Musical Messaging

OnBrand highlights the impact that audio marketing can have on retail destination shoppers

Audio as a medium of communication is a powerful way to reach customers. Whilst many marketing plans will focus on communicating with shoppers through visual mediums such as video and print advertising, many more overlook the influence sound can have on the perceptions and emotions of consumers – whether conscious or unconscious.

Most shoppers will be generally oblivious to the music and announcements that are broadcast throughout shopping centres, so much so that the work that goes into creating the right playlists and scripts for every occasion is often overlooked. Daniel Graham, managing director of OnBrand Marketing says that audio or radio marketing is an important tool and used extensively in retail, and that using a central messaging platform, it is possible to target specific shoppers on different days of the week which is critical to retail success and overall commercial property footfall.

“According to an Edison Media Research study done a few years ago, audio marketing has been recognised as a powerful but subtle marketing tool,” says Graham. “It is all-encompassing, reaches everyone in the centre, but doesn’t stop people in their tracks.”

The study found that retailers saw significant returns on using audio media to drive consumers into their stores, and that ‘butterfly shoppers’ who had not predetermined where they will visit proved influenced by this type of media in the moment whilst they were shopping. The ultimate goals of the research were to determine just what level of recognition, retention, and response the shoppers had to targeted advertising via radio marketing, and examine the impact digitally-enhanced, custom-programmed music had on the shoppers’ experience.

“The study results revealed that shoppers were not only aware of messages delivered via radio marketing but in fact demonstrated a high recall rate of those messages,” tells Graham, explaining that the results have been proven accurate by work done during the pandemic.

Keri Ann Reid started working as an audio marketer for OnBrand six months before the pandemic hit.  Her work involves creating bespoke audio scripts and providing crafted music playlists and audio announcements for the 220 shopping centres that OnBrand looks after across the whole of the UK. In the ‘normal’ times, Graham tells, the work involves providing scripts, music playlists and creating pre-recorded voiceovers for retail outlets covering a huge variety of seasonal activities from Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, upcoming bespoke local charity events and much more. 

However, he tells, when the first lockdown came and the needs of the shopper evolved almost overnight, the type of content required changed dramatically: “We had to quickly move from preparing for a range of easily predictable seasonal events to having to keep on top of the news agenda and responding almost day by day to the changing rules around Covid-19,” says Graham.

Reid created over 50 different scripts covering different scenarios on mask-wearing, handwashing, social distancing as a pre-recorded pack that clients could pick and choose from. One of the challenges OnBrand faced in creating the content were the rules being different depending on which part of the country people were in, so they had to create bespoke audio for shopping centres in Northern Ireland and Scotland with alternative messaging.

“Some clients wanted their own bespoke messaging, such as introducing one way systems or special safety measures for delivery suppliers, so Keri and the team worked with voice artists to provide all kinds of solutions, as and when they were needed,”  says, noting that they recorded all scripts in male and female voices and allowed the client to pick the one that they feel best suits their customers. 

Graham says that it was more than just announcements that changed during the pandemic, as they recognised a need to make changes the ambient music playlists changed as well. “In general we create playlists for different moods,” he explains. “For example, we have feel good playlists, summer playlists, Christmas playlists, coffee break playlists – a whole range which are very popular depending on the time of year. During the pandemic, OnBrand created a ‘Covid playlist’ using songs like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, which he says proved quite popular.

However, as destinations recognised that music is known to extend dwell time, many decided to speed up the essential shopping times and so stopped playing music altogether in order to encourage shoppers to shorten the time they spent in stores, pick up essentials only, and go home.

Today, life is finally gradually returning to normal and although there is still a need for some Covid-related material in areas like Scotland, for the most part we are busy preparing for Mother’s Day, Easter events and Summer holidays as before. 

On where she sees audio services heading this year, Kerri-Ann Reid predicts an increase in messages being used to promote seasonal events: “We already have scripts lined up for the Jubilee and a Royalty/Monarchy playlist ready to go and we’re staying ahead of the game with newsletters promoting our generic messaging which we will have pre-written for our clients.

“There is now a definite increase in our clients using our service following the drop from Covid and we’re interacting with them more and will be contacting all of them to see if they need a refresh in their messaging.   We are also seeing an increase in the video side of the department. We already run audio to video for CIG Healthcare, and have done some work for LNER in this regard and we think this is a service that will grow.”

This month, says Graham, they are using music to extend shopping dwell time again, bringing the feel-good factor with upbeat playlists, and even creating relaxation zones or introducing unusual soundbites, such as morning birdsong for Kingfisher Shopping Centre in Redditch and we are investigating the use of recognisable nature sounds to support The Brewery, Romford with their series of wild animal murals, Walk on the Wild Side.

Looking ahead, he adds: “We’re hoping to expand our telephony services and promote the importance of having a good IVR system in place. We’re talking to our clients about a refresh of their telephony services and looking at their customer touchpoints. We are also marketing our telephony and IVR audit, where we’re able to pinpoint where their telephony call flows might be failing or need improvement.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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