The queue outside the store… an opportunity to engage the consumer.
As the pandemic continues across the globe, with more than half of the world’s population being or having been induced to stay at home, European countries are deconfining one after the other. For example, after the reopening of non-essential shops in Belgium and France in mid-May, it is the turn of the United Kingdom to relax its containment rules. At the same time, tourist sites such as the Palace of Versailles, the Colosseum in Rome and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul are also reopening their doors to visitors. Proof that trade is returning to a certain normality.
However, the latter is very relative, since it is accompanied by hydroalcoholic gel dispensers, arrow-shaped floor markings, giant thermometers and protective Plexiglas windows. The sanitary measures introduced are a real love-killer, and may well cut off more than one customer’s desire to go shopping for pleasure.
This is all the more true since the traffic gauges put in place severely limit access to the point of sale. Moreover, they vary greatly between countries: one person per 4m² in France, per 10m² in Greece and Belgium and per 20m² in Germany. In Poland and the United Kingdom, customers must be separated by at least two meters.
But finally, whatever the rule set up, in all countries we are seeing the arrival of a rare phenomenon before the Covid-19 epidemic: the queue outside the store.
To be convinced of this, all you have to do is go in front of one of the IKEA stores. At the beginning of June, the reopening of the nineteen British outlets saw, as in other countries, a huge influx of customers. Some customers waited 30 minutes in line in their cars before being able to access the car park and another two hours before entering the store.
These queues in front of points of sale are obviously a reassuring indicator given the current situation.
However, faced with the risk of customers turning back, discouraged by waiting too long, some retailers are innovating. In France, for example, the Fnac cultural and electronic products brand offers its customers the possibility of reserving a queue-jumping ticket on its website. All they have to do is show it to the security agent to be able to enter the store without having to wait in line.
For its part, the Galeries Lafayette Hausmann department store offers Exclusive Live Shopping, a live video personal shopping service. Available in several languages, customers make an appointment with a personal shopper or advisor from one of the 70 partner brands. The personal shopper will be present in the store and will be able to provide the customer with information in person. Thanks to live streaming, the store goes outside its walls and meets its customers.
These two examples reflect the same desire already expressed by the brands’ innovation teams before the pandemic: to eliminate waiting times, particularly at checkouts and for home delivery. But at the time of the Covid-19 epidemic, shouldn’t we think differently and consider using these queues to strengthen customer relations?
In the midst of the French supermarket crisis, the Monoprix supermarket chain has launched Brèves de Monoprix, or Monoprix News, the French supermarket magazine. Every week, it offers customers waiting to enter the store with tips to make their day-to-day life easier, anecdotes about the chain, a testimonial from an employee, a recipe and games for young and old alike. With this small gesture of politeness and kindness, waiting takes on a new dimension, as does the store, which has become a place for going out and talking.
The case of Monoprix is interesting because the brand does not seek to sell at any price. It just stands by the customer’s side to help them pass the time in a more pleasant way. We find this entertainment logic at Sodimac, a Chilean home improvement retailer, with its The Hijacked Highway service. All the car passengers have to do is put the virtual reality helmet they picked up at the highway tollbooth on their face and the highway changes completely. The advertising panels that used to clutter up the landscape are replaced over the miles by animated objects straight out of the latest catalogue. An original way to present a new collection while brightening up the journey.
These two examples illustrate that the expectation is not necessarily negative. After all, the customer chooses to go to the point of sale, which in itself is strong proof of their attachment to the brand. It’s up to the company to reward them. And that’s exactly what IKEA offers in Dubai. Its Buy With Your Time service works on the principle that time is money. At the checkout, the customer converts the time it took to get to the store into money. In concrete terms, one minute of travel is equivalent to 150 dirhams. The iconic blue bag thus costs 2 minutes of your time.
In these three examples, the time constraint is diverted to offer the customer a new and engaging service. Each time, the brand favours the relationship to the transaction, the presence in mind at the wallet. In doing so, the relationship is based on time. If a sneaker fan is offered the opportunity to try out in augmented reality the latest models of his favorite brand with an application like Wanna Kicks, he will certainly use it to prepare his purchase. But he will also continue to use it afterwards with his friends to discover the novelties and share his collection. The word-of-mouth effect induced makes it possible to make the initial investment profitable at a lower cost.
While the economic crisis has not really started yet, it is reasonable to think that brands and retailers will have to redouble their efforts to seduce consumers. It is by multiplying useful initiatives, by offering new and sometimes fun experiences to the customer that the brand will succeed in standing out from the crowd and not getting locked into a price battle. To do this, it is therefore necessary to question its habits and convictions. The pandemic has swept them away. This is not the time to save money… quite the contrary. It is more than ever time for innovation.
In all countries, containment has thus seen companies gain in agility and speed of implementation. Innovation has been permanent… so we still have to deploy these new innovative services to the public. More than ever before, the coming months will be placed under the banner of Innovation Service Centric.