black friday 2021 ultimate guide

Your Ultimate Guide to Black Friday 2021

Is your store ready for Black Friday 2021? You’d better hurry, it’s only days away.

Big crowds is something closely associated with this retail holiday, but in the current climate, crowds are more than a queuing hazard.

This time, it’s all about customer safety.

Even in 2020, at the peak of pandemic, 74% of US shoppers were planning to do more shopping than they have done in previous years. This year, after mass vaccinations, the crowds may break all records.

That’s why you need to take advantage of crowd control methods — with online shopping, delivery, curbside pickup and, more importantly, virtual queuing.

Virtual queuing allows customers to still shop in-store while maximizing customer and staff safety via maintaining social distancing measures.

With Black Friday 2021 well on its way, let’s break down the 4 ways how virtual queue management helps prepare your store for holiday shopping.

RELATED: What Is Virtual Queuing? A Guide to Virtual Queues

Why virtual queue management is vital for Black Friday

1. Virtual queuing prevents overcrowding

Overcrowding has always been both a bug and a feature of Black Fridays. On the one hand, it’s a huge inconvenience for everyone involved.

On the other hand, many businesses falsely use their unruly lines as the sign of “exclusive service”. (They’re wrong of course; bad experience is bad experience.)

Come 2021, crowds became much more than just a nuisance. Now, crowds are also a health risk.

That’s why stores need to capitalize on virtual queue management for the upcoming holiday shopping season. This way, customers would be able to wait in line without actually having to physically stand close to each other.

Virtual queuing ensures that foot traffic is spread more evenly throughout the day. This, in turn, gives store employees some much-needed downtime, to sanitize the surfaces and prepare for the next group of customers.

Virtual queuing: 1, overcrowding: 0.

2. Virtual queuing eases pressure on store teams

It’s no secret that Black Fridays, and holiday shopping days in general, are a high-stress period for store employees.

Even if you take the whole COVID thing out of the picture, there are still such classic Black Friday issues as:

  • Lack of employees and insufficient training
  • Increased foot traffic, which puts the strain on a store’s capacity
  • Longer shifts, often with no adequate breaks

These extra pressures are part of the Black Friday package, but virtual queuing ensures that they’re manageable.

A queue management system also keeps you informed about the potential bottlenecks (e.g., high average wait times due to improper staff allocation), so you can eliminate them before they endanger the entire operation.

Plus, once the staff’s focus is shifted from managing everything manually, they are free to concentrate on other, no less important parts of preparing the store for Black Friday shopping.

Marketing, website optimization, interior decorations — when was the last time you had the time to do that and not stress out about holiday shoppers?

READ MORE: Black Friday 2018 Checklist: Prepare Your Store

3. Virtual queuing gives customers control over their experience

This year’s unexpected marriage of Black Friday and COVID-19 will be hard on not just store teams, but shoppers too.

That’s why putting shoppers at ease and in control of their shopping experience should be the focal point of your queuing strategy.

And virtual queuing is the perfect tool to achieve this. For starters, it removes the stress of being in a crowd with strangers.

Plus, when customers enter into a queue remotely, they can enter the contact information and choose the correct type of service themselves. Once they’ve joined the waitlist, they’re free to go about their business, not worrying about missing their turn.

It’s all thanks to timely SMS text notifications. When queued up remotely, customers start receiving them on a regular basis.

As a result, they’re always informed about when their turn arrives, where to go next, and what the requirements are.

If there are any sudden changes — a product is out of stock, there are delays, or some technical issue occurred — the customer will not be taken aback.

And, hell, SMS makes for a great method of two-way communication with customers. It is by far the preferred way of talking to businesses, with 45% of Americans having received or exchanged text messages with a local business in the last few weeks alone.

READ MORE: The Survivor’s Guide to Black Friday Sales

4. Virtual queuing offers a safer experience for everyone involved

Shopping and behavioral habits have changed in 2021, with online shopping becoming more and more normalized.

In fact, 73% of consumers still do not feel safe in returning to usual activities outside the home.

The only way to make sure there are still shoppers willing to step inside your store is to enact strict virtual queuing guidelines.

Social distancing is at the top of the list of recommended practices in times of COVID-19. A minimum of six-feet distance needs to be maintained between people — a tall order for any ordinary shopping day, much less Black Friday.

As we’ve covered above, virtual queue management helps deal with crowds, but it’s not an all-in-one cure. For added customer protection, follow OSHA safety tips for Black Friday or see our article Retail Checklist: Tips for Managing Crowds on Black Friday.

Going forward, “safety” will become one of the biggest perks a business can provide. Even now, 53% of shoppers said they avoid businesses that don’t offer social distancing options.

(Compare that to 14% of customers before the coronavirus crisis!)

READ MORE: COVID-19 Safety Guidelines: 7 Tips on Safe Queuing and Workplace Practices

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Over 75% of consumers have tried new brands during COVID-19. It’s not just curiosity or lack of options: shoppers are becoming more selective about the kinds of businesses they want to deal with.

Avoiding stores with long lines and crowds is a no-brainer, but the business’ focus on safe queuing practices plays a bigger role than ever before.

That is to say, your response to the pandemic is influencing your customers’ buying decisions.

The window for action is quite narrow, as shoppers decide fast where they’re taking their business. If you want to take the most out of the 2021 holiday shopping season, sign up for Qminder.

Deploy virtual queuing software and implement remote queuing options for a safer, more enjoyable Black Friday 2021 experience.

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