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Influencers and Smart Audio Ads are a Sound Retail Strategy

By Idil Cakim, SVP Research & Insights, Audacy

Retail Looks Great in Audio

Ahh, retail therapy. There’s nothing like smelling an enticing fragrance at a department store, sampling a trendy lipstick color in the mirror at the makeup counter, or imagining yourself rocking that newest fashion you’ve been eyeing up at your favorite online clothing site.

But what kind of marketing brings you to those retailers in the first place?

The traditional thinking is that brands, especially brands steeped in image like apparel or beauty, need consumer connections that are visual-based, like TV and video. The reality that many brands are discovering is that the leading factor for driving customers in-store or online is less about showing off the newest shoes, and more about building connection with the brand itself. With a powerful Audio strategy, these brands are able to make that steadfast connection, create the visual in the consumer’s mind – and drive in-person or online shopping.

Retailers Finding Success with Younger Shoppers through Audio

Today, audio marketing is about much more than ad spots — brands can take full advantage of an Audio company’s wide network of influencers, from local Radio DJs to Instagram-stars-turned-podcast-hosts. Strategically partnering with the right people is a nuanced way to adjust a brand’s image. In addition to driving a sale, a well-placed Audio advertisement can change a brand’s perception in the public eye.

All these principles are on display in a recent campaign we launched with a national department store. This brand wanted to position itself as the go-to gift buying destination for young female shoppers during Valentine’s Day. They turned to Audio because they knew they could plug directly into Audacy’s young, fashion-oriented audience. We aligned this brand with digital influencers, like Emma Chamberlain, who spoke authentically to their target audience through podcasts and social media. The brand developed a series of integrated podcast shopping guides, anchored around influencers’ top shopping picks for the holiday. These podcasts drove listeners to custom URLs where they could purchase products mentioned on the show. Timely, modern, and comprehensive, this campaign was an excellent example of how a retail brand can tap into audio’s best capabilities.

Which Retailers are Tapping into Audio?

Like department stores, some of the largest and fastest-growing retail and apparel brands are investing heavily in Audio to capture the minds, hearts, and dollars of younger shoppers.

  • UNTUCKit men’s shirts and other Millennial-focused brands are spending more than $1 million of their ad budgets to reach these youthful online shoppers1.
  • Helzberg Diamonds turns to Radio, spending more than $5 million to build its luxury brand with Millennials ready to tie the knot.1
  • Stitch Fix is spending more than $25 million in Radio advertising for its clothing styling service.1

The Results are In: There’s Never Been a Better Time for Brands to Take Advantage of Audio

It’s an exciting time for brands and customers alike. Experts are already predicting the fastest retail growth in more than 35 years.2 As advertisers search for the best places to reach their audiences, many are rediscovering and reinvesting in Audio channels to drive their goals of in-store shopping, online purchases, and audience growth.

In-store Shopping: Now that people are shopping in person again, foot traffic has reemerged as a critical metric for success, and nothing drives foot traffic like Radio. A TagStation report found that radio ads, on average, lift retail foot traffic by 22 percent. That number rises to 32 percent for image-based retail brands like the beauty sector.3 Radio and other Audio platforms do this so effectively because they typically reach people when they’re open-minded and on their own – what we at Audacy call ‘personal primetime’.

Online Purchases: This traffic boost isn’t limited to in-person shopping, either. Long before the pandemic shut down stores and pushed retail online, audio was driving digital sales, and it continues to help encourage consumers to place those coveted online orders.

woman with cell phone and airpods

Case Study

It’s a Beautiful Thing

Everyone from legacy retail brands to Millennial-facing direct-to-consumer brands is investing in an Audio strategy, and with good reason. One high-end skincare brand’s female-targeted ad campaign generated extremely strong returns:

  • 170,000 web visits from ad-exposed listeners
  • 2,500 online orders
  • $2.40 return on ad spend

Audience Growth: Audio also appeals to retail brands because of the audience it can provide. Image-focused shoppers and younger audiences can be hard to reach. But audio happens to be incredibly popular with that eternally covetable demo – the youth. 38 Million Gen Z and Millennials listen to Audacy networks each month4.

There’s never been a better time to launch a strategic audio campaign. Retail is already booming. At the top of 2021, the National Retail Federation made bullish predictions about the return of retail, projecting growth of 8.2%. They’ve recently revised that prediction — they think growth will be even greater, somewhere between 10.5% and 13.5%. That number means retail could lodge $4.56 trillion in sales in 2021 alone. For brands looking to reap some of those rewards, they’re taking advantage of voice-activated smart audio ads – to integrate audio advertising, smart speaker adoption and direct brand engagement.

Smart Audio Ads

STEP 1 – THE SETUP: Develop virtual assistant skills (think Alexa) to answer key product questions, share brand information, and engage in a two-way interaction from a shopper’s phone or smart speaker.

STEP 2 – THE AD: Retailers embed skill training into audio ads with a call to action such as ending an ad spot with, “Tell Alexa to open ‘Brand ABC Engage’.”

STEP 3 – THE SHOPPER: Once a user tells Alexa to open the skill, the skill is then launched directly from their smart speaker. The branded voice experience can then send the user a text with a deep link to add a visual brand experience or to purchase products.

Do More with Audio

Advertisers often rely on marketing mix models to determine how much of their ad budgets to allocate to different channels and tactics. We partnered with Neustar, who undertook a meta-analysis of 40 brands to determine the optimal ad spend for four industries. In the retail space, the results were clear: audio overperforms but is currently under-allocated. A minor shift in 1.1 percent of ad spend toward audio delivers a 16 percent boost in return on ad spend (ROAS).

CLICK HERE for the comprehensive study, Audio Amplification: The Return on Ad Spend

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SOURCES

1 Kantar Media via Winmo, 2018-2020, Network and National Spot Radio

2 https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/09/retail-sales-to-rise-10point5percent-13point5percent-to-more-than-4point44-trillion-nrf-says.html

3 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-finds-retailers-see-over-20-traffic-lift-from-radio-ads-300720528.html

4 Act1, Audience Report, Nielsen Fall 2020

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