Last month was another tough one for many retailers. While holiday sales were up, the big gainer was the ecommerce industry. Malls and free-standing stores have been mightily disrupted by online shopping. And as we covered in a post last week, many big name retailers find themselves in dire straits heading into the new year.
And yet, one of the hottest trends in retail is mobile – and we're not talking smartphones and tablets. Instead, savvy, agile retailers have acquired adaptability and flexibility by escaping the tentacles of brick and mortar commitments in the form of pop-up stores – small, movable retail concepts that help smaller brands gain visibility and proximity. And in some cases, major names are experimenting with the pop-up trend, too.
Maybe this retail movement got started with the food truck craze – those rolling purveyors of specialty eats that provide more variety for consumers, often in high-traffic areas. Some of the best meals I enjoyed last year were prepared and delivered from a truck parked in front of an office building. A trend that took flight in Los Angeles nearly a decade ago has now made its way throughout the country, making it possible for chefs to take their creations to people – rather than the conventional restaurant model where we go to where the food is.
For retailers, a pop-up store isn't as simple as securing the space and dropping a temporary structure in place. They need a back-end – data, systems, beacons – all tools that many brick and mortar stores have embraced because of the ecommerce disruption. Not surprisingly, companies like Samsung have come up with products to meet their nomadic needs, a concept they call Connected Spaces.
A big part of the appeal behind pop-ups is summed up by Samsung, noting that “every customer experience matters. According to research…89% of retailers say that how they handle customer interactions is the way to stand out.”
So what about radio?
Despite the consolidation and the economies that big broadcasters have enjoyed, radio is at its heart an intensely local business. In the same way smaller retailers and specialty stores can reap the benefits of the pop-up model, so too can radio enjoy customer interaction and eye-to-eye contact.
And unlike businesses – where data, systems, and structures are necessities – radio can provide its version of pop-ups (commonly known as “remotes”) with a vehicle, a personality, basic engineering equipment, and some swag. Last I checked, most radio stations in the U.S. have these basics – or can simply and inexpensively acquire them.
For retailers, pop-ups are an excellent antidote to global brands and ecommerce sites that have limited market presence – or are tethered to a location or two. They provide adaptability, and an even wider geography than big box stores or online sellers.
The radio analogy holds up well here. Local market presence, agility, and portability are radio's best allies in a rapidly changing environment where engagement and consumer connections matter. And the ability to target specific areas of the metro, including hot zips, is precisely the same strategy used by food trucks and pop-up stores. It's the kind of marketing and promotional activity that's difficult for mega-brands like Google or Apple.
The radio industry would do well to strategize its street presence above and beyond sales fulfillment and sponsorships. “Pop-up radio” could set the medium and its smartest brands apart – in a meaningful, visible way.
And yet as we blogged about last year, Amazon is wheeling out their own version of pop-up stores – “Treasure Trucks” they're deploying in markets throughout the U.S.
It may just be a matter of time before global music and entertainment brands like Spotify, Pandora, or SiriusXM wheel out their versions of street visibility in local cities and towns.
Now that we're ensconced at CES in Vegas, we're experiencing the tech assault we expected as gadgets, exhibits, and marketers cram into Sin City to display their latest and greatest.
But innovation isn't just about gadgets, technology, and digital platforms. It's also about being highly visible and attacking a geography with a smart street presence. When it comes to visibility, radio can be out of the box by embracing models it has historically owned, honed, and perfected over the decades – a strong ground attack.
And perhaps if we lose the term “remotes,” and replace that hackneyed concept with a more contemporary narrative – like “pop-up radio” – we might sell more of them for more money. And if conceived, staffed, and equipped properly, radio might just enjoy higher ratings and sales. Not to mention audience engagement and great branding.
Take it to the streets.