supply chain management integrations. Many have succeeded in this regard, yet there are some challenges that stores will have to address as a curbside commerce surge quickly approaches.
The fine-tuning of BOPIS has helped larger stores maintain their revenue flows during the shutdown. As more stores open, especially large stores located in or near shopping centers, controlling traffic and parking will pose a challenge. This means that stores will have to rely heavily on queue management, such as scheduling and customer arrival tracking.
According to a 2018 study by the Omico Group, lines cause retailers to lose nearly $40 billion per year in potential sales. The same study found that 77 percent of consumers are less likely to shop in a store where they’ve had to wait in a long line. When implemented correctly and optimized through data analytics, virtual check-ins and queues enable a seamless process that provides customers with increased freedom from not having to stay in line.
With queue management platforms, customers can choose a precise time for pickup and delivery of their orders with minimal wait in the parking lot. All the while, they can communicate with your store through a mobile app so you can better manage the parking lot and gather data about the customer’s preferences for future promotions.
In addition to queue management, fulfillment and curbside operations round out the BOPIS equation. Stores that perfect this choreography with orders assembled and ready to go when customers roll up will be rewarded; stores that don’t will pay a steep price.
Curbside synchronicity relies on the ability to calibrate fulfillment with the customer location tracking that a good queue-management solution provides. Your store needs to know when a customer is on track to arrive early (or late) for their appointment. You can then use a dashboard to prioritize, de-prioritize and track order fulfillment, while also assigning or reassigning parking spaces as needed.
Over time, the data collected will reveal patterns that can further enable precision in managing fulfillment and scheduling pick-up, much to the delight of customers and employees. Imagine a customer sitting in his or her car for 25 minutes on a hot day with nothing else to do but post about the experience on social media, in real time and with pictures to prove it. That’s what happens when supply chain management and order fulfillment aren’t supported by a dynamic queue management platform.
By investing in queue management as part of your BOPIS integration, you can prevent such a scenario. In fact, you’ll create such a delightful experience that your next challenge will be to scale your system for your many customers who will become permanent converts.
Kevin Grauman is CEO of QLess, a pioneer in virtual lines and digital crowd management. He was named as one of the 100 Superstars of HR Outsourcing in the USA by HRO Today magazine and is also the recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.