The sticky opportunity of queues

July 17, 2009 by Dave Haynes

One of the best things that happens when you go out on your own is you stop getting protective about some ideas and thoughts that might be applicable to whoever signs your paycheque every couple of weeks.

When I was down at the National Retail Federation trade show in New York in January (brrrrr), one of the technologies I saw was queue managment systems – effectively computer and screens systems that tell people in lineups and waiting rooms where they are on the wait list to get served, be that medical or whatever.

I spoke to a couple of guys about the digital signage opportunity, which elicited shrugs and yawns. But I made some calls and sent some notes after the show to companies who do this, and still got no love back.

Oh well.

Many months later, I am sitting with my daughter the other day in the Canadian Passport office in lovely Hamilton, Ontario, watching the numbers slowly count up from A197, who was being served, to A230, which was Claire’s magic number. I looked around and saw a crowded room full of people staring at this one damn number screen. What else was there to do?

The absolute definition of a target-rich captive audience is something like a government office where people are stuck for an hour or more, muttering under their breath and bored silly. Meanwhile, there will little sheets of paper stuck on counter walls all over promoting some charity passport protector thing, in type too small to read until you got close.

Banging around queue management company Web sites, I can see some of these companies that sell this technology now reference digital signage, but to suggest they do a good job of explaining th value is a big reach. The site sections have that, “Oh yeah, we do that, too” smell to them.

I am sure there are some pure-play DS guys that are doing this, but the only one I found quickly was the Aussie company Ryarc, which is run by a guy with a name straight off Dublin’s Grafton Street, Fergal O’Ceallaigh. I mention that only because I like his name. Never met.

So now that I don’t sell software or anything related to it, I can wonder publicly why companies looking for a vertical to define themselves (or build up a sideline) don’t chase this space. The back-office stuff is there to be integrated with, and there are an awful lot of useful messages I could have read about government programs and services while waiting for that passport interview.

The same applies, as is shown in the Ryarc image from the company blog, with something as pedestrian as a deli counter line-up at a grocer. There is a far greater likelihood of me looking repeatedly at a screen in that area if that’s where I need to look to know how long until I am served.

From my old Web days, that wait status number on the screen is called sticky content, and it is waaaaay stickier than the weather, news and other crap people continue to stick on screens. The opportunity is there, as people look back repeatedly at that screen, to highlight other offers and services.

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