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The Cons of Queuing (and Why It’s Time to Quit the Waiting Game)

February 1, 2024
Andrew Lipp
CEO & Co-Founder, EQL

Product drop, launch, limited release—no matter what word you use, it’s critical to reconsider the mechanic you rely on to get your product into more fans’ hands.

 In the world of high-heat products, the humble queue seems like a time-honored tradition. We can understand why. From a brand perspective, they’re low-cost to implement and can alleviate the risk of website crashes. 

However, let's talk about why queuing often fails to deliver a fair customer experience, leaves room for bots to exploit the system, and ultimately does a disservice to genuine fans (not mention the brand blowback).

Luckily, there are better alternatives to playing the waiting game.

First, how does queuing work, and why do sites use it?

Queuing creates a virtual waiting room for online retailers if they have a lot of fans coming to their site to take a specific action. The queue management system holds a visitor’s place in line while slowly trickling users into a site at a rate the infrastructure can support, controlling the flow of traffic and preventing the site from crashing.

When done well, queues provide information to the user, making it clear why they are waiting, how the process will work, and how long they can expect to wait. This helps to convince the user to stay where they are and wait it out, rather than getting frustrated and leaving without making a purchase.

Some queuing systems offer other bells and whistles too, like a branded waiting experience that appears seamless, or even games or information for users to engage with to pass the time. 

But even with all the effort to make waiting in a queue a tolerable experience, it's falling short of delivering customers what they truly want, which is their time back.

Queuing Con #1: It’s still a poor user experience

Yes, when you compare sitting in a digital waiting room to the experience of a crashed site and having no way to make your purchase, it’s clearly preferable. But the truth remains that no one likes waiting — and trying to pass it off as a desirable experience feels a lot like trying to sell tickets for South Park’s “Line Ride.” 

Psychological studies have yielded insight into just how much people hate waiting. Data supports what we all know to be true: our experience of time passes more slowly when we’re stuck in limbo. Waiting is universally irritating, especially when it’s unclear how long the wait will be. In fact, the anticipation of a long wait time has been shown to be more distressing to people than the actual time spent waiting.

And of course, waiting for a hyped, limited-edition product is even more frustrating than, say, waiting in line at a cafe when you know you’ll eventually get your turn to order. That’s because there’s no guarantee that your time and patience will pay off. Odds are good that you’ll still miss out on the product or ticket you’re trying to buy — and the loss stings way more when you’ve wasted time on it. 

Yes, queuing is preferable to a crashed, unusable site. But do we really have to choose between two terrible user experiences?(Spoiler alert, we don’t. If you want to know the alternative, skip to the bottom of this blog.)

Queuing Con #2: It’s another system to maintain

Using a queue means relying on technology that must integrate with your other systems and function seamlessly on the front and backend. It might also require some coding changes on your site. And if your queue management solution malfunctions, it can just lead to further frustration for your users. 

After all, we can all relate to the abject fury of patiently watching a progress bar tick through to completion — only to then reset back at the beginning and start over. Additionally, as queue management software adds new functionalities, it becomes another system that needs to be maintained and updated, degrading operational efficiency and adding to the workload of businesses.

The more complex your queuing system is, the better the user experience will be. But that requires expense and maintenance for what is still far from an ideal solution.

Queuing Con #3: It only addresses a small part of the problem

Queuing systems are not immune to exploitation. They can take up multiple spots in the line or bypass it altogether, swoop in, and snatch up large quantities of products, leaving genuine customers empty-handed. 

Bots can easily manipulate online queues, they’re literally built for it. And even frenzied fans with a bit of technical chops can enter the line multiple times, leaving little chance for real fans to secure the goods, leaving them devastated, your brand exposed, and your tech choices questioned. We see it all the time. If you’re relying on a queue, you’ll need to avoid these 3 common challenges:

  1. Relying on CAPTCHA: Many basic queue management tools rely on CAPTCHA. Unfortunately, even low-cost bots can bypass these by using text-conversion or AI. (That’s right, AI is better at “selecting all images that contain cats” than you are.) 
  2. Falling for Fakes: Bad bots can disguise themselves as a GoogleBot and be given the VIP treatment, skipping the CAPTCHA hurdle altogether. 
  3. Queue Flooding: Remember the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco (we remember it all too well… see what we did there.)? Even well-intentioned customers know how to enter queues across multiple devices and browsers, extending the wait time even further and driving customers to give up on their purchases. 

Queuing Con #4: Wasting customer time blows back on brands

Queuing for high-demand products can be an incredibly time-consuming endeavor. Think about it: in a world that has changed our online expectations around speed and time (thanks Amazon), spending hours waiting in line—online or outside—when you could be engaging in anything else is more hurtful than helpful.

[2022 report by queue & time management app Waitwhile]

When you queue up in person, you’re at least demonstrating that you’re a real fan. Camped out all weekend? Mega fan! You probably made some friends in the queue too. Online queues and virtual waiting rooms aren't the same. Anyone can open 50 tabs and leave them open all day. It's the worst of both worlds—everyone gets a distracted day at work, and nobody gets a chance to prove that they're a real fan.

With all that time spent staring at one page, when the results don't go your way, you curse at the time wasted, and at the brand that made you wait. Time is a valuable resource, so don't take it away from your fans. 

Brands Miss Out On Revenue

One study found that 80% of consumers will wait up to one hour in a virtual waiting room, but what about that other 20%? And what happens after an hour? Retailers miss out on capturing all of that demand, and meeting thousands of potential new customers—never learning who they are, and realizing being able to further foster that relationship.

Queuing for high-demand products may have once held a certain romantic appeal, but times have certainly changed, and tech has gotten far better. Waiting in line fails to provide a fair experience to customers, allows bots to game the system, and ultimately does a disservice to genuine fans and retailers trying to serve them. 

But what’s the alternative to a queue?

Maybe we’re just impatient, but the EQL crew figured there had to be a better way to avoid all this waiting. Our system is an effective and frustration-free alternative to queuing: all entries are accepted immediately, offering the chance at a purchase within a given timeframe. Entrants are notified via email whether or not they won, so they can live their lives in the meantime — no need to stay glued to the computer, keep a website open, or continually check on the queue progress.

But more than that, EQL offers a complete solution to all of the issues with high-heat ecommerce. EQL runs launches on our infinitely scalable infrastructure, making sites truly crash-proof, no matter what. Our technology also blocks bots and has fairness built into our algorithm, helping real fans get the win. All of this directly impacts the user experience and increases positive sentiment for your brand.

EQL provides additional benefits to brands, too. You’ll end up with valuable information for all your entrants — like what they wanted to buy and how much they were willing to spend. Talk about a red hot lead for future cross-promotions!

Leave bottlenecks behind

Your fans are sick of queuing, so what are you waiting for? Check out EQL, and see how we can make your future launches fair, fun, and frustration-free. We’d love to show you what we can do for your brand!
Andrew Lipp
CEO & Co-Founder, EQL

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