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Trends

Eliminating line-ups at the supermarket during COVID-19

As retail sales return to pre-lockdown levels, a virtual queuing system in one UK store can maintain social distancing while avoiding long lines.

Virtual Queuing in supermarket for social distancing

Sainsbury's now has a way of managing lines which means people don't have to wait outside the store.

In the UK, scenes of deserted main streets and stockpiling chaos earlier this year now seem a thing of the past. Retail sales were near pre-lockdown levels this past June, as the reopening of shops created a spike in demand. Last month, sales increased by 13.9% compared to May, according to the Office for National Statistics. In particular, food stores hit new highs as people rushed to get back to some pre-COVID normality. The only difference was the presence of face coverings and strict social distancing rules, including limiting the number of customers allowed in stores at one time. The challenge for many stores has been how to maintain social distancing while avoiding long lines.

The UK mega-grocer Sainsbury's is trying out  a virtual queuing system to help maintain these health and safety protocols. With geoenrichment tools, customers can join a line-up from places like their car, parking lot or nearby outdoor location via an associated smartphone app. Sainsbury's began its trial at five UK stores on 27 July, and will run until mid-August. If successful, it could be rolled out in time for fall and winter, when weather conditions in the UK make it less agreeable to stand outside.

Queue technology has got a boost since the start of a pandemic, along with trends such as video conferencing and working from home.

Empty supermarket during Coronaviurs (COVID-19) pandemic.

The supermarket experience has been totally transformed by COVID-19.

Jason Bettinger, Senior Director and Head of Retail & Financial Services (Americas) at HERE, says location intelligence can also be used for stores to plan how to adapt to a socially-distanced shopping experience. For instance, curbside pick-ups have become more common to reduce contact between people in the shopping process, but not all stores are in the right location to do this. “Think about a store in a city where there's really no parking, just street parking. Is that going to be a store where you're going to be able to do a lot of curbside pick up type business?" he said. Companies with lots of stores in different areas can use location intelligence to plan which stores are suitable for new services such as curbside pick-up. Those in the right locations can use mobile pay to further reduce the contact between shoppers and staff.

A customer could have an app that delivers them a number which is timed, and they are allowed to go and shop for a certain period of time" - Jason Bettinger, Senior Director and Head of Retail & Financial Services (Americas), HERE

Malls and other large stores can use a number system, similar to museums, if they want to avoid lines and keep to capacity limits. “A customer could have an app that delivers them a number which is timed, and they are allowed to go and shop for a certain period of time," he explained.

Virtual Queuing to avoid long waiting lines during COVID-19

Read more: Reopening stores is easy, keeping them open is not. Geolocation can help.

Not only supermarkets, but hair salons, massage parlors, restaurants and even dentists can use location intelligence to notify customers through an app if they need to modify their arrival time due to a build-up of clients waiting, especially now that waiting rooms are no longer in use.

Location services can support your retail environment post-COVID-19 and beyond.

HERE Geoenrichment

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