Customer Flow Management Checklist for Retail
Customer flow management is more important than ever in the era of omnichannel retail. Here’s how to make sure you’re prepared to meet the expectations of today’s consumer.
Wed Jan 11 2023 • 6 min read
Have you ever abandoned a shopping cart or queue because you felt it wasn't worth the wait? You’re not alone. Human patience is dwindling and, as a result, the expectation for speed and convenience when it comes to service interactions continues to rise.
Consumers today have been conditioned by the digital world to expect convenience, speed, and personalization in all of their shopping experiences. But the workforce challenges plaguing the retail industry are making it difficult for businesses to keep up with these rising expectations. According to Netomi’s State of Consumer Service in 2022 Report, nearly half of consumers rank long wait times as their #1 most frustrating aspect of customer service today.
Companies need more than ever to think critically about their customer journey and to ensure that their customer flow management is as optimal as possible. Keep reading for tips on how to craft an in-store experience that’ll be easy and delightful for customers and staff alike.
Why customer flow management matters in retail
Customer flow management is the process of optimizing how consumers go through your shopping experience. Today’s omnichannel retail landscape requires you to not only consider the logistics of how people move through your physical retail spaces, but also how tech can support a seamless customer journey across all touchpoints – both digital and physical.
In retail, a typical customer flow can include queuing, browsing, interactions with store staff, completing services such as consultations or purchase pickup, and checkout. Because the way people shop has changed so drastically over the past 5 years, your customer flow management needs to evolve to keep pace.
Customers entering your stores today may be planning to complete any number of interactions, including:
- Purchasing products
- Simply browsing or to checking out an item they saw online
- Picking up products they already purchased via ecommerce
- Returning a product
- Speaking with a store associate or product expert
- Having a curated in-store experience like a personal consultation or fitting
Today’s consumer interacts with your brand across channels. For example, just because you don’t make a sale during an in-store visit doesn’t mean that the sale is lost. More likely than not, a customer will complete their path to purchase via an online channel if your in-store experience makes a big enough impact.
This more fluid retail environment necessitates perfect customer flow management. A poor in-store experience can derail the customer journey and lead to lost revenue.
Thankfully, customer flow management solutions like Waitwhile exist to help businesses improve and actively manage the customer experience from pre-purchase all the way to post-purchase activities with a suite of features including:
- Virtual waitlists
- Appointment scheduling
- 2-way customer messaging
- Automated queue management
- Customer notes
- Operational analytics
Using a customer flow management system enables you to make things as simple as possible for shoppers (and takes a burden off of your staff, too). In the next section, we’ll take a look at a number of strategies to improve your customer flow and show you how you can use technology to execute your plan.
Retail business checklist for managing customer flow effectively
To build a seamless customer flow, you’ll have to consider both how you’re using the physical space at your retail store and also the core steps of your customer journey. Let’s dive into the key considerations you should keep in mind.
Do you have virtual queue or virtual waiting room capabilities?
Although extremely common in retail, having customers line up for anything doesn’t maintain good customer flow. Plus, consumers hate it. According to a Waitwhile survey, nearly 70% of consumers prefer virtual lines to physical ones.
The State of Waiting in Line (2022)
Replace all of your physical lines with virtual queues. That way, rather than doing nothing while standing in line, customers can easily join a virtual queue with their phones and get automatically alerted when it’s their turn.
Without wasted time standing in line, customers can instead continue shopping, complete other services, or leave and come back when it’s their turn.
Consider using virtual waitlists for services like returns, pickup, checkout, fittings, or consultations. They give much-desired flexibility to your shoppers and make them feel like their time is respected.
Do you offer appointment scheduling?
Virtual queues are a great way to make your shopping experience more convenient for customers. Offering appointment scheduling takes the level of convenience one step further.
You may have services that customers would love to book in advance, such as in-store consultations, personal shopping, in-store pickups, or even fittings. With an appointment booked, customers can have peace of mind knowing when they’ll be seen and exactly how long they’ll spend at your store. From an operations perspective, offering appointments helps your staff know what to expect at the start of each day.
Appointment scheduling is super easy to run and a breeze to add to your website with a solution like Waitwhile. Plus, with a full customer flow management software like Waitwhile, you can run both virtual queues and appointment scheduling simultaneously to give your customers more choices for how they’d like to shop. Waitwhile will automatically merge your queues and appointments into one line while making the wait fair for everyone.
Do you have a separate check-in process for in-store or curbside pickup?
Even before the pandemic, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) was booming. Today, in-store and curbside pickup is a service that consumers have come to expect. Click-and-collect sales are projected to sustain double-digit growth rates through 2024, reaching an estimated $140.96 billion.
As we’ve already touched on, modern shoppers want all the options. Today’s customer journey is omnichannel, and many consumers today have become accustomed to the convenience of offerings like curbside and in-store pickup.
A separate check-in process for curbside and in-store pickup will reduce friction in your overall customer flow. You can operate this service with either virtual queues or appointment booking (or both).
The Curbside Pickup Operations Handbook
Are the most popular products located towards the back?
Some retail flow tactics have been around for ages and still work well today. Always have some of your most popular products towards the rear of your store.
This strategy exposes customers to comparatively less popular items and encourages browsing (and higher cart value). Using this tactic also prevents crowding at the front of your store, which can create an uncomfortable shopping experience, increase wait times, and discourage new shoppers from even walking in.
Do you have product hot spots?
Similar to the consideration above, make sure you’re thinking about where you’re placing items that are frequently bought together. Customers appreciate when you place items they need near accessories or complementary items.
This detail benefits from good signage. Create clear, easy-to-read signage to direct customer attention to hot spots in your store.
Are you improving store operations and customer flow with data?
The fact that you’re reading this article is a sign that you’re actively thinking about how to improve your customer experience. Fantastic. Harnessing objective data will take your efforts one step further.
Consider all of the various forms of data you can collect to glean insights to further improve your operations. Here are just a few data points to consider:
- How many people visit your store by day, week, month, etc.
- Employee-productivity metrics
- Number of appointments booked by service
- Average wait time
- No-show rate for appointments
- NPS scores
- Customer feedback
A customer flow management system like Waitwhile will collect a lot of these operational analytics for you automatically, and present it in an easy-to-read dashboard. That way, all you have to worry about is instituting the changes to improve your customer flow and make your business run more efficiently.
Elevate your customer flow management with Waitwhile
Catering to the heightened expectations of today’s digital-first consumer is no easy feat. Delivering a unified cross-channel experience that feels convenient, personal, and fast requires thoughtful planning and execution.
A customer flow management system like Waitwhile allows you to automate key processes, speeding up operations while allowing you to do more with fewer resources.
Waitwhile is used by some of the biggest retailers around the world for:
- End-to-end customer flow management
- Virtual waitlists
- Appointment scheduling
- Curbside pickup
- Virtual shopping
- Supply chain and logistics management
Check out how it works below and try it free today.