Dream and Hustle

Operating a SMS Virtual Queue Service for Merchants

Thursday, February 15, 2024

In the past years, we have seen a tremendous spike in smash and grabs, shoplifting, and strong-arm robberies of small to mid-size retailers.

They are a bunch of thugs in the UK doing all this shoplifting, and as an American, I’m shocked and appalled to see the British doing this to their merchants on the High Street, the cheek!

On Dream and Hustle, we covered the technology to make retail safer over ten years ago. We discussed turning storefronts into showrooms with actual products locked up in inventory cages. We discussed using high-definition cameras with computer vision to detect a potential smash-and-grab before they even reach the door.

But we still see these boutiques and shops doing outdated retailing with unsophisticated security, such as dumb cameras and open doors that allow anybody in and out of their small shop. The criminals are well-organized and well-armed and don’t give a damn about putting someone down just to get a rep within their robbing crew.

A Better Retail Model in 2024

The best retail model should be a digital-first operation.

Cashless. There is no reason to store cash or deal with people carrying cash. The shop should proudly announce they are cashless so plotters know there is no safe or money to be stolen.

Showroom. Everything in the customer area should be a sample, and the customer has to request the product. No small shop should operate where someone picks up something and brings it to the cashier. Think about how a shoe store operates by entering the backroom and getting the product.

Check-In. Small businesses should not allow walk-ins and should always know their customer. Customers need to identify themselves and then be allowed inside the store; this is mainly for small shops with a small staff.

SMS Check-In

Several years ago, in Asia, where hype beast drop culture was very prevalent, SMS check-in was used instead of people waiting in line to pick up a limited-edition fashion. You scan a QR code, get a queue number, and receive a text message to appear in 5 minutes, or you lose your place in a queue.

Here is an example of a queuing system:

Today, this technology is being used widely in small merchants throughout Asia, where if you want to visit, you have to get a queue number after scanning a QR code on your phone. We see this slowly showing up in the US among banks and luxury shops.

There are several benefits to using an SMS check-in system.

Identify the Customer. The shop will look at the phone number and know if it is a first-time customer, a returning customer, or a customer that has been flagged.

Customer Engagement.  The shop can request that the customer be added to a newsletter or subscribe to notifications of flash sales and exclusive customer events.

Limit Store Traffic. Only one person per phone means you do not allow crowds to enter your store. The only person allowed is the phone number and possibly one other person.

Another benefit, as you see in the Dojo app, is food spots don’t make call-in reservations and just let people do a virtual queue because they are there waiting to be seated. Like the Japanese barbershop, a shop can have a light system to let people know they are full or have tables available.

Local Fiscalism. Think about this – a commercial street with a row of restaurants or shops with red and green lights indicating availability. This means that people walk down the street at a city center and see which spots are already crowded and what is available, keeping people in the area.

Running a Virtual Queue System in a Dubai Freezone.

If you are looking at running a low-touch operation while living abroad in Dubai, running a virtual queue operation might be your foot in the door of tech entrepreneurship.  The key thing is you don’t tell anybody and keep this hustle-up/money-up strategy to yourself and quietly move in silence.

You can run this virtual queue platform by setting it up in the Dubai Freezone and using SMS platforms that have programmable SMS to create the workflow. Here is what you need to consider.

Multi-Lingual Web Site. Your business operation is going to be global and serve any small business that wants a virtual queue system to prevent crime and shoplifting and better clienteling of customers entering their shop. The site should show the steps and a contact form for a sales rep or have them sign up.

SMS Platform. Most SMS platforms are worldwide and have virtual phone numbers and can white label for you to set up the system.  With a white label, you set up the phone numbers and can script the workflow on their behalf and have them up and running in minutes.

Marketing Touchpoints. Once a customer signs up, you can create digital templates to send to the nearest printing and fulfillment center, where you have QR code displays for customers to scan and get into the queue. Or they can download an app or go to a website on their mobile phone (the website is a faster ramp-up) and use a queue system there.

Customer Billing. You take a deposit from the customer to cover any unpaid future billing and send them an invoice each month to pay. Use a payment platform that takes payments from around the world to your bank account.

This allows you to be in Dubai quietly, making global money. You shop at all the malls, jog on Kite Beach, and stop at the Starbucks trailer to enjoy some mocha. You are not even thinking about the city, those folks you left behind, and that job that didn’t respect you.

Remember that we live in disruptive times, and the world is changing, and opportunities may be much easier than you think if you know how to look around instead of waiting for someone to tell you.

For shops – no shop should be running an old school style of customers just walking in and picking stuff off the rack. SMS virtual queues are the best solution. 


Ed Dunn

From Chicago West Side to Worldwide