The use of queues is essential wherever there is a bottleneck. From lining up at the supermarket to joining an online queue to buy sought after concert tickets, queuing psychology dictates our perception of waiting in line. When applied carefully, queuing psychology helps maintain order and reduces customer frustration.
One of the pioneers in studying the psychology of queuing is Professor Richard Larson, who has been writing about it since the 1970s. But even “Dr Queue” himself credits someone else with inventing queue psychology: Walt Disney, with the grand opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1955. Since then, Disney has mastered the “virtual queue theme park”.
How Disneyland revolutionised waiting in line
Embodying Walt Disney’s vision of “the happiest place on earth” and becoming the most visited theme park in history, the success of the original Disneyland has made it a blueprint for similar attractions.
Disney’s “Imagineering” department is what sets its parks apart. Originally made up of Disney’s animation experts, the Imagineers consider everything they want guests to see, hear, and more importantly feel, from the moment they step into the park.
Imagineers dream up and design the guest experience from top to bottom, including rides, architecture and decor, adapting their movie set building and animation skills to engage park visitors.
As the park’s popularity began to boom, its creators realised that since every attraction had a set capacity per hour, long queues were inevitable. They couldn’t change the length of the wait, but they could control the queuing experience and therefore the guests’ perceptions of the wait.
Disney’s magic ingredient that makes the whole park work, is immersion. The clever part is how even their ride queues are carefully designed to contribute to this.
What lessons can your business learn from Disney theme parks?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes
Walt Disney insisted that every two weeks his team of Imagineers should queue up alongside the guests and experience the park from their perspective, to hear what they were saying about it and strive to make improvements.
One of Disney’s original Imagineers, Martin Sklar, came up with “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” to guide the direction of everything the Imagineers did. These are followed to this day, and the first two commandments are simple: “know your audience” and “wear your guests’ shoes”.
When you are designing your online queue, think about what would make the experience better for your visitors from their perspective, and continually assess this to make improvements.
Engage customers by making queues on-brand
Many of the lines at Disneyland are themed to match the attraction, which immediately sets the tone and builds hype for the ride itself. Just like in Disneyland, an online queue is an opportunity to set expectations and make a good, lasting impression early.
An excellent example is the queue for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, that immerses guests in a futuristic lab straight from the movie while they wait to get into the attraction itself.
It’s so immersive that it almost feels part of the ride – another useful tip for online businesses, as people no longer feel like they are waiting once they have been engaged by the brand. Use your brand voice to speak directly to customers at the earliest opportunity.
Distract and entertain with activities
First and foremost, Disney excels at entertaining audiences, so it’s no surprise that they can even do this in queues. There are countless examples of interactive games that can only be found while waiting in Disney park lines, with highlights including:
- A themed soft play area within a circus tent ahead of the Dumbo ride
- The chance to create magical projections on the ceiling whilst waiting for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Supernatural hands-on experiences to set the mood as you wait to enter the Haunted Mansion
- A tour through the operations of an 1860’s mining company ahead of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride, with the ability to set off dynamite around the ride itself
If you really want to make time fly for those queuing online, an interactive game within the browser is a perfect distraction. You could even allow players to share their scores and compete to reach the top of the leader board.
Depending on your business, it might not be appropriate for your website to host games or entertainment within a queue. However, any kind of interaction, for example a customer survey, provides a welcome distraction and passes the time quickly.
Give the option of VIP treatment
Another Disney innovation is the FastPass – a ticket that allows guests to join a much shorter queue later in the day, within a specific time slot, allowing them to go and do other things in the meantime.
The FastPass gives visitors assurance that when they come back at the time on their ticket, they will get on the ride quickly and are guaranteed their turn. There is even a FastPass+, which allows visitors to skip queues on certain rides with a premium ticket.
Using TrafficDefender’s virtual queues, you can also give specific users the “FastPass” priority treatment. Using intelligent rules, certain customers or users can bypass the queue, for example your call center staff or VIP customers, so that you only present a virtual waiting room when it’s needed and adds value.
Set expectations and communicate
Any savvy Disney theme park visitor knows that an essential tool for planning your day and getting on as many rides as possible is the official Disneyland app. Through this app, guests can see wait times for each attraction plus walking time to reach them, setting expectations and taking the guess work out of where to go next. It’s an essential tool in the smooth running of Disney’s virtual queue theme park strategy.
Any online queue must prominently feature an unambiguous estimated wait time to enter the site, because a known, finite wait is more tolerable than an unknown or ambiguous wait. You should show this visually and use your branding in the countdown to keep your guests engaged.
Provide a unique and memorable experience
While millions of people pass through the park gates each year, Disney strives to make each visitor feel special with unique experiences. An excellent example is the use of costumed characters who roam the park and the queues, interacting in different ways to distract from the wait.
Good marketing talks directly to each member of the target audience, and this must be consistent on the queue page as well. Think carefully about the messaging in your queues and consider adding personalisation wherever possible. What do you know about your visitors’ intent on your site and how does this influence the content you display?
Tell a story
People love a good story, and simply by starting a storytelling experience, an audience starts listening and stops feeling like they are waiting.
In the interactive queue ahead of Peter Pan’s Flight at Disneyland, guests are engaged early by being introduced to the story of Peter Pan with visual elements and can even use their shadow to play with Peter Pan’s shadow. They are still queuing, but they might not feel that they are because they are immersed in the experience.
Within an online virtual waiting room, you can create a narrative around your products to engage customers. Showcase your products or tell a story visually, or even use video to make visitors feel the experience has already begun. You have your customer’s undivided attention, so use the opportunity to tell your story and sell your brand. You will see fewer queue dropouts and potentially higher conversions once visitors pass through to the website itself.
Build an online queue that engages
If you are considering using a virtual waiting room to control the flow of traffic to your website or mobile application, at TrafficDefender we can work with you to ensure the queuing experience is a positive one for your customers.
TrafficDefender is more than an online queue; it’s an opportunity to showcase your brand, positively influence your customer’s perceptions early in the experience, and support your business goals.
Book your TrafficDefender demo today to find out more.