From overnight queues for Wimbledon, to lining up outside Apple stores for the latest iPhone release - the British are known for an unexplainable inclination towards queuing. But are smartphones bringing these queues to an end?
We are becoming a nation increasingly obsessed with instant gratification. We want it here and we want it now. Why wait a few days for your delivery when Amazon can send it to your door in an hour? And why enter your bank card’s pin when you can instantly scan it with contactless payments?
Smartphones are now taking this a step further through apps designed to reduce queuing. So let’s take a look at how these apps are used within a range of sectors, and explore if smartphones will really lead to the death of queuing.
The taxi industry
When speaking about mobile apps, it only seems right to begin with one of the greatest success stories of app history – Uber. Forget queuing at a taxi rank. With Uber, customers can simply request a taxi via the app and wait for the nearby driver to pick them up at their location.
30,000 people in London download the Uber app and order their first ‘taxi’ every single week. If usage continues like this, there may soon be a time when queueing for a taxi seems ridiculous –terrible news for the black cab and a definite wake-up call to rethink its offering in line with changing consumer behaviour.
The food service industry
No one likes to queue for food, so smartphone queue-dodging apps are becoming increasingly popular within the food service industry. Take Orderella for example. This app allows you to choose a venue, pick what you want to eat and pay for it, all via your smartphone - then sit back as your meal is delivered to your table. No queuing to order and no queuing to pay.
Similarly, Starbucks has launched an app that allows its customer to order and purchase from their smartphone. Just walk straight in and pick up your pre-made Frappuccino, no queuing required. Dining app Eet also allows you to avoid long waits at restaurants by telling you if a restaurant has available tables - the perfect app for those irritating restaurants that don’t allow bookings, as well as encouraging walk-in diners.
Given the huge competition within the food service industry, combined with our culture’s obsession for immediacy, apps to reduce queuing could become the tech that gives one restaurant the edge over another.
The supermarket industry
Few people enjoy the crowded weekly shop at the supermarket, searching for the till with the smallest queue. To help alleviate this stress, Sainsbury’s is piloting the ‘SmartShop’ app that allows people to scan their own items and then pay for it via their smartphone. They can even build a virtual basket before going to the supermarket, and then be guided around the shop to find these products.
Other supermarkets including Waitrose are trying out similar apps, but security problems remain a challenge. However, as the speed of self-checkout continues to draw customers in, it seems only a matter of time till supermarkets nationwide adopt queue-eliminating apps to encourage customers to their supermarket in what has become an increasingly competitive market.
These apps reflect the immediacy customers are increasingly demanding in every aspect of our lives, offline as well as online. As a result, companies must concentrate their efforts on streamlining the customer journey and create a fluid omni-channel experience – if not, their customers will soon look elsewhere for this immediacy.
The rail industry
When travelling via train in the UK, most people will book their ticket in advance and pick it up at the station. However, this too often involves anxious queuing for the ticket machines as they count the minutes until their train departs. But not with Trainline’s mobile app.
Users can buy a mobile ticket that is downloaded straight to their smartphone so they don’t need to queue to pick up a paper ticket. The Trainline can’t control prices or inventory, but it can control customer experience and this app perfectly shows how this can be improved upon through the use of smartphone apps – and how much custom this can gain. Their app is now the number one downloaded train app.
The theme park industry
Theme parks are notorious for never-ending queues as hordes of customers’ line up for rides. However, in an attempt to reverse a 14% decline in visitor numbers, Ocean Park theme park has launched a mobile app to minimise queuing.
The app displays ride waiting times and allows visitors to book some rides in advance so they don’t have to queue for long periods. And to increase its use, free Wi-Fi is available throughout the park. Such an app is not yet being widely used in the UK, but with queuing being one of the biggest theme park pet hates, it’s highly likely that we will see it being used more and more in the near future.
Queues may not ever completely disappear. Security scans at the airport, for example, are integral to national security and would be difficult to remove. However, as smartphone technology continues to develop, combined with our ever-increasing need for immediacy, queue-avoiding apps seem destined to rocket. And with this, the notorious British love of queuing may too become a thing of the past.
To learn more about the tech world, take a look at our Resources section below: