If we timed this correctly, you may actually read this post BEFORE an FM radio station in the U.S. flips over to Christmas music this holiday season. Like clockwork, Halloween signals the time many stations throw out their AC or Country formats to focus on Brenda Lee, the Beach Boys, and Burl Ives.
This year, Paul Jacobs takes off his sales hat in favor of a Santa cap to talk about the opportunities broadcast radio has this holiday season. This is a challenging time of year as Q4 winds down, everyone in the station takes time off, and the pressure is on to maximize the December shopping season.
The good news is that we learn a little something with each passing year. And in today's post, Paul will give you the wisdom of his experience slogging through another holiday season marathon. And you can sure it won't be ruined by the Grinch, Mr. Potter, or Elmo and Patsy. -FJ
The other morning I got into my car and drove to work and there it was – frost on my windshield – a reminder we are truly near the end of the year and any day now we’ll be seeing Christmas displays everywhere, from shopping malls to bagel stores. (Note to self: buy a new scraper.)
For radio, this time of the year is the next best thing to a hot political campaign, where advertisers pig out on a ton of spots in order to capture their share of the holiday buying season.
But along with a White Christmas comes some storm clouds on the horizon that should force stations to take a different, more aggressive approach in order to save the Christmas advertising season and make that all-important Q4 goal.
This bout of bad weather comes in the form of e-commerce, which has the potential to significantly erode local retail – and with it, radio's fair share of holiday ad spend. In a recent article in Digital Content 360, various forecasters project online sales to grow anywhere from 13.5% to 22% this holiday season. Overall holiday shopping is expected to grow between 4.3% and 4.8%, a healthy jump. But so much is now hinged on e-commerce.
But if gift buying is gravitating online, will ad dollars shift to digital and away from traditional media?
Susan Wu, Director of ForecastView at Forrester, believes it will. She summarizes the shift in consumer behavior and the impact on traditional media this way:
“Shoppers are using more online sources than ever: apps, wish lists, online gift registries, social media, and blogs have all grown over the past three years. By contrast, traditional sources such as circulars, catalogs, direct mail, magazines, television, radio, and inspiration within a retail store have all declined over the same period.”
We saw this clearly in Techsurvey 2018. We asked our 64,000+ respondents this past January and February how much of their shopping the previous holiday season was online. Over four-in-ten (41%) say they did “all” or “most” of their shopping from the comfort of their cubicles, couches, Barcaloungers, or bedrooms. And while Millennials lead the way, Xers, Boomers, and even the Silent generation are doing their part to keep Amazon and other e-tailers warm with Christmas cheer.
No radio station, cluster, or company is strong enough to go up against a behemoth like Amazon. Nor can we change consumer behavior by selling people on the concept of going shopping in 20 degree weather to buy a sweater for Dad when they can do it from the comfort of a home or office.
But radio has some true advantages over other media. And to ensure you and your radio team enjoy a happy holiday season, consider changing your approach to optimize your appeal to advertisers.
So, here are seven ways radio can save Christmas:
1.Bah humbug! – Amazon is a faceless warehouse somewhere, and there is no joy, companionship, or warm family feelings in their shopping experience. It’s totally transactional. Radio stations provide a sense of place, and are connected to local businesses. To stand apart, focus on developing great experiences with either individual retailers, area malls, or even downtown business districts. Work with them to bring in entertainment, food, and other attractions to make getting out of the house a memorable shopping experience. Activities for families can be especially successful in pumping up attendance. Create theme nights and other experiential benchmarks targeted at specific groups of shoppers.
2. It's a man's world – When it comes to shopping, not really. But men are a great example of a specific, misunderstood group of shoppers who defy the stereotype. In 2016, men spent 69% more money during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, according to Mindshare. Targeting promotions around them could be an effective way to ring cash registers by appealing to a group that is often ignored. Local retailers are looking for any edge, so information like this could be a way to position your station as a vehicle to capture their dollars.
3. Going mobile – Forrester's Susan Wu mentions mobile apps first in her list of the ways consumers will shop this season. And according to the data-oriented ad platform Criteo, more than half of all online shopping this season will be via mobile devices. These days, most radio stations have apps, but how many of them are capable of providing a holiday shopping guide, coupons, or other locally-focused way of connecting advertisers to their listeners? It’s getting late, but if you’re a jacapps client we can help you out. If not, well you know where to find us. And if you can’t get your app updated in time for Black Friday, consider creating holiday shopping guides on your website. Anything you can do to help local retailers connect with customers digitally works in your favor.
4. Last minute shopping (you know who you are) – One thing about Christmas shopping that remains consistent through the decades – men are notorious procrastinators. In their projections for this holiday season, BlackFriday.com predicts “The largest contingent of women (29%) say they’ll start in early November, while the largest contingent of men (31%) won’t start until early December. Men are last-minute shoppers – if they comprise a big percentage of your audience (I’m talking to you, sports and rock-formatted stations), consider special packages and events for mid-December. And remind your retail clients that even late in the season is the right time to reach those tardy ears.
Don't Like Mondays – If you create digital solutions for clients, don’t forget about Cyber-Monday. According to retail analytics firm, Euclid, consumers are actually more excited about deals on Cyber Monday (72%) than on Black Friday (62%). The local retailers in your metro are going to want to get a piece of that action, and digital solutions are the way to go. If your station doesn't have those capabilities, partner on in-store events to drive traffic into stores on this important shopping day.
6. Who's the competition? – If you're a Christmas music station, you might want to think about stepping up your game this year. That's because even if you're the only FM radio station in town playing Bing Crosby, Michael Buble, and “Feliz Navidad” in your market, you are not alone. That's because your “other competitors” – notably SiriusXM, Spotify, and other streamers are all-in this year.
SiriusXM is partnering with the Hallmark Channel to kick off their holiday music scene with personality – in the form of Candace Cameron Bure (“Full House”), known as the Queen of Christmas. Everyone has taken note of broadcast radio's surge for Christmas music each year. Now, stations will have to ask what it is about their holiday presentation that positively differentiates it from a field of worthy competitors.
7. Testing, testing – Whether you're playing Perry Como or Perry Farrell over the holidays, one thing's for certain – thousands of radio listeners in your hometown will be unwrapping smartphones, tablets, and smart speakers this holiday season.
Remind them you have an app or they can listen to your radio station via Alexa. At jacapps, we see app downloads spike every Christmas and Hanukkah season, usually starting around Thanksgiving. You can enable and reinforce this behavior with well-crafted, well-placed, and frequent reminders to test drive their hot new toys with your software.
The world has changed, and while local advertisers continue to spend the bulk of their dollars during the holidays, there’s no guarantee they're coming broadcast radio’s way. Radio has the reach and the megaphone, but it’s time to develop new ways and platforms to deliver that audience if we want to have a cheery holiday season.
It's the best way to avoid coal in those stockings.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
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