As businesses adjust to life after lockdown, there have been plenty of successful safety measures implemented.
From hand sanitizer stations and safety signage to protective screens and face coverings, both businesses and consumers are doing their bit to make sure trading can be conducted as safely as possible.
One other measure that has been well received, again by both the business and its customer, is an appointment-only system.
The impact of queuing on any retail business, even before COVID-19, was largely negative. 89% of us have left a store because of large queues, with 65% admitting going straight to a rival store to get what they need.
The main plus - from a business perspective - is the conversion rate. Shoppers that are booking in appointments are far more likely to complete a sale than those previously who would turn up for a browse.
Not only that, the other main plus - from a safety point of view, is just that. It's a safe way of shopping for both the customer and member of staff due to the limited numbers in store and allocated times.
For the furniture industry, this has been adapted quickly and to some great effect.
Furniture Village have recently revealed its initial success through its book appointments scheme, having taken over 1,000 appointments across the earlier Bank Holiday weekend when it reopened.
Their system has been so successful, Furniture Village has seen appointments convert to sales at a rate of between 50 to 80%.
Another retailer, Norfolk-based independent furniture business Artertons, shared the positive feedback, stating that their conversion rates were also up when the after hours system has been used.
Artertons said that it has helped attract customers who cannot get into the store between their usual opening times, with all appointments resulting in a sale. The retailer added that advertising locally its system has helped spread awareness, which has in turn generated bookings.
And there's no sign of the service being dropped.
Amanda Arterton, co-founder and owner of independent furniture retailer Artertons, said: "Customers responded gratefully. We will offer appointments as long as any customer still requires it. Footfall continues to grow and the level of high quality and high value sales has been very encouraging."
With this in mind, there are potential solutions for those not implementing their own system, including online booking system software provider Appointedd.
With many clients on its books, including Furniture Village, the system aims to aleiviate the issue on queuing, even if us Brits are known for a good queue.
All jokes aside, the UK government guidelines state that unnecessary queuing isn’t compatible with a safe post-lockdown retail environment.
Before we get into the solution, it is worth understanding the impact of how queuing impacts a retail business.
Greg Dickson, CTO at Appointedd, said: "The impact of queuing on any retail business, even before COVID-19, was largely negative. 89% of us have left a store because of large queues, with 65% admitting going straight to a rival store to get what they need.
"The impact of queuing in post-lockdown retail is serious, widespread, and hard to quantify. That’s because queuing doesn’t only affect the safety of your store, staff, and customers – it also affects your neighbours.
"In the new normal for retail, any unnecessary gathering of people presents a problem. Not only do queues increase the risk of spreading the virus within your premises, they also present other risks like overcrowding."
Appointedd says it "really hate queues". It has developed technology to help retailers to banish the queue.
"The best way to do that is by taking a robust approach to queue management with smart appointment scheduling technology.
"In the new normal for retail, we simply can’t have streams of people coming out of each store and making it really difficult to get around safely. Not only does it put people’s health at risk, it destroys the customer experience," says Greg.
"If your customers are having to dodge around fellow shoppers to maintain their distance, or take their position at the end of a huge line in an enclosed space, they’re very unlikely to want to stick around and spend their money with you. More likely they’ll never be back."
Appointedd’s queue management software allows customers book appointments for a store visit online, and appear at the time of their appointment. This allows you to control the total capacity of your store and maintain social distancing, process order collections with bookable time slots and allows time between each visit to reduce customer contact.
"By scheduling customer visits, retailers can remove the uncertainty associated with queuing, guarantee the safety of their customers, and deliver a safer, more enjoyable shopping experience," Greg added.
"COVID-19 is forcing everyone to change habits and ways of doing things, but busting queues is a change that will not only help you reopen and adhere to government regulations – it will also improve your customer experience long-term."
Appointedd has also developed a capacity management calculator that allows retailers to calculate their maximum capacity based on the size of their store and current social distancing restrictions in place.
Take a look and calculate yours here.