Line Busting Strategies Every Retailer Needs To Know

Line busting

The average American spends a whopping 37 hours waiting in line each year, which is problematic for both retailers and shoppers. Why? Long wait times frustrate customers, and result in revenue loss for retailers. 

Seven in 10 retailers report that shoppers forced to wait in line give up on making a purchase and leave the store within five minutes. Fortunately, line busting can help. Line busting strategies like mobile checkout and self-service kiosks reduce the checkout queue at shops and anywhere else someone would wait in line.

We’re teaching you everything we know about line busting to help you keep queues moving and the cash register ringing.

What is line busting?

Line busting refers to tactics that help reduce wait times and checkout queues at retail stores, restaurants, service-based businesses, and other establishments. Any checkout experience that reduces wait times and falls outside of the traditional interaction of a cashier ringing up a customer at a checkout counter could be considered line busting.

If, for example, you’ve placed an order online and collected it in-store (often referred to as buy online, pickup in store), you’ve benefited from line busting. Or, if you’ve ever used a self-checkout kiosk, you’ve experienced the line-busting effects of a shorter line and faster checkout process.

Line busting is especially important in retail settings, where long lines can wrap through the store, cause overcrowding, and deter customers from entering the store or making a purchase.

Benefits of line busting

Line busting can speed up checkout, reduce store congestion, and improve customer service. Here’s how.

Faster checkout

The faster the checkout experience, the more sales you can generate and, at least potentially, the less you have to spend on labor. 

As you know, shoppers are only willing to wait about five minutes in line. When wait times are long, customers abandon their items before checking out. By using line busting techniques, you’ll reduce wait times and lose fewer sales. And when the checkout process is faster, sales associates can check out more people in less time, creating the potential for more sales.


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A quicker checkout experience also frees staff up from spending the bulk of their time at the checkout counter. Instead, they can dedicate their time to other sales associate duties, like restocking, so you may be able to hire fewer employees to handle those tasks.

💡 PRO TIP: Shopify POS has a fully-customizable checkout experience. Create shortcuts to keep your most-used apps, promotions, and products at your fingertips so you can fly through checkout.

Reduced store congestion

As noted, line busting can help reduce overcrowding in stores, which is important for several reasons.

Amidst the COVID-19 era, less congestion means there’s more room for customers to socially distance themselves and have a safer shopping experience.

Furthermore, crowds can deter customers from coming in because they anticipate a poor shopping experience and long wait times. Line busting helps alleviate these obstacles for potential customers. 

Improved customer service

When stores implement line-busting tactics, sales associates can spend less time at the cash desk and more time helping customers on the floor. They can help shoppers find what they’re looking for, cross-sell products customers didn’t know they needed, and upsell by providing expert insights. Line busting leads to a better shopping experience

Potential pitfalls of line busting

Consider these potential drawbacks before trying out line busting techniques at your store.

Technical difficulties

The technology you rely on to reduce queues may experience glitches from time to time. As a result, you may need to dedicate resources to servicing those tools and engage more employees to complete checkouts.

Undertrained staff

If your employees aren’t well trained in the technology or processes you use to reduce wait times, you could end up creating longer lines and hurting customer service quality.

Reduce this risk by putting staff through rigorous training when adopting new line-busting strategies.

Data security

Some line[busting tactics, such as mobile payments, can make customer data vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

“When you look at the major breaches in the last couple of years, they’ve been ‘memory-scrapers’ in the POS [(point-of-sale system)],” Tom Litchford, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of retail technology, tells Forbes.

“Had they isolated their payment from the POS, no credit cards would have been stored in memory.”

Separate mobile payments from POS transactions to make it more difficult for hackers to access valuable customer information.

Line busting strategies and tips for retailers

Not sure where to get started with line busting at your shop? Try one of these tactics.

Curbside pickup

While curbside pickup gained popularity because of the pandemic, it’s proving to be a popular line busting technique that’s here to stay.

Curbside pickup

Curbside pickup, a.k.a. “click and collect” or “buy online, pick-up in store” (BOPIS), involves a customer pre-paying for an item, usually online, and picking it up at the store. A sales associate usually brings the items out to the customer’s car.

By letting shoppers skip the line, curbside pickup shortens queues and reduces store congestion. And, by leveraging stores as distribution centers, this line-busting strategy also helps companies and customers save on shipping costs.

Electronics retailers Best Buy lets online shoppers choose Curbside Pickup at checkout. After customers receive an email letting them know their order is ready, they go to the store, inform staff they’ve arrived, and show a photo ID and credit card. Then, a Best Buy employee brings the items to the customer’s trunk.

Mobile checkout

With mobile checkout, the cash desk is no longer a store’s only point of purchase. Sales associates equipped with mobile POS terminals, like smartphones or tablets, become mobile checkout points, meaning customers can check out where they’d like.

If you replace your checkout counter altogether with mobile checkout, you create more opportunities for customers to interact with staff. Because staff members aren’t stuck behind the cash register, they can help guide the shopping experience and upsell. 

Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack are paving the way for mobile checkout technology in fashion retail. Several years ago, Nordstrom distributed 5,000 iPod touches to 116 stores to implement a mobile checkout system. 

💡 PRO TIP: Shopify POS can be installed on any mobile device, helping you checkout customers and take payments anywhere in your store. Make lineups at the checkout counter a thing of the past and start making sales on the spot.

Automated checkout

Automated checkout is the next wave of line-busting technology. It eliminates the checkout process by using sensors to digitally charge customers as they leave the store for items they picked out.

Amazon is actively implementing Just Walk Out technology at Amazon Go stores. Customers scan the Amazon app upon entering, take what they want from the shelves, and walk out. Using a combination of cameras, shelf sensors, and sensors at the entry and exit gates, Amazon knows what you’re buying, charges your account, and sends you a receipt. 

Self-service checkout

Self-service checkout kiosks let shoppers skip the interaction with a cashier and scan their own items and pay for them at a point of sale. With customers serving as their own cashiers, staff members can assist customers in other ways or focus on other duties. This line busting tactic also frees up traditional checkout counters for customers who need assistance or want to pay with cash. 

Self-service kiosks are often seen at big-box retailers, grocery stores, and fast-food restaurants. American discount retailers Target and Walmart have self-checkout stations in almost every store.

At fast food bakery Panera Bread, up to 60% of lunchtime transactions take place via self-service kiosks.

Concerned about customers taking advantage of the honor system? Self-checkout attendants, cameras, and scales can help reduce theft.

Ship to home

This line-busting strategy involves customers finding something they like in stores and purchasing it to be sent to their home, either with the help of a sales associate or via their own smart devices. By offering free shipping for online orders made in-store, and encouraging customers to check out on their smart devices, you’ll have fewer customers waiting in line. 

With a tool like Shopify’s email carts, sales associates can help customers identify items they like in-store, add those items to an online cart, and email them the digital cart. This strategy is useful when a customer finds an item they like in-store, but that location doesn’t have the exact style, color, or size they want in stock.

💡 PRO TIP: Use Shopify POS email carts to help shoppers avoid lineups to pay and buy online whenever it’s convenient to them. Add items to customers’ virtual cart, send their wishlist by email, and credit your store for making the sale—even if it happens online.

How to start line busting

Now that you’ve identified line busting strategies that will work for your business, here’s how to implement them.

Get a mobile POS

If mobile checkout is part of your strategy, you’ll need to equip your store with a mobile POS system that can be installed on tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices. You may need to get several mobile devices, depending on how big your shop is and how many staff members you have.

Get other tech as needed

Acquire the other software and hardware you need to make line busting work. For example, to facilitate mobile payments, you’ll need a mobile card reader that accepts tap and chip payments, and a smartphone or tablet with your POS software installed. 

📌 GET STARTED: Looking for the perfect hardware setup to speed up your checkout? Shopify has you covered. Learn more about Shopify POS hardware and accessories.

Train employees

Next, train staff members on line-busting processes and tools. Show them how to approach customers who look like they’re ready to checkout to offer mobile checkout. Train them on how to use the POS software and hardware associated with your line-busting techniques. Last but not least, make sure employees know how to keep customer data safe.

Staff accordingly

Depending on which line-busting strategies you use, you may end up needing fewer or different team members to handle in-store responsibilities. 

For example, with self-service kiosks, you’ll need fewer associates on the floor, but may need someone to assist customers who have technical difficulties.

For mobile checkout, you can have team members do double duty by doing things like restocking and upselling while ringing customers up.

Start using line busting at your store

Shorter lines can make a world of difference for your customers and your bottom line. When you implement line-busting tactics like mobile checkout, curbside pickup, or self-checkout at your shop, you can drive sales, spend less on labor, reduce overcrowding, and deliver a delightful shopping experience.

Get started with Shopify POS

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