Each week, Asda delivers a mix of music, ads and chat to customers through its in-store radio station. The channel reaches around 18 million shoppers each week – that’s double the number who tune into Radio 1 and three million more than listen to Radio 2.
Asda isn’t alone in having its own in-store channel: Ikea, Subway and HSBC also run in-branch stations, and several of the UK’s biggest high street chains and retail brands have experimented with radio over the past two decades – from Spar to Lloyd’s Pharmacy, Debenhams and Topshop.
In-store radio isn’t exactly a cutting-edge medium. In some ways, it feels strangely old fashioned – made for a time when customers didn’t have smartphones to keep them amused during idle moments in store. But it can have several benefits for brands. For a start, it allows them to communicate offers and products while customers are in their shop (and therefore, more likely to buy them). It can also create a better in-store experience – one that could keep customers browsing for longer. Think of any time you’ve sat in the car for a few minutes after pulling up at your house, just so you can catch the end of a song or an interesting chat show. If brands can do that with shoppers, there’s a chance they might also part with a little extra cash while they linger. And, of course, if brands can make a radio station that is entertaining and enlightening and has a carefully curated playlist, then people might feel a stronger affiliation to that brand as a result.
Budget beauty store Superdrug launched a radio station in 2013, which is broadcast live to 800 stores. Aimed at a younger audience – predominantly teens to twenty-somethings – it covers a mix of fashion, beauty and pop-culture in between playing chart hits.