Sainsbury’s has begun testing a virtual queuing system that will allow customers to wait remotely for their turn to shop in its stores.
Shoppers will be able to join the queue from a remote location, such as their car, using a smartphone app, avoiding the need to stand outside the shop.
The trial began at five UK stores on Monday and will run until mid-August.
Experts say retailers need to find new ways to alleviate queuing as the UK heads into autumn and winter.
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Sainsbury’s customers will be able to download the app onto their smartphones, from where they can monitor their position.
‘Appetite’ for technology
Catherine Shuttleworth, retail analyst and chief executive at retail marketing agency Savvy, told the BBC that shoppers were clamouring for ways to make the “new normal” easier.
“There’s no doubt that shopper appetite for easy technology that makes getting shopping done more efficiently has never been greater,” she said.
“The growth of click-and-collect, where shoppers interface with less people and therefore shop with reduced risk, has been exponential in lockdown, not just with national grocery chains but with local farm shops and food stores.”
The first stores to try out the system will be Uxbridge, Pimlico and Newham Royal Wharf, in London, Dome Roundabout in Watford and Leicester North.
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said the trial would determine whether the app could make customers’ shopping experience safer and more convenient.
The retailer also confirmed it would be continuing to roll out its till-free mobile payment scheme.
The system currently operates in more than 75 stores, with 40 more scheduled for later in the week.
Adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic has meant an extra £500m in costs for Sainsbury’s, as the company invested in its digital services, hired more staff and altered store layouts.