How Retailers Can Make Queues More Enjoyable | RetailNext

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How Retailers Can Make Queues More Enjoyable

Hannah Spruce
Hannah Spruce

In retail, queues are often inevitable, but properly managing queues not only reduces annoying points of friction for shoppers, it often uncovers ample opportunity to better serve and sell.

[Contributed by guest Hannah Spruce, Content Author at High Speed Training,]

A particularly long and boring queue has been known to cause even the nicest of customers to slip over the edge and disintegrate into a deep pit of queue-based anguish.

In fact, nine out of ten surveyed shoppers claimed they would avoid a store if its queues were too long.

Don’t despair however, because the answer to your prayers comes in the form of MIT professor Dick Larson, or as he’s colloquially known ‘Dr. Queue.’ He’s spent thirty years studying the psychology behind waiting in line and holds the recipe for a happy and profitable queue.

Child On Trip To Shopping Mall With Parents

Queue Management

The key to queue management is distraction. But you should also keep Dr Queue’s motto ‘every queue is a business opportunity’ in mind when planning your queue strategies.

You should adapt your queues for each season, and consider how to integrate your marketing efforts as customers are placed in one position for an extended time. Take advantage of this with engaging print-based marketing. POS advertising offers a unique opportunity to get your customers reading content that they wouldn’t outside of a queue.

Want to push company values? Put a poster in reading view of the queue.

Want customers to pick up your retail magazine? Put them in POS displays along the length of the queue.

Want to push profits through impulse buys? Have magazines, newspapers, mints, chewing gum, sweets, food-to-go and healthy snacks at your POS display units.

Saleswoman in boutique queue

Golden rules of queue management

Larson’s extensive work on queue psychology has uncovered a few essentials that all retailers should implement to maximise how engaging and profitable their queues are.

Overestimate waiting times

Acknowledging customers is the most vital thing your staff should be doing. I cannot stress this enough and it’s something that gets overlooked by most retail staff during busy times. Try to cultivate a work culture that greets customers and takes time to inform them how long it will be until you can serve them. This will help customers feel valued and during hectic periods like Christmas they’ll empathise more with how busy you are.

Additionally, when customers are acknowledged this reduces the anxiety that comes from not knowing if staff know they’re waiting. When customers know when they are going to be served this encourages their commitment to remain waiting rather than abandoning it along with their purchase. If you work in a restaurant or café that has long queues you should consider giving customers a menu to peruse whilst they wait. This helps them to feel like they are already in the process of being served.

Keep customers engaged

Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.

The key to creating queues that customers don’t mind standing in is to keep them entertained. Newspapers, magazines, products, mirrors, televisions, adverts anything that customers can look at rather than the queue will help ease queue-rage.

Digital signage informing customers of waiting times can also help to ease the perceived length of time of a queue.

Make queues fair

Ensure customers know they will be served in a fair manner. The uncertainty of who is next can make jumbled lines a pain-point. Use a single line queue instead of multiple queues. This prevents customers from feeling that, inevitably, they chose the wrong queue and the other one is moving quicker.

To optimise how fair customers feel queues are, consider express checkouts for customers who have 10 items or less or self-checkouts. People who have more items are happy to wait longer, whereas customers who have fewer items perceive long queues with big shops in them as unfair.

Spend money in the design stage

This is a pertinent point for retailers who have fitting rooms. These are the big pain points for many customers but they can also be a refuge and the place where a sale is made. This is where design is so crucial. You need décor that fits the branding of your shop, curtains that cover the dressing rooms, staff who are available and friendly (use buzzers that can be operated from the safety of the changing room), an ambient temperature and most importantly, flattering lighting and mirrors.

Before customers get to this stage however, they might need convincing to queue. Reports reveal that customers are buying two sizes of the same item to avoid changing rooms and returning whichever doesn’t fit or simply abandoning items in a bout of frustration.

The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait. Make your changing rooms worth the wait and customers will wait. The best changing rooms treat their customers like royalty. They even have sample products like perfume for customers to try that can lead to further sales.

It’s estimated that Americans spend 37 billion hours waiting every year.

On a final note, the busiest times in retail are often national holiday periods like Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. These occasions should be looked upon as a time to utilise queues to optimise marketing, push profits and foster community spirit.

Get creative with your queue entertainment. Consider initiatives such as inviting local charities to bag pack or fundraise through your shop, offering tastings to the queues and getting staff to ‘queue bust’ by directing customers to available tills or helping customers who’ve forgotten the thing they came in for.

With checkouts being the make or break area for many retailers, these measures will give your business a competitive edge and help ease customers queue-based anxiety.

About the writer

Hannah Spruce is a Content Author at High Speed Training, an eLearning provider based in the UK that offers online customer service training, amongst a variety of other business courses.

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  • Joshua Geldenhuys

    Acknowledging the waiting customer – This is an excellent point! What a pity that 90% of retailers don’t follow this strategy. Nice article!