Re-Think Checkout Lines for Black Friday

There will be more people standing in your checkout lines on Black Friday (and the Black Friday weekend) than there are normally, and these lines will take up more of your floor space.  How will you handle this? You may need to do some physical reconfiguration to open up space.  And you may need to implement a different checkout line system than you normally use. If you don’t already have a single line queuing system, consider going that route for the Black Friday weekend.  Statistics show that single line queuing systems reduce customer wait times, when compared to multiple lines.  Having a single line removes pressure on the customers to choose the “right” line or to attempt to jockey between lines depending on how quickly they perceive any given line is moving.  A single line system is objectively fairer, and psychologically easier on customers who may already be tired or frustrated. Wherever it is physically possible, it is best to set up your line in a serpentine formation.  Make sure your lines have breaks and turns to keep the line flowing smoothly. If you are expecting massive (and potentially unruly) crowds, consider an upgrade from your normal line management stanchions.  Big crowds could (unintentionally or intentionally) knock over or move standard stanchions.  Many stanchion models can be drilled into the floor, while others have heavier magnetic bases. And even when your customers have successfully acquired their desired products and navigated their way through your check out system, your work is not done.  Don’t forget to give them an orderly path out of your store.  Try to arrange paths so that your exiting customers don’t bump into entering customers.  Continue to guide customers with line management products as they leave.

Staff Training Key to Black Friday Success

Because of the business potential, and safety risks, that are present during the Black Friday weekend, communication among your staff is more important than ever.  Almost like planning for a big game, you should have regular staff meetings leading up to Black Friday.  All employees, no matter where they will be stationed, need to know about your crowd management strategies and processes. First, make sure you not only have adequate numbers of staff on hand, but also plan to have additional staff either on call, or physically present, in case the need arises.  All staff members should know what the most popular items will be, and the exact places in the stores where this merchandise will be located.  Everyone should be given proper instructions on how to handle emergencies and what to do if they witness potentially dangerous situations. There should be employees designated to handle customer communication.  And there should be a clear chain of command so that each employee knows who needs to be alerted in case of problems or questions.  Some employees should also be given the responsibility for calling 911 or local police should such need arise.  Make sure every employee knows what to do if they encounter shoppers who pose a risk of physical harm to other shoppers or to staff. Management must also make sure there are contingency plans in case merchandise sells out, and that all staff members are in the know about these backup plans.  Have signs prepared to explain what customers should do in case of sellouts.  If products sell out, an appropriate number of customer service staff members should be designated to handle communications with customers about the situation in a calm and friendly manner.  

Pre-Planning Black Friday Crowd Management

In planning for the Black Friday onslaught, store management personnel must implement a strategic plan which, at its core, answers these questions:
  • How do you want customers to line up outside the store (prior to the store’s opening)?
  • In what order will customers enter the store?
  • How do you want customers to navigate to merchandise within the store?
  • How do you want customers to line up in order to check out?
  • How do you want customers to exit the store?
If you’re offering special deals or special products, anticipate that customers will arrive on the grounds around your store entrance well in advance of when you open the doors.  If you’re opening at 5 am, will some customers be there at 3 am, hoping to be the first to enter?  Based on your past experience, and the experiences of similar stores, establish an expected arrival time for your customers.  This – not when you open the doors – is when your crowd management effort will actually begin. Do you want your customers to begin lining up in a single file line?  If so, set up crowd control barriers, or stanchions with belts to clearly establish the “borders” of the line. Plan to have staff assigned to the outdoor waiting line area.  That means that certain staff members must arrive very early.  These staff members should remain in constant communication with the waiting customers – reiterating the details on how your entrance system will work, answering questions, and keeping an eye out for potential problems.

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Tensator Virtual Assistant blends man and machine (Video)


In an age where consumers prefer to interact with technology, contact with an actual human being is becoming an antiquated — and often avoided — concept. But for those looking for the perfect balance between man and machine, or who miss a little bit of the human element, a “virtual” person might do the trick.

Enter the Tensator Virtual Assistant Ultra, a product the company calls a next generation digital signage solution. It creates a projected image and creates the illusion of a real person to convey brand messages, impart information and highlight products and promotions.

With a small footprint of 50cm by 50cm, the Virtual Assistant can fit within an aisle or as part of the aisle end caps. The base unit of the Ultra is made up of interchangeable covers, creating a full surround or three-sided wrap if placed flush against a wall, making it ideal for advertising and promotion, according to a news release on the product.

Visit Retail Customer to read the full article.


Self Service on the Rise: Speed and Convenience

Several recent industry reports and surveys tracking self-service trends have seen a jump in the use of automated self-services.  According to an infographic compiled by 1-to-1 Media, “Self-Service is a growing global trend that’s helping customers to get the optimal experience they’re looking for more quickly.” 

With the advancements made by each technologically savvy generation, there is a growing consumer need to be able to help themselves, manage their purchase, and see more immediate results.  They also have a higher expectation for more self-service offerings whether at retail outlets, banks, supermarkets, post offices, medical facilities, pharmacies, motor vehicle departments, airports, seaports, hotels or train stations – virtually anywhere.   

With this in mind, the time is ripe for each of these vertical industries to examine which of their offerings can in fact benefit from being turned into an automated self-service operation that will successfully and happily get customers what they want in an expedited manner – where they are ensured a quick, fair and successful transaction.

When looking at service offerings that can be automated here are some points to consider:

  • Is the transaction something that is needed 24 hours a day – or could self-service automation enable it to be offered 24 hours a day?
  • How long does the average transaction take when handled by staff?
  • How long would the average transaction take if automated?
  • How long is the waiting period on average to service a customer?
  • How much time would be saved if the service was automated?
  • How complex is the transaction you are looking to automate?
  • Can you realize cost-savings by enabling customers to help themselves?
  • Will your customer experience/customer journey improve as a result of self service automation – will your offer be competitive, attracting customers?
  • Do you have additional upsell opportunities as a result of self service automation?

Tensabarrier’s Patented Retractable Belt System

The retractable belt mechanism in the popular Tensabarrier portable post and retractable belt line management system for crowd management is based on a patented seat belt retractor. The 1998 patent, which the inventors assigned to Tensator Limited, detailed a seat belt retractor which presented a relatively low tension when the seat belt was actually in use, but which applied sufficient tension to the seat belt when it was being wound onto the retractor. The patent described the specifications for the retractor’s spring, gear arrangement, pawl, release lever, and more. When these same specifications are applied to a retractable belt system which is part of a portable post queuing system for line management, the result is a safe, efficient belt. Crowd control stanchions contain a powerful constant force spring used to retract the belt.  Tensabarrier’spatented braking system for its retractable belts slows the retraction of the webbing, eliminating the risk of an accident.  This unique braking system incorporates twin brake shoes. This slow retract technology allows the webbing to fall to the floor upon release and then slowly and safely retract back into the post. The anti-tamper tape end means that you have to actually press the button to release the tape end connected to the post, preventing accidental release of the webbing by customers in a line. The Tensabarrier also has one of the best topple angles on the market, at over 30 degrees.

Inefficient Check-Out Lines are Biggest Customer Frustration at Grocery Stores

Ask customers to identify their most common frustrations in a grocery store and a wide variety of answers will abound.

Many shoppers are annoyed by the arrangement of products within the store, or instances when stores re-arrange the merchandise.  Others reserve their highest frustrations for the behavior of their fellow shoppers (such as other customers blocking aisles, abandoning carts, or writing checks in the check-out line). [box] But in general, the check-out experience seems to be the most common frustration expressed by grocery store shoppers. [/box] Unfortunately, grocery stores have largely been unable to go to single-line queuing systems (utilized at banks, airports, fast-food restaurants, etc.).  So, customers still have to choose a check-out line, and nervously hope they picked a fast-moving one. Additionally, many studies have found that self-service checkout lines, which are often less populated than lines which have a working cashier, do not get customers through the check-out process any faster. One potential time-saving process is being tested.  Some stores are experimenting with technology which enables products to be scanned (and even bagged) before a customer arrives at a station featuring a live cashier. While superstores such as Target and Walmart also operate with multiple-line, rather than single-line, queuing systems, they have improved customer satisfaction on high-traffic days (such as Black Friday) by utilizing line management systems at their entrances and at other locations both inside and outside their stores.  Portable stanchions with retractable-belt systems have created physical line space which results in first-come, first-serve line management which is organized and fair.