How to Manage Holiday Crowds

Monday, November 09, 2020

Holiday shopping is synonymous with crowds. What, then, in a year of required social distancing, will this tradition look like in 2020? In many communities, crowds aren’t even an option.

Occupancy limits aren’t a new concept—fire codes require you to have a cap already—but the pandemic has prompted states to regulate that even further. And with a limited number of patrons allowed in stores at a time, it’s critical that you keep them moving to prevent too long of an outdoor queue. With that in mind, here are seven tips for reducing wait times and keeping crowds under control in your store this season.

Set a customer cap

First things first: Determine how many customers you can safely welcome. Find your state’s reopening rules through their official .gov website; then, establish protocol for monitoring store occupancy in compliance with regulations. Remember that all staff must be included in your headcount.

Lay down (literally) the law

Create your checkout “line” and one-way traffic flow (if applicable) with floor markers. Display physical distancing signage on your front door and throughout the interior, keeping in mind that your state or community may have specific signage requirements.

Training is everything

We’ve all been there: You’re behind a person whose purchase seems to have thrown the sales associate for a loop. They’re either struggling to solve on their own, or waiting for assistance from another busy employee—taking attention away from other customers. Avoid watching this scenario play out by investing time into hands-on training. Give new employees a test before they even ring a sale, and throw in some tricky situations that they should be prepared to address. Even if your point of sale is very user-friendly and easy to pick up from a technical standpoint, there will always be customer and product questions and issues that arise, and you should have a guidebook for how to answer and handle quickly.

Go mobile

Busy season or not, 76% of consumers agree that mobile technology helps provide a faster shopping experience, and they’ve come to expect this. A mobile POS allows sales associates to reference inventory and prices alongside customers as they shop, instead of forcing them to hunt down a sales associate who then has to search the stockroom, escape to the back office or interrupt the checkout line at the cashwrap to check.

A quicker way to collect data

Invest in POS hardware that can rotate to front-facing, or mount your tablets to a wall or pillar so customers are able to fill in personal information themselves. Asking them to spell and repeat their name (no, F as in Frank not Sally), email address (yes, I did say aol dot com), and any other data you collect in your CRM can tack on precious minutes, so cut the time in half by asking customers to do the work while you wrap their purchases.

Secure a backup internet source

An internet outage during the busy season can feel like the apocalypse, but it doesn’t have to. Have a backup plan and technology in place, because resorting to hand tickets isn’t just going to slow down the line; it will prompt customers who don’t want a paper trail of their credit card and personal information to give up and leave. Fortunately, you have lots of options: a redundant network, hotspot or 4G LTE wireless network.

While you may (hopefully!) never experience such an outage, the peace of mind you'll get from securing a reliable backup connection will be priceless.

Zone it and own it

As you plan your holiday staffing schedules, divide your store into zones: checkout/cashwrap, fitting room, front entrance, stockroom/back office and multiple product zones—depending on your store size. Giving each employee their own daily zone will reduce chaos and keep crowds moving; customers won’t be mindlessly searching for assistance in finding a product, getting into a locked dressing room or looking for another size.

Can your point of sale handle the hustle and bustle of the holiday season?

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