Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has begun testing a virtual queuing system, which allows customers to join a queue from a remote location.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen changes in customer shopping patterns. Since lockdown started in March, shoppers have had to queue outside supermarkets in a socially distanced line, to ensure a two-metre distance is kept between each other.
Supermarkets have been monitoring the numbers of customers and various measures were introduced to reduce the risk of overcrowding. Sainsbury’s hopes its virtual system will help shoppers to stay saf and save them and hassle.
The trial has begun at five UK stores and will run until mid-August. The first stores to try out the initiative are Uxbridge, Pimlico and Newham Royal Wharf in London, Dome Roundabout in Watford and Leicester North.
Shoppers will be able to join the queue from the comfort of their car, home or nearby restaurant. The aim of the app is to avoid the need to stand outside the shop.
Sainsbury’s customers will be able to download the app on their devices, where they can monitor their position in the queue. They will receive an alert telling them they are close to the front of the queue. Customers without smartphones or those who do not wish to download the queuing app, will be added to the virtual queue by store staff and then receive a text message when they are close to the front. The scheme is also said to help assess whether or not it helps employees manage queues.
The company reported soaring sales over the lockdown period, and it adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic by investing in its digital services, altering store layouts and hiring more staff.
Nigel Blunt, director of ecommerce at Sainsbury’s, said that shoppers will be able to hold their place in the queue using their smartphones and that the company will listen closely to feedback from its customers and colleagues.
He added: “We’re always on the lookout for how we can make our customers’ lives easier using technology.”
The supermarket said the new initiative is just one of the ways Sainsbury’s is investing in digital in response to the pandemic and addressing customer new shopping habits.
Sainsbury’s is also expanding its SmartShop mobile payment scheme, which aims to offer till-free shopping in more than 100 convenience stores across the UK by the end of this week.
This allows customers to scan their shopping, pack it and track how much they are spending. The app is live in more than 75 Sainsbury’s Locals, and 40 more stores are expected to follow.