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2016: Lineups begin their terminal decline

Order-ahead mobile apps will make us increasingly opposed to standing around, doing nothing.

lineups, starbucks

Lineups Decline:

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If you’re a Starbucks aficionado, 2015 was a great year. The coffee chain completed the rollout of its order-ahead mobile app in the United States and in the fall began expanding it to Canada and the United Kingdom.

With the app allowing for line bypassing at cafes, as well as automatic payment, I was an instant convert. So were many customers, with the chain reporting that the feature is spurring same-store sales.

Starbucks competitors now have to step up, and indeed virtually every big chain in the quick-serve food and beverage business is either experimenting with order-ahead apps or is rolling them out.

McDonald’s has it in Austria and is testing it in the United States, Chipotle is doing it, as is Taco Bell. U.S. theatres are introducing mobile order-ahead apps so that patrons don’t miss their movies. Even sports arenas are getting in on the action so that fans don’t have to miss their action.

As Robert Carter from consumer trends tracking firm NPD Group jests, there is one type of vendor that’s not interested in exploring this technology: “Companies that are going to go out of business.”

All of this ordering ahead is going to have something of a network effect, in that the more businesses that offer it, the more businesses are going to have to offer it.

As people get used to using such apps from an increasing number of retailers and vendors, their tolerance for standing in line anywhere is going to further decrease. Businesses that continue to require customers to stand in lineups are going to see those irate people go elsewhere.

As Carter predicts, 2016 is going to see an “explosion” of these sorts of apps. Coinciding with that, I think we’re going to see an increasing intolerance of standing around, doing nothing, and therefore the beginning of the end of lineups this year.

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