Whether it’s been ordering groceries online, registering for a COVID-19 vaccine, or buying the hottest pair of sneakers, chances are you’ve seen a virtual waiting room in the last year.
The concept behind this ecommerce UX trend is pretty simple: if traffic isn’t overwhelming, no shoppers see the waiting room. But if the number of online visitors exceeds a website or app’s capacity, they’re redirected to a customizable waiting room. Then once it’s their turn they’re throttled back to the website or app in a controlled first-come, first-served order.
When online retailers use a virtual waiting room, it’s because their business is successful—so successful that their site is at risk of being overwhelmed. They’re driving high traffic to the site, and there’s intense demand for their products. Online retailers use a virtual waiting room to avoid becoming victims of their own success.
From a user experience perspective, it might not seem intuitive to have shoppers wait to purchase online goods. But as we all know from real life, there’s wide variety in the quality of customer experiences while waiting. Compare your wait at the post office to the dazzling, interactive customer experiences at a Disney theme park, for example.
Top ecommerce and product managers know that, when done well, a virtual waiting room can actually boost the ecommerce user experience. The ability to deliver a fair user experience they can be proud of, paired with online retail skyrocketing nearly overnight, helps explain the surge in virtual waiting rooms in 2021.
Let’s review the 7 user experience benefits prompting online retailers to adopt virtual waiting rooms right now.
1. They prevent dreaded crashes & slowdowns
To understand the recent spike in retailers using virtual waiting rooms, you first need to understand one crucial point.
When retailers are using a virtual waiting room, it’s often because the alternative is a slow or crashed website. These are the two worst-case scenarios from a user experience perspective.
The downtime statistics are sobering. 79% of those who experience poor website performance will avoid shopping with the retailer in the future. And lost orders can easily balloon into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A virtual waiting room acts as a safety net for retailers, protecting 24/7 against sudden peaks in online visitors. The way virtual waiting rooms work, online shoppers don’t see the waiting room in normal circumstances.
When retailer websites have available capacity, shoppers don’t even realize the virtual waiting room is in place. When retailers do send visitors to a waiting room, it’s evidence of traffic peaks that could otherwise overwhelm their sites.
A virtual waiting room frees retailers’ websites to sell at their maximum potential, without crashing and damaging their user experience, brand, and bottom line.
2. They deliver online fairness
If traffic peaks aren’t a problem, retailers use virtual waiting rooms to achieve online fairness.
This is common with limited-edition product launches, such as sneaker releases. There might be 10,000 sneakerheads going after 100 pairs of shoes.
All things equal, who should get access?
Virtual waiting rooms allow randomization of everyone coming early to a sale, just like a raffle. Anyone arriving after the start of the sale gets their place in line in a first-come, first-served order—the gold standard of fairness.
But be aware that not all virtual waiting rooms are able to offer a first-come, first-served wait. So if you’re considering a virtual waiting room, make sure to demand one that helps you deliver the fair customer experience you can be proud of.
3. They help set expectations & allow real-time communication
Picture yourself making a phone call and being put on hold.
Compare your stress level when 1) you’re told what number you are in queue to 2) you hear hold music on a loop.
Which is more stressful? Clearly number 2.
Academic studies show that a positive waiting experience is driven not by how long people wait but how people feel while waiting.
When people are put in line, they want to know why they’re waiting and how long they can expect to wait.
Virtual waiting rooms give retailers the ability to show visitors transparent wait…