Q&A: Retail radio cost declines with the right technology

How cost-effective retail radio solutions can help brands reach their customers through relevant, highly targeted and timeous communication.

Radio industry veteran, musician and entrepreneur, Jon Savage, was frustrated by the structure and costs associated with traditional radio broadcasting and advertising. Looking to disrupt the status quo he turned to digital radio and started The Eye, exploring new technologies and the marketplace. He wanted to find out how to build a light-weight radio station (i.e., flat structured, nimble and low-cost) that could deliver better returns for advertisers, than those delivered by major commercial radio stations. Having The Eye run third party radio stations is an economical solution for both retailers and brands.

Now, heading up inBroadcasting at HaveYouHeard agency, Savage produces bespoke retail radio stations for large retailers like Sportscene. Created and programmed by inBroadcasting, Sportscene Radio was launched mid-2021 via a live broadcast from the chain’s new store in Sandton City. Programming includes a weekly live show by DJ Jo Lumka, and daily music compiled by inBroadcasting’s The Eye radio team. As a broadcaster, Sportscene Radio will be able to forge closer relationships with their customers, ensuring that communication with them is relevant, highly targeted and timeous, explained Savage.

How did you start to revolutionise the retail radio space?

For us, the retail radio space was ground zero when it came to putting technology to the test. And it more than rose to the occasion. Everyone knows that today’s mobile devices have the same functionality and capabilities of an entire broadcast station. But five years ago, we didn’t know how we could apply that to radio. So, we started The Eye to give us the opportunity to spend time in software development and learning how to incorporate a brand’s voice into the mix.

Tell us about how technology is being deployed in this space?

Getting deeply involved in the technological development, the ‘backend’ so to say, was what really started this journey. And admittedly, the ability to record and broadcast audio digitally to millions is fairly simple, yet there were many other components we had to figure out – analytics, for example, algorithms and the like. It was here, at the ‘front end’ where things got more exciting. Applying technology and AI to the actual product was revolutionary. As an example, consider Spotify. Its advanced algorithm is able to compile playlists for subscribers based on data sourced from many sources.

What role do shopper analytics and data play?

The question we asked ourselves was, ‘How do we apply a similar approach to a broadcast audience which isn’t directly engaging with us?’ And we found a solution in technology. This led to us exploring the retail radio space, incorporating data from shopper behaviour analytics and social media engagements to build a very lightweight, highly-effective retail radio environment at a fraction of the cost.

Why is it a massive paradigm shift?

Firstly, there’s the physical part. They think ‘radio’ equals famous DJ behind a big computer screen with a big SM7B big radio broadcast mike, a massive mixing desk, callers phoning in, and senior management sitting upstairs. The reality is, we have proven that the same product can be delivered remotely using a mobile phone. Secondly, with ‘big radio’, audience reach and audience engagement metrics have only ever been ‘best estimates’ (small groups of people sampled to provide data which was then extrapolated over minutes, hours, weeks and months). This meant that a brand paying to reach the millions of listeners to a certain radio station was paying for the association with that radio station and for the potential audience, never a guaranteed audience. By contrast, the digital audio space can provide far more accurate metrics. These can say how many people listened to the ad (not just the content, but the ad itself), how many acted or engaged with it, and even whether this converted into a direct sale. Third, there’s the analytics that today’s technology delivers.

You say you are obsessed with the analytics. Explain why.

It’s no longer a case of people sitting in a room deciding on the playlists. We use machine learning and Spotify, TikTok, and Facebook analytics to study audiences and truly connect with them. We investigate the dips and spikes in shopping behaviour to understand what could have caused them, and then adapt programming to replicate them. Right now, we are creating software assets that will track sales conversion metrics. I’m a huge fan of that iconic retail radio offering, Mr Price Radio, as it set the bar for great retail radio. However, even the costs associated with it and its on-air format is beyond the budget of many of today’s brands. It’s time to think smart and use technology to bring them back to audio, and specifically retail audio.


Main image: Supplied.


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