Kirsty Bisset
Kirsty Bisset

The redefinition of retail radio

by Kirsty Bisset. As the digital voice begins whispering into every sector of our lives, the importance of audio as a critical marketing tool for the future will continue to accelerate.

by Kirsty Bisset. While the platform has been around for decades, smart retailers realise that deploying today’s digital technologies can seamlessly and elegantly expand the purpose of in-store radio – taking it from the simple ‘provide a pleasant physical environment’; to a more complex and fulfilling one that does just that, while concurrently optimising the customer-brand interactive experience; harnessing data analytics to increase foot traffic; and influencing purchase behaviour.

The new era in radio retail goes beyond utilising the findings in a 1966 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, in which researchers found that loud music caused shoppers to exit the store more quickly than soft music. And it exceeds even the reach of the four main musical components that psychologically influence consumer behaviour, as outlined on

  • Tempo – Studies show that shoppers will match the tempo playing inside a supermarket. When high tempo music is played, consumers spend less time browsing because they move more quickly through the store. When slower music is played, customers spend more time browsing, which can lead to impulse purchases. Knowing this, restaurants can play fast-tempo music to turn tables faster and seat more guests; and retail stores can play slower music to increase shopper browsing time.
  • Volume – Studies discovered that when noisy music plays in a supermarket, consumers spend less time in the store; when softer music plays, consumers spend more time in the store. Higher volume level in supermarkets negatively affects final ticket sales. Volume that is too jarring can create a distressed response in shoppers.
  • Genre – But, jazz and lounge music increases the amount of money consumers spend. Interestingly, classical music leads to the purchase of more expensive selections in wine stores. Companies should play music genres that align with the target audiences and the experiences the brand wants to evoke (for example, a fine dining restaurant versus a local bar with live music).
  • Music Mode – A 2011 study discovered that when mode and tempo perfectly combine, in-store sales increase. When downtempo music in minor (slow and sad) plays, in-store purchases increase. However, when downtempo music in major (slow and happy) are played, there is no noticeable increase in purchases.
Important marketing tool

As the digital voice begins whispering into every sector of our lives, the importance of audio as a critical marketing tool for the future will continue to accelerate. As such, brands need to think about audio content and its platforms as an integral, always-on part of their content marketing mix. This is largely due to the high accessibility of audio; there are almost no circumstances under which audio isn’t an option.

An excellent example of a local brand taking the strategic lead in this space is Sportscene. Not only does the latest hip-hop and rap play through its stores, quenching the audible thirst of its target customers, Sportscene Radio extends to the chain’s mobile app. Here, customers can continue to stream the station’s content while extending their experience by shopping through the app and receiving additional marketing messages.

If you’re one of those retailers seeking to use the power of sound to up your game, there are three key elements to consider when pulling together your in-store audio strategy.

  1. Messaging – The what. As with any and all marketing efforts, you need to decide what it is you want your consumers to hear and the necessary action or intention your messaging should evoke. What your customers hear will vary, depending on aspects such as seasonality, foot traffic, etc.
  2. Timing – The when. Working in tandem with messaging is timing. The objective is to create an environment or evoke a certain mood using music to align the customers’ behaviour with that you want to encourage at that point in time, for example, lingering longer.
  3. Behavioural Analytics – The how. An in-store radio strategy involves a lot more than just ‘pushing play’. Behavioural analytics can be used to develop an integrated broadcasting solution. This can include always-on streaming playlists curated to improve in-store mood as well as exciting, live-streamed events.

And, if you’re one of those retailers who doesn’t see the benefit of sound other than delivering that pleasant physical environment, I’ll admit that there is nothing more powerful than a live experience. But I’d like you to consider that live experiences are limited in their scale and reach, and are an expensive solution to boosting involvement and brand affiliation. By contrast, live broadcasting, or live content, such as that offered by digital radio technology, is that it gives retailers the opportunity to enhance customer experiences in real time and has the ability to allow the audience to interact with the content immediately in a two-way conversation.

Further, the fact that it streams means it can reach a bigger audience than those physically in the store at any one time, a fact which can result in increased return on investment. Finally, the relative low cost for brands of creating audio content also makes it easier for them to get in on the action.

The world is opening up (even if we aren’t quite post-COVID) and people will be heading into stores with the festive season looming. These customers are expecting more from retailers because they have become accustomed to receiving personalised messages from digital platforms like the ecommerce websites.

So, whether it’s simply playing music suited to your audience, including messaging or delving deeper into behaviours and shopper research and crafting an in-store audio strategy around the results, the message is clear: start now.


Main image credit: Photo by Alessandro Cerino on Unsplash.


Kirsty Bisset is Managing Director of HaveYouHeard Durban.




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