Photo by David Shankbone/

Although it might seem like a no-brainer that you’ll lose business if lines in your store are too long, the amount of business you can potentially lose is substantial.

A study of 1,000 grocery consumers in the U.S. by the research company, Forrester, suggests 75% of U.S. shoppers are not exclusive to any single grocery store. And almost 60% of the shoppers interviewed said they would be likely to shop elsewhere if they could have a better checkout experience.

Without doubt, how long a shopper waits in line and the general checkout experience are key factors to retaining customers.

When Staff Shortages Are To Blame

However, during store rush hours, a grocery store might not be sufficiently staffed to keep up with a high volume of customers.

Is it flu season? Are there a handful of employees who have called in sick? If so, can you rely on a staffing agency to fill demand for more workers? Can the store manager quickly send a text alert to off-duty employees, with an incentive of time and half pay for emergency personnel?

Whatever the reason for staff shortages, grocery store managers must anticipate times of high foot traffic and have a plan B ready to implement in a very short time if labor is shorthanded?

Moreover, if there’s nothing that can be done about labor shortages, are there any technological solutions for long checkout lines? Has your store acquired self-checkout kiosks?

Think Outside the Box

If your store has already implemented tech solutions such as self-checkout stands and your fresh out of ideas, think outside the box.

For example, have you thought about hiring an entertainer during busy store hours? Some customers might not mind waiting in line as long if, say, a singer playing acoustic guitar were performing.

And to borrow from the oil industry, many gas stations have monitors that show news and entertainment clips while to fill the time while filling the tank. Perhaps you can place a big screen monitor behind the checkout registers and play kid- and family-friendly movies. Mothers juggling kids in the checkout line will appreciate your store for occupying their little one’s attention.

Here’s another idea to better the checkout experience. Have an employee offer samples to people waiting in line. Or, hire an aspiring opera singer; the status quo for many shoppers is not working.

Low Customer Satisfaction

The need to be innovative is paramount to your store’s success in retaining customers. In fact, according to the survey, less than 25% of survey respondents were very satisfied by checkout line length and only a third were very satisfied with the general checkout experience.

And if the lines at your store are quite long, there’s a good chance many of your customers will take their business elsewhere. Nearly 40% of survey respondents claim they left a store without making a purchase because of long lines.

While it might not come as a shock that long lines and poor checkout experience deter customers from being loyal brand advocates, what is surprising is that these factors are just as important as price.

Therefore, if you can offer your customers a good deal and a quick and pleasant checkout experience, you’ll likely do brisk repeat business. In addition to price, location and product variety were just as important to the survey respondents.

But let’s go back to the checkout line, where 85% of the consumers said that checkout is important or very important to their shopping experience. The overwhelming majority of respondents–74%–also indicated that checkout is at least occasionally slower than they would like.

Long checkout lines and a poor checkout experience presents a dire threat to grocers who do not offer home delivery. According to a Forrester consumer forecast, sales from online grocery shopping will nearly double in the next few years to over $300 million.

“Why deal with long lines when I can just buy online?” might be an ever-increasing mantra of grocery shoppers.

The Takeaway

It’s not only grocery stores that can take away from the Forrester survey. Restaurants and retail shops apply these lessons as well. For example, long lines at a restaurant can be alleviated by adopting mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) units to take drink and appetizer orders while customers are waiting to get seated.

Regardless of your industry, don’t get caught short-handed; anticipate labor shortages and use new technologies such as mPOS and self-serve kiosks to attract and retain business.

Want to know what our POS systems can do for your grocery business? Contact us today to get your questions answered or for a demonstration.

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