Standing for ages in a queue to get into a supermarket could be a thing of the past if a Foodstuffs trial goes to plan.
The company, which owns New World, Pak'n Save, Four Square and Raeward Fresh supermarkets, is trialling a virtual check-in for shoppers where they text the supermarket they want to shop in, and get alerted when it's their turn.
The possible solution to shoppers' queuing woes is currently being trialled at New World Kumeu and Pak'nSave Royal Oak to "overwhelmingly positive customer feedback",
Simon Kennedy, Foodstuffs North Island Chief Digital Officer, says.
Customers are given two options to "check-in" at participating stores – virtually or physically. However, regardless of their choice, all customers check in at entry.
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Customers who virtually check in on their phones will receive a text when it's their turn to enter. Customers who physically check in with a team member at a desk will have their names put on a list, and their name will be called when it's their turn to enter.
The solution is easy, free and all customers need is a mobile phone.
The four step process will see a customer texting to "check in" to secure a place in line.
They will then get a text reply confirming their place in the line, allowing them to wait somewhere else more comfortable, including their car.
The customer will then receive another text when it's their turn to enter the store and shop.
To get inside, the customer will show their text confirmation to the store check-in team to enter.
Customers who don't have a mobile phone can check-in directly with store staff and still wait elsewhere, but will need to stay within earshot to hear their name called by store staff when it's their turn to enter.
He likened the system to other virtual queues including requesting a call back when on hold with airline customer service, or putting your name in for a reservation at a restaurant and receiving a text when your table was ready.
Kennedy said the initiative, if adopted, would save customers, especially the vulnerable or elderly, time by having to wait in line.
"New Zealanders are settling into a new normal and consolidating their shops into one big shop so they can stay home and stay safe.
"When it's time to make a trip out for essentials, customers now have two check-in options at stores where we're trialling the solution. It's great for all customers, but particularly for those who are vulnerable or elderly who can now wait somewhere more comfortable.
"By reserving a virtual spot in line, they can now wait in their car or go for a walk around the block to get some fresh air."
He said the goal with virtual check-in, was to improve their customers' overall experience.
"The physical distancing measures we need to maintain inspired the teams to innovate a solution which would simplify store arrival and give customers the flexibility to wait where they please."
Store staff and signage would be available to advise customers which number they should text and to answer any questions they might have.
The average virtual wait varied by how busy the store was and how many customers were allowed in the store based on the 2m physical distancing measure, he said.
Further national roll out of the trial beyond New World Kumeu and Pak'nSave Royal Oak would be decided in due course, he said.
The virtual queue solution was in collaboration with NextUp, a collective of people from New Zealand retail and technology companies who have come together to help create solutions to assist New Zealanders during this time.