How to master your store’s online queue UX this Black Friday

Ahead of Black Friday, any kind of wait online might seem like bad UX, but it’s the experience whilst waiting that determines how long the wait really feels.

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It’s easy to assume that any kind of wait is a bad experience. We want instant gratification, to get quick results and move onto the next thing, right? Especially as part of our Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping experience.

But studies have shown that it’s not the length of the wait that frustrates us. It’s the experience while we are waiting that determines how long and arduous a wait really feels.

Think about it – would you rather spend 20 minutes waiting in line at the post office, or 40 minutes waiting in the queue for Space Mountain at Disneyland? It’s not just the fact we are getting something fun as a reward for our wait for the rollercoaster; Disney works hard to make the waiting experience immersive and set our expectations for what we’ll get at the end of the wait. Conversely, most post offices offer little to engage us in the queue.

A fair waiting experience online

The same theory can be applied to virtual waiting rooms. Increasingly, retailers are using online queues to manage the flow of visitors to their sites and provide a fair and controlled experience for customers, particularly on the busiest weekend of the year – Cyber Weekend, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It’s easier for people to leave a queue online and go elsewhere for deals than it is in person – there’s no need for camping out in the parking lot – so optimizing the virtual queuing user experience is vital to beat competitors.

What makes the waiting experience even more important is the fact that our perception of the quality of an overall customer experience is easier to influence earlier on. As the first interaction with a Black Friday sale will be spent in the virtual waiting room, this will have a massive influence on a customer’s overall opinion of the brand, no matter how good (or bad) their experience on the site itself.

Once again, this all boils down to creating the best waiting room experience possible. Let’s dive into some queue psychology and virtual waiting room engagement strategies.

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Virtual waiting room engagement strategies

Set expectations for the wait

It’s a foundation of queuing psychology: “A known, finite wait feels shorter than an unknown wait”.

Just being told to wait for an undisclosed amount of time creates anxiety. Roughly how long will the wait be? A few seconds? Minutes? Hours? We all have plans and other things to be doing, so knowing roughly how long our wait might be lets us know whether the wait will be worthwhile, or if it would be better to come back later.

Anxiety makes time feel slower but knowing how long is left on a wait can transform that anxiety into anticipation. A countdown clock to getting something good is exciting! Advent calendars wouldn’t be fun if Christmas Day could happen at any random time during December. Watching the progress leading up to something fun (be it Christmas Day or getting an amazing Black Friday deal) is a universal joy.

Any good virtual waiting room will give an accurate estimation of how long is left to wait. The best will have a fun, engaging and on-brand visual representation of this, for example a figurine marching across the progress bar for a toy shop.

Offer interaction that’s relevant and engaging

There’s no rule to say what you can and can’t include on a virtual waiting room queue page! TrafficDefender’s waiting room pages are fully customizable, so our customers can get creative and engage their customers.

Since queuing psychology tells us occupied time feels shorter than empty time, give people something to do as part of the user experience and their wait will fly by. This could be a video to watch (live streaming works particularly well), a quiz or survey to complete, live updates, or even a gallery of the deals they can expect to find on your site.

Make it feel fair

This is meant as a positive post, but since we are trying to make our customers “not hate” waiting, let’s address one of the most common frustrations customers feel on Black Friday – that the waiting experience isn’t fair across the board.

With social media it’s easy to see when others are boasting about a great deal they just nabbed online. It’s just as easy to complain when someone else got ahead of you in a queue, or got into a site to grab a deal first when you’ve been sat waiting for longer than they have.

Not only do you need a virtual waiting room with an exemplary record for security and online fairness (meaning it can’t be bypassed on the front-end), but you need to clearly show queue position on the queue page and keep this updated to show continual progress. This then feels fair and cuts out potential frustration.

The art of the online queue

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking ahead of your Black Friday campaign. For a more in-depth look at the psychology of online queues, download our handy “Art of the Online Queue” guide.

Plus, don’t miss our upcoming webinar with online marketing experts Spike: “Is your retail business prepared for Black Friday 2021?” Join us on 27th July at 4pm BST to find out how to align marketing and IT optimizations and make Black Friday 2021 as successful as possible.

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