Music makes the world go around. There are few places in today’s High Street, from stores and salons and restaurants and pubs, where it does not add to the overall experience. Even banks, building societies and many an office are aware of the positive benefits of music.
Yet even today, and particularly at this time of year, businesses can get the music mix so wrong: constant Christmas tunes played on an endless loop – potentially irritating for customers and workers alike.
It needn’t be so, and often isn’t. Forget the generic CDs on repeat, savvy retailers, restauranteurs and other businesses realise that, rather than background music, in-store streaming is all about the “now”.
Live services allow people to interact and businesses to tailor their communications on the fly: providing news, entertainment and promotions to boost consumer mood and more. You’re providing an experience, creating an atmosphere. It’s real time, it’s immediate and it fosters a sense of community.
Our clients, including JD Sports, HSBC and Subway understand the power of music, delivered in-house, on brand and, increasingly, away from the business premises through Smartphone apps that also deliver supporting content such as promotions, forums and location services.
And it is not only customers who benefit from these brand-based stations: it also boosts the morale of employees; impacts their productivity and allows them to feel part of a bigger whole.
Could in-store “radio” actually be your most effective employee engagement tool?
There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, engaged and productive employees than good communication.
It absolutely makes sense for today’s brands to become media owners, curating experiences that reach their audiences. And one of a brand’s audiences, its potential biggest advocates, is its employees themselves.
Take HSBC, whom we first started working with in 2005, trialling the HSBC Live station that was later rolled out to its network of 1,100 branches. Its brief was to create a more consistent retail environment, providing a mix of news, music and sport as well as promotions for the bank’s range of financial services. It became apparent early on that customers appreciated the service – but so too did HSBC’s body of 45,000 staff in the UK.
Unsurprising: as a broadcaster I know how music especially is woven into our identity as human beings and influences our mood and energy levels. If it works for a consumer in a shop just how much more powerful is it for that till worker, that bank cashier, hairdresser or waiter in that environment for a shift of some six hours or more?
There’s growing evidence to support this claim. In one study a University of Illinois researcher gave MP3 players to 75 out of 256 retail staff to wear at work for four weeks. At the end of the test, the music listeners showed a 10% jump in productivity and were described as being “less nervous, less fatigued, more enthusiastic and more relaxed at work than the people in the control group”.
And research conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management has argued that managers could cut absence from sickness by seven million days a year simply by switching on the radio.
Take that a step further: with a bespoke service, businesses can use audio as a channel to reinforce the corporate brand, bring together disconnected employees and communicate key messages through a shared experience. Think of shout-outs to colleagues, or slots before and after opening and closing hours to rally the workforce or deliver pertinent information.
I think that’s particularly powerful when it comes to Britain’s increasingly fragmented workforce. As we increasingly move to more flexible working solutions, such as working from home, on the road or as the use of contractors, subcontractors and occasional workers grows, it is vital businesses are able to communicate simply, easily and in a human way.
Where the workforce is remote and opportunities to collaborate are challenging, sound is – perhaps – our biggest asset.
Openreach is one such example. We’ve worked with the BT-owned infrastructure provider to bring its employees (most of whom are on the road) a 24/7 real time digital audio channel via their phones. Such an App can, of course, also support employee initiatives such as documents, interactive video, messaging and more – all contained within a single, staff-focused hub.
Such streams or stations allow workers to feel part of a bigger community whether they’re front of house, in head office or on the road. It also gives employers an immediate feed-back loop. Who’s listening when, what and how? What are they saying? The data from such services, increasingly, will feed into the business and allow functions such as HR greater insight into the minds of their staff.
Since launching in 2000 as in-store radio providers we’ve seen a rapid evolution of the brand audio landscape – and in a mobile-first, digital and increasingly fragmented world I can only see this continuing.
It’s good for business, good for our customers and good for the productivity, health and wellbeing of our staff – who are our biggest brand advocates for better or for worse.
After all, we’re better, connected.