Why is in-store radio so rubbish?

Why is in-store radio so rubbish?

An arguable topic – Is in store radio necessary? Does it work? What is the point of it? Should it have presenters?

Well obviously the makers of it will say that it does work, why wouldn’t they? But does it really?

I was in Starbucks recently who have a clothing store attached to them. The barista asked me why they hadn’t seen me recently to which I replied “this stupid radio station” and pointed at the tiny speakers mounted high in the rafters coming from the adjacent store, not Starbucks. Another man in the queue overheard my conversation with the barista and made a point of agreeing, “Yes its awful I can’t stand it either” he says.

In-store radio, when it is done in a lazy, low, budget way is worse than not having in-store radio at all.

In the example above, the radio station above plays cheap pop music on cheap speakers along with shouty irritating voice-overs on commercials.

Unless in-store radio is done properly we just don’t want it thank you. It seems that heads of marketing at these brands are desperate for ways to keep the boss happy, and as long as that is the case, there will be a continuing growth of cheap in-store radio until someone says. “God this is a waste of money”.

For these heads of marketing…there are of course less offensive ways of improving sales, such as:

  1. Ensuring that the music is carefully considered in each outlet and not played through a tannoy.
  2. Ensuring that point of sale material is clear, unique and engaging.
  3. Ensuring that the offers are clearly marked and placed in store.
  4. Ensuring that the out-of-store marketing has done its job correctly.
  5. Ensuring that footfall is made comfortable with the right lighting, temperature, customer service, furnishings and other stimulus.

Look, there is no doubt that music does help shoppers engage. Certainly it can do a great deal for a store or a brand, it can:

  • Make a customer feel excited to be in the store.
  • Make a customer feel something emotionally making them want to stay longer or buy something.

But, screaming at them with the cheapest voice from cheese-ville is not this. This is just an interruption.

It seems that many of these marketing geniuses who implement such low budget in-store “solutions” clearly have very little idea on the the number one sales principal, which is…

Nobody likes  being sold to.  instoreradio

Well-respected brands doing in-store radio badly is rather like Key 103 suddenly deciding to be a supermarket!

With the exception of brands like SuperDry, G Star, Selfridges, Harrods and Hollister, most shops get it so wrong it is embarrassing.

Sure, I agree, telling customers in a supermarket that beans are on offer at £1 for 4 tins is a great idea, but isn’t that what a tannoy is for?

Since the new trend of “having your own in-store radio” has taken off, things have gone from bad to pretty appalling in a very short space of time and something has to change.

The problem is not always the production company’s content but the buyer and their expectations.

Effectively what brands appear to be saying here is that it is ok to spend no money on in-store radio. No it is not.  They might as well not bother.

This is rather like these brands buying a TV ad with sole purpose of it being rubbish. It just wouldn’t happen. So why is it allowed to happen inside their stores?

Harrods have a different strategy. They have exceptional sound systems. Music is programmed by an in house expert and zones are placed around the store, in an elaborate plan to enhance the shopping experience. There is also no messaging. Now, why wouldn’t the world’s most famous department store employ messaging? Because it’s vulgar perhaps?

The Post Office had a reasonable idea once by employing presenters to warmly talk customers through the enormous range of products that the Post Office offers. In their pilot scheme run by Immedia Plc. the music was soothing so were the presenters and the in-store radio was a kind of musical Radio 4. As awareness exercise for those stood in the queues it certainly was a sensible proposition. The Post Office however had other ideas.

HSBC operate a similar concept, which has been running for a number of years successfully. The music is played softly the presenters are softly spoken and they exchange valuable information about the financial products available. To me this makes perfect sense and seems to be a viable expenditure allocation from their marketing budget.

But… Clothing stores, supermarkets, and superstores need to be smarter or they may as well give up.

One superstore even plays music “not by the original artist”. There aren’t words to describe how utterly stupid and borderline insulting this is. If they won’t afford to pay to play music properly, they should just either play piped music with occasional messages or switch it off. That way we could all shop without being subjected to karaoke versions of our favourite songs.

What head of marketing thinks it is ok to subject their customers to joke music? clown

It started out all very well in the 80s. TopShop Radio employed top paid DJs to play music in store, do messages and entertain the shoppers. Brilliant…. Shelved.

I am not blaming the producers of this content, although they could do better in places. It’s not their fault; they have to do what they can with budget that they have and of-course they do have margins to consider.

The problem mainly lies with retailers that think that spending no money on a service is better than spending proper money on it. Actually no. If you are not going to do it properly don’t bother.

We could be forgiven for thinking that some of the marketing bosses are adopting in-store radio station for ego reasons or because their competitors have one. They certainly seem to be oblivious to the fact that their stores sound awful or that the staff have turned it off.

Naturally these marketing directors will show that sales are up ever since they have had these stations. They need to, to keep their job. But they really should be ashamed of themselves, because frankly most of it is shit.

Lets get down to basics. Music in coffee shops on small speakers needs to be background music. Music in supermarkets the same. Adding messages is where it gets very tricky. The buyers need to understand that if they pay peanuts, they get shouty nonsense. Shoppers don’t want shouty nonsense.

Spending millions of pounds encouraging a person into a store and then bludgeoning them over the head with cheap badly produced content is rather like throwing money down the drain. Spending this money on offers and encouraging footfall or conversions is surely better asset allocation.

Let’s face it, have you ever been in a store and heard a message and then gone and bought a product? Asked a question? I suspect not. Have you stayed in a store for longer because they happen to be playing your favourite song through 2-inch speakers 70ft away?

Have you ever chosen one store over another because it plays music?

Granted, some studies have been done by some of the producers of this in store content, which illustrated an upscale of ePos data, but in these cases it emerged that awareness and spending was increased as a result of “presenter led” in-store “suggestion” and not just messaging. These findings did indicate that the brands that operated “presenter led” content in-store seemed to work.

But presenters on in-store radio costs money right? Yep. And so does a decent TV ad! online Ad, or viral campaign.

As I sit here in Costa Coffee, the music is low, the songs are well chosen and the speakers are appropriate for the job. The music is loud enough to create a coffee shop atmosphere and I am happy. Whoever produces this content for Costa, well done.

However if I was drinking a cappuccino and suddenly a dribbling 14-year-old girl came on telling me to buy a sandwich I would probably scold myself by pouring hot water on my face.

Now at this point, on a blog about radio presenters, you might be tempted to think:

“Hang on, you are presenters, this is a bit harsh” …“the customers aren’t as sensitive as you, they don’t care as much as you do”

“Great well if that’s the case and they don’t care, why don’t you just switch it off, if they don’t care they probably wouldn’t notice”

There are more than 2 voice-overs in the world, and there are lots and lots of very good presenters. With some careful consideration and casting, brands could develop some interesting products in store that might enhance a shopping experience.

Playing lots of pop songs through cheap speakers mounted way too high and are not suitable for the job is not the answer. Playing ridiculously made commercials with the same 3 voice-overs on them isn’t either.

If shops and stores want to enter into the space of becoming a content broadcaster, then they need to employ heads of these departments who have an inclination on what they are doing. Julie, who is head of marketing for Summersville Supermarkets might know a hell of a lot more than most about where to put Tuna, but she clearly hasn’t the faintest idea on entertainment or broadcasting.

There are excellent examples of in-store entertainment; the best are those we do not notice. These are subtle and suiting in their approach, they have presenters or narrative voices that suggest rather than sell, they have stringently chosen playlists, and suitable hardware to play them on. They are presenter led and the content is always targeted, specific and utterly relevant. There will always be a place for this type of ambient enhancement.

Other examples excite us with their synced worldwide play-out systems, which pump brand precise music all over the world simultaneously through highly designed sound architecture. They make shopping in their stores an event.

At its worst it is saddening that the footfall of some other stores can be 20 times that of a small local radio station yet the attention to detail is 20 times less.

In these cases, please just bring back panpipes. pan pipesAuthor of the book Walking On-Air – At Amazon

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