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How Retail Media Networks and brand advertisers can get in-store audio right

At Threefold, our 15 years of experience operating more than 10 Retail Media Networks for major retailers tells us the greatest success comes in using a variety of touchpoints that reach shoppers wherever, whenever and however they shop.


Effective retail media campaigns consider the non-linear shopper journey and select the optimal channels to reach the right audience at the right time.


We know there’s a massive potential to level up in-store retail media, especially in the US and Canada, where it hasn’t been retailers’ top priority. As retailers finally unlock the power behind their physical footprints, where over 80% of transactions take place, they’ll unlock the massive potential to drive sales for brands through their robust, omnichannel RMNs.


One way retailers and their media networks can leverage the stores is through in-store audio. In-store audio, radio or sound offers the chance for brands to meet shoppers while they’re in-store, even if they aren’t looking directly at a piece of media. In-store audio is a key factor in determining a store’s ambiance for shoppers, and it represents numerous, still untapped, possibilities for brands.


We tapped Nick Larkins, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Qsic, to explain how retailers can best approach out-of-home audio to increase sales and build loyalty.


Nothing is more disheartening than stepping into a cold, sterile store devoid of any atmosphere. The customer's journey within a retail space holds the power to shape their dwell time and influence potential purchases.
Nick Larkins is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Qsic.

Threefold: Describe Qsic in three words.

Nick Larkins: Revolutionizing in-store media


Threefold: Let’s dig deeper – what is Qsic and how does it approach in-store audio?

Nick: Qsic is not just an audio out-of-home provider for enterprise businesses; we are a pioneering force in creating tailored audio solutions. Our commitment is to craft immersive in-store environments for our clients by pushing the boundaries of innovation in the audio space. At Qsic, we pride ourselves on being solution-focused and dedicated to understanding and fulfilling the unique needs of our clients.


In our relentless pursuit of excellence, we venture into uncharted territories, consistently introducing world-first technologies that redefine what's possible in audio experiences.


Threefold: What makes in-store audio an important touchpoint for advertisers in retail media today?

Nick: Customer Experience: Nothing is more disheartening than stepping into a cold, sterile store devoid of any atmosphere. The customer's journey within a retail space holds the power to shape their dwell time and influence potential purchases. Therefore, attention must be paid to crafting an immersive and inviting customer experience.


Brand Identity: A brand transcends beyond a mere logo; it should envelop the senses. For example, our client, McDonald's, can be identified in all categories;

  • Taste: The unmistakable flavor of the Big Mac sauce is instantly recognizable.

  • Hearing: The “badabababa I’m Lovin it” tagline is iconic and recalled today.

  • Sight: The golden arches stand as a visual beacon, identifiable even without accompanying text.

  • Smell: The distinct aroma that permeates every McDonald's store is etched in our memory.

  • Touch: Items like the unmistakable skinny French fries can be identified even when blindfolded.


Measurability: The use of first-party data elevates our ability to measure campaign effectiveness. Through closed-loop reporting, we can seamlessly identify uplift using straightforward methodologies, providing insights that other media channels simply cannot.


Targeting: Leveraging first-party data opens the door to precise segmentation. Advertisers can tailor in-store audio messages based on specific locations, times of day, or customer demographics. This level of customization ensures that promotional messages are not just broadcasted but strategically delivered, reaching the right audience at precisely the right moment.


Threefold: What parts of the marketing funnel can in-store audio ads influence?

Nick: While in-store audio is commonly viewed as a lower-funnel product universally, we challenge this notion, positioning in-store audio ads as a full-funnel strategy. The broad impact of an audio campaign spanning 1000 stores transcends mere engagement with individuals at the bottom of the sales cycle.


Consider, for instance, a fuel/gas station scenario where the audience encompasses all customers refueling. While not every customer may be inclined to purchase an energy drink or chocolate during that visit, the exposure creates awareness that resonates beyond the immediate moment. This repetitive exposure serves as a conduit, moving individuals from a state of awareness to active consideration, effectively capturing audiences across the upper layers of the marketing funnel in addition to those primed for immediate purchase.


Threefold: How does audio compare to other media channels in-store when thinking about performance?

Nick: In contrast to other media, you can’t close your ears. Unlike visual content that demands focused attention, audio possesses the remarkable ability to be passively consumed, allowing individuals to seamlessly tune in and out based on their interests. Unlike the constraints of visual media, such as driving where sustained screen attention could lead to accidents, audio can be comfortably consumed for extended durations, effortlessly integrating into one's daily activities.


Threefold: Retail Media above all else should be about making the shopping experience better. How do we ensure in-store audio is unobtrusive yet effective?

Nick: At Qsic, we're dedicated to crafting an unparalleled overall experience. Our approach involves tailoring solutions that elevate every facet—from ads and messaging to music.


Achieving the perfect harmony among these three elements ensures that both customers and staff not only engage with the experience but genuinely relish it, turning what could be a mere interaction into a seamless and enjoyable encounter.


Threefold: What do advertisers need to think about when creating audio ads to help them win?

Nick: Make your audio memorable. Ensure you have sonic branding, as this will be linked to your brand for years to come. This sonic identity becomes ingrained in the minds of your audience, enhancing brand recall when the opportune moment arises to unveil a promotional campaign. Elevate your audio presence, and let it become a timeless signature of your brand essence.


Rapid fire

  1. The future of retail media is: in-store

  2. In 2024, I’m looking forward to: seeing how generative AI can help the audio space soar to new heights. The more AI can help us save time will allow us to refine areas that improve return on investment.

  3. The biggest misconception about retail media is: it isn’t here yet. Those who are waiting for the rocket to launch are being left on earth while large retailers are already in space or are on the moon. Don’t get left behind - take advantage of the power of retail media today!


About Ella Rice

Ella Rice is a client manager in the Threefold North America team, where she supports CPGs in planning, building and measuring retailer campaigns. Prior to her role at Threefold, Ella spent three years on the Plan-Apps team within SMG, supporting CPGs with insights on campaign performance and building consultancies that leveraged Plan-Apps data. Ella previously worked as an account manager for a digital marketing agency. Want to chat about how Threefold can supercharge your retail media strategy? You can reach her at ella.rice@threefold.team.


About Threefold

Founded in 2008, Threefold is the world's leading Retail Media Network (RMN) specialist, headquartered in both New York and London. As part of the SMG agency network, which employs over 250 retail media experts, Threefold's primary mission is to unlock incremental CPG budgets, curate media campaigns that supercharge sales and elevate its retail partners into top-tier omnichannel media owners, spanning in-store, off-site and online.


Threefold's services include consultancy, evaluation, and a white-label in-house solution that has seen the agency build, run and operate over 10 Retail Media Networks to date. In the UK, Threefold runs and operates Walgreens' Boots Media Group and Morrisons Media Group, and additional live partners include major retailers like Asda, The Co-op and The Very Group.


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