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Foodstuffs trialling virtual check-in solution to improve store customer experience  

3 April 

Foodstuffs is trialling a virtual ‘check-in’ solution to improve customer comfort and safety when they arrive for their essential supermarket shopping during the Level 4 lockdown.   

The solution is currently being trialled at New World Kumeu to overwhelmingly positive customer feedback.  

“Our goal with the virtual ‘check-in’ solution is to improve the customer experience when New Zealanders arrive to our stores to do their essential shopping,” says Simon Kennedy, Chief Digital Officer, Foodstuffs North Island. “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.” 

With the introduction of this trial, customers now have two options to ‘check-in’ at participating stores – virtually or physically – but regardless of their choice, all customers check in at entry.  

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.  

Here’s how the virtual ‘check-in’ solution works: 

  1. Customer arrives at the store and instead of queuing can ‘check in’ via text message to secure a place in line. 
  2. Customer receives a text reply confirming their place in line, enabling customers to wait somewhere else more comfortable, e.g. their car.  
  3. Customer receives a text confirmation from the store when it’s their turn to enter the store and shop. 
  4. Customer shows text confirmation to the store check-in team to enter.   

“New Zealanders are settling into a new normal and consolidating their shops into one big shop so they can stay home and stay safe,” says Kennedy. “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.” 

Customers who don’t have a mobile phone can check-in directly with store staff and still wait elsewhere, but they’ll need to stay within earshot to hear their name called by store staff when it’s their turn to enter. 

Store staff and signage are available to advise customers which number they should text and to answer any questions they might have. The average virtual wait varies by how busy the store is and how many customers are allowed in the store based on the 2m physical distancing measure.  

The ‘check-in’ solution is akin to other virtual queues such as 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 is ready.  

“As we enter the second week of lockdown and settle into the new normal, we want to improve what we can improve on to make essential shopping just a bit more seamless for New Zealanders,” says Kennedy. “The virtual check-in solution is convenient, comfortable and offers customers more flexibility.”  

Further national roll out of the trial beyond New World Kumeu will be decided in due course.  

The virtual queue solution is 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.