Some 70% of UK customers said they were unlikely to return to a store if they were made to wait in a long queue on their last visit, a new study of 2,000 shoppers has found.

Around nine in ten shoppers said they avoid a store if its queues are too long, highlighting the point of sale as a key area for retailers to focus their strategies, particularly as peak season approaches.

The research, conducted by tech company Box Technologies and processor manufacturing giant Intel, also found that 38% of respondents said they have given up trying to make a purchase because of long queues, with nine minutes the average time consumers are prepared to wait before leaving without a product. Around a quarter of people said five minutes is the maximum they are prepared to wait before departing a store.

Raj Parmar, marketing director at Box Technologies, commented: "These results demonstrate more clearly than ever how long queues are leading to lost sales and badly affecting profit margins, turning shopping into a seventh hell rather than a seventh heaven."

At IGD's recent annual convention, The Big Debate, the charity and grocery research group's CEO Joanne Denney-Finch suggested the future of supermarket shopping will be defined by new store layouts and the use of technology to improve the processing of customers through shops.

She drew attention to US retailer Kroger which has reduced average queuing times from four minutes to 30 seconds by using sensors to anticipate queues and summon staff accordingly.

"The winners will be those that embrace shopper power, reset standards and redefine concepts from their point of view," she told delegates at the central London event.

Denney-Finch also put the case forward for "click & collect plus" services, where staple groceries are ready to be collected when shoppers arrive at stores, freeing up internal space for more interactive shopping experiences such as sampling and demonstrations.

Technology can be deployed in many ways to enhance the in-store shopping experience, with various retailers mobilising their workforces with systems that can aid the customer experience on the shop floor. Others, such as O2 Retail, are introducing new queuing technology that updates customers via SMS when a member of staff is free to serve them.

Box's Parmer added: "When such effective technology is available, retailers can mobilise their workforce to improve the shopping experience for consumers.

"By bringing devices on to the shop floor, retailers can also convert potential window shoppers into loyal customers, with recent research from Deloitte also proving that consumers who interact with a device during their shopping journey convert at a 40% higher rate.  There are no longer any excuses for retailers when customers leave without making a purchase as a result of being left frustrated by poor customer experience."

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