Digital Line Busting Makes Lineups More Tolerable

The new rollercoaster. A book signing. The emergency department. The latest Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt release. 

People are willing to wait for certain experiences, products or services. And then there are lineups that are deemed simply not worth it. For most businesses, what they offer often sits in the latter camp. People don’t like to wait! 

A busy shop is a successful one, yet how many potential sales are being missed as would-be customers abandon a purchase because it’s taking too long? Some research shows that 10 minutes in line is the tipping point. Yet, that might be too generous: in our smart stadium study, we discovered that at precisely six minutes in line at concession, the bounce rate skyrocketed. 

In our consumer world of convenience, patience is at a premium. Even the memory of a lineup lingers to the point people tend to avoid that store or restaurant or venue in the future. 

What businesses of all stripes must consider are new line-busting strategies to keep their customers.


There is line busting…. 

Businesses deploy line-busting efforts in order to shorten or completely eliminate line-ups for everything from checkout at a store in the mall to entering a concert venue. Customers are removed from a line and allowed to pay elsewhere – for example, if they’re completing a purchase with store points, or have a VIP pass. 

Such strategies often pop up amid busy shopping seasons in retail stores, such as back-to-school or the holidays, when line-ups can reach the point where customers will decide the purchase is not worth the wait.

Traditional line-busting requires extra staff to be on hand, in addition to extra space to funnel customers through. But with online alternatives now omnipresent – from next-day sweater delivery to apps that ensure speedy table service at tech-savvy tavernas – improving the customer experience must be top of mind for both product and service-based brick-and-mortar businesses.


… And then there is digital line busting

Digital line busting strategies elevate technology to make purchases even more efficient and enjoyable. A leader in this area has, for many years, been Apple. Its physical stores are often clogged with people looking to make varying purchases, or get a feel for the latest technology, or have their laptop serviced by technicians. To suit a consistently high level of traffic, Apple made the strategic decision to alter the layout of its stores while equipping each employee with an iPad so a customer anywhere in the store can make an immediate purchase. The tech giant took digital line busting further by enabling customers to buy a product with Apply Pay in advance, and simply pick it up in the store where it will be waiting for them.

Indoor location technology opens up even more opportunities to not only keep lines moving but to empower customers with choice. It’s a veritable Choose Your Own Adventure for the digital age.  

For our Smart Stadium clients, that indoor location can revolutionize the fan experience, helping concert- or sports-goers find the shortest line into the venue and to their seat, view real-time lineups at concession stands, and even identify the fastest bathroom trip. The data can also inform which gates or concessions are shown to customers, directing them to low-traffic areas until bottlenecks at others are resolved. 

Fan engagement apps, as one example of consumer engagement, are broadening in use. Organizations can offer special discounts, fun games and food perks to specific customers – particularly if they may have been waiting in lines longer than usual. Thank you for your patience. Imagine if such apps could tell someone their line was approaching 10 minutes to set expectations, and then offer them alternatives, games or promotions while they wait? 

We’ve all stepped into the decade of consumer-first technology. By employing the right tools, retailers and service providers can attract and retain customers and, importantly, learn how to better serve them into the future.