Opinion

Why does socially distanced queuing have to be boring?

If we could wave a magic wand, how would we transform the queuing experience for the better? #CreativityWins

Jess Jones
By Jess Jones
Posted 25. 06. 2020
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As part of our #CreativityWins campaign, we’ve been asking ourselves some key questions about how we can turn pandemic barriers into brand opportunities. This week, we’ve been focusing on the innovation potential of transforming the tedious task of queuing into an enjoyable experience, particularly in this strange age of social distancing.

Whilst having always been a key aspect of British culture in particular, it seems that queuing is going to become an even bigger part of our lives, with current government guidelines forcing shops, restaurants and bars to limit the number of people allowed inside at one time to ensure the health and safety of all.

But queuing doesn’t have to be a negative experience. During our lockdown innovation workshop, we defined three potential roles that we’d love to see queues play in order to enhance the customer experience and reframe restrictions as a positive opportunity.

A queue that... gives us our time back

One of the main pain points we uncovered in our D&P focus group was lack of control over time spent queuing when you could be doing something else. This got us thinking about how brands could revolutionise the queuing system to allow shoppers to reclaim those missing minutes and hours.

Pre-lockdown, many restaurants were already using an electronic alert system, where guests were able to take a buzzer away with them, grab a drink and return to take their spot once it went off. Dishoom and Shake Shack, we’re particularly missing you. Could retail, leisure and workplace benefit from a similar approach?

We also explored the benefits of pre-planning in order to avoid lengthy queues. Instead of taking a punt and turning up right at peak queuing time, it would be ideal if you could pre-book a time slot to ensure you weren’t kept waiting. Systems such as Qudini are facilitating this, and can be used by brands to create a more seamless experience and put customers in control. We love the idea of a total ecosystem (a mall or even a whole town or region) being on the same bookable system, so that visitors can plan in and schedule an entire afternoon of leisure without having to line up for each place they want to visit.

Or the solution could be more simple - sometimes just knowing how long a queue will take makes the daunting task seem more achievable. Something like Google’s ‘Popular Times’ applied to waiting times could make all the difference. Retailers such as H&M and Footlocker have already started trialing new intelligent signage from Philips to help track the number of customers in-store and provide updates to those waiting outside, whilst one Californian resident has taken matters into their own hands by setting up a livestream of her local Trader Joe’s queue to keep the neighbourhood informed.

Time is precious - a queue that gives us our time back is a queue we can get behind.

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A queue that… makes you forget you’re queuing

You can have all the time in the world and still be riled up by the tedium of queuing. Wouldn’t it be great if our minds could be energised and entertained instead of numbed by the monotonous shuffling of feet and the endless scrolling of our phones whilst we wait?

Disney has cracked this. We can think of few places where visitors are happy to queue for hours on end with young children in tow, but Disneyland is definitely one of them. The destination has embraced the queue as part of the overall visitor experience, providing guests with an extra level of immersion and magic through character interactions and in-queue games and amenities.

How can other brands learn from this? Retailers could introduce an incentive for queuing in the form of an in-store discount as you progress, perhaps presented in a playful way that encourages competition. In-queue entertainment to distract weary shoppers, such as big screens similar to those playing matches for the queues at Wimbledon, or AR content accessed on phones, could be another way to make the waiting time a bit less painful.

By alleviating boredom, you can help to remove the negative connotations of queuing for existing customers, potentially attract new-to-you visitors and design an on-brand experience they can actually enjoy.

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A queue that… looks after you

Call us lazy, but even the thought of queuing can make our feet hurt. We started thinking about the ways customers could feel refreshed instead of stressed after their queuing experience.

After a quick poll, it seems some of D&P’s favourite global queue experiences are those that provide token gestures such as free drinks, snacks or helpful, thoughtful touches. This added value could help to revive customer energy and show them that you care - Made.com are doing this with the introduction of a cart of goodies to keep guests at their Paris showroom engaged, inspired and entertained.

It’s a simple suggestion, but even the addition of seating could make a big difference to a customer’s outlook on a queue. Giving them a space or the option to rest whilst maintaining their spot in the queue could be a gamechanger, especially for older customers or those who are not able to stand for extended periods of time. We could learn a thing or two from these Thai locals who let their shoes do the queuing whilst they kick back and wait their turn. Back in the UK, Asda is currently trialling a virtual queuing system with Qudini where shoppers can reserve their spot on an app and are able to stay in the comfort of their own car in the car park until it’s their turn to enter the store safely.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference - keeping those comfort levels topped up will make queuing seem a breeze.

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Socially distanced queuing doesn’t have to be long, boring or uncomfortable - it just takes a little creative thinking. We’ll be back next week with some more thoughts on how pandemic barriers can be turned into brand opportunities.

For more information on why we believe #CreativityWins don’t stand in line any longer - get in touch at creativitywins@dalziel-pow.com

Illustrations by Michelle Bower

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