Safe queuing and crowd control in grocery stores and pharmacies

Safe queuing and crowd control in grocery stores and pharmacies

Anna Oom |April 7 2020 8 min

Some services are necessary even during a crisis such as the Covid-19 outbreak. For instance, grocery stores and pharmacies need to remain open in one way or another to provide citizens with essential goods. To reduce the number of people and practice social distancing in stores, some retailers may need a system in order to not let too many people into the store at once, and for pharmacies and grocery stores that already use a queuing system, a new solution might be needed to make sure the indoor waiting area doesn’t get crowded with more people than the local authorities allow.

Waiting outdoor is ideal of course, but not if you have to stand in a physical line as you still get close to other people. The waiting time may also be long, especially the perceived waiting time as you are not able to do much else. To sort the problem of crowd control and social distancing - and actually even increasing the customer experience as well - here are a few ways to go about.

Social distancing in stores with virtual queuing and mobile solutions

A simple virtual queuing solution can be enough in a situation like this. This can be set up in a few days and doesn’t require any hardware installations or servers.

What the virtual queuing solves is that the customer doesn’t have to interact with a kiosk to get a ticket and they don’t have to wait on the premise of the store. Instead, when the customer gets to the store, they can use their mobile phone to scan a QR code on the window from the outside to activate themselves in a virtual queue which they can follow in real time. This solution makes the queuing safe, but it also gives the customer a feeling of control and that they can use their time in a better way than just standing in a physical line.

Once the customer is next to be served, they get an extra notification and can make their way into the store or the service desk depending on the solution. Social distancing and crowd control can easily be practiced inside the store as well, as only those customers being served will be on the premise. There are solutions where the staff can use an operations panel to follow the customers in real-time on the screen and make sure there are not more than the allowed number of people within the facility.

As an option or complement, the staff could also use a mobile device to handle the virtual queue and serving, which allows them to serve outside the building, for example to handle over goods that have been ordered online, or stay inside but being able to move around to increase social distancing within the facility. Mobile staff can also assist those that don’t have a smart phone and take their phone number details so that the customer can get an SMS notification when it is time to be served.

Virtual queuing with scheduled pick-up

An even more sophisticated solution for stores that sell via web shops where people come and pick up their goods, is a scheduled pick-up which allows the customer to choose a time slot for pick-up. This is also known as curbside pickup or click and collect, and could be a good retail social distancing solution. With a grocery store appointment system, the store can choose to spread out the time slots available to reduce crowds and also to adhere with staff allocation to avoid bottle-necks.

In advance of the chosen time slot, the customer gets a reminder via text message which also contains a link. Once the customer arrives outside the store, they announce their arrival by activating the link in the text message. The staff will then receive a notification that the customer has arrived and can then handle over the prepared order swiftly.

For the hand-over there are two options. Either this can be done by entering the building and the pick-up area to receive the goods. In this case, the pick-up area can be kept which should then be quite empty as not many more pick-ups are scheduled for the same time slot. 

Or, for stores with large parking lots where most people arrive by car there is another option; when the customer activate themselves through the link, they can type in their registration number for their car. The staff receives the notification that the customer is there together with the license plate information and then walks out to the customer car, puts the shopping bags in the car, and all the customer has to do is to sign and drive away.

All the suggestions presented above mean that customers can avoid long queue in the supermarket and don’t have to wait around for too long, causing crowded areas and risk the health of staff and other customers, and that staff can plan ahead and focus on serving those customers that are there at that particular point.

Qmatic has long experience of queue management and connecting people to services both physically and virtually. If you are interested in learning more about what virtual queuing could do for you in these times, download this guide about virtual queuing.


Download the Virtual Queuing Guide


If you are ready to talk about what Qmatic could do help your business to solve their queuing problems, contact us through the button below.

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Anna Oom

Anna Oom

Global Content Marketing Manager.

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