On-hold marketing

From fashion to food, high street to online, there’s never a dull moment in retail. Store openings and closures, pop-ups, new product launches, endorsements and partnerships are a daily development. The opportunities are endless, but so are the threats.

That’s why an integrated and innovative approach to marketing – from digital billboards to social media in generating footfall – is essential in ensuring brand dominance. Yet the most successful retailers also recognise that sometimes going back to the basics of one-to-one communication can reap real dividends. 

Call first

The telephone is still a valuable marketing tool in creating that all important first and lasting impression. But only if the caller experience is a positive one.

Customers who phone retail outlets and customer service or ordering lines can instantly develop a perception of a brand based on how their call is handled. From store opening times to stock availability or placing an urgent order for next day delivery, all queries should be handled professionally, courteously – and swiftly. Time may be precious but our research suggests retailers keep callers on hold for an average of 51.97 seconds, nearly a whole minute. 

This becomes particular cause for concern in the light of an independent survey which revealed that 73 per cent of Brits wouldn’t buy from a company again if their first call wasn’t handled to expectations.   

Hanging on the telephone

It is surprising how many retailers overlook the importance of an on-hold strategy. But no customer wants to hear repetitive ‘please wait’ messages, monotonous beeps, anodyne pan pipes or confusing silence. That’s why callers hang up feeling frustrated and head straight to the tills of a competitor. 

However, a customer on hold doesn’t have to equate to the loss of a sale – or even a tirade on twitter or a feud on Facebook. Once ‘dead’ telephone down-time can be easily and effectively turned into a marketing opportunity. 

Carefully scripted, brand congruent and timely on-hold messages are a perfect promotional opportunity to entertain, inform and engage customers. Think like a customer and put yourself in their shoes – how would you like to be treated? What information would keep you on the line? 

A perfect match

On-hold marketing complements a company’s existing brand image through sound. The voice, music and message – from accent to pitch to tempo – can influence brand perception.  

Our industry experience has found that retailers tend to use two approaches to music. High-end retailers feature more electronic and processed sounds and may also be in a minor key, aligning with societal associations of exclusivity, luxury and high fashion runways. 

High street and mass-market retail take a more direct and unprocessed approach, favouring major tonality and bright, fresh live instrumentation. It will invariably also have a simple and memorable lead melody, in direct contrast to high fashion’s more textural and atmospheric composition. 

 However both tend to use female voiceovers – the tone will be friendly and engaging, inviting people to spend in a relatable, “you deserve this” manner.  

When it comes to script, the opportunities are endless. Retailers could promote upcoming sales or new product launches, a personal shopping event or seasonal promotions and loyalty schemes. Customers can be given practical information about opening hours and nearby parking or new brand initiatives to go green. On-hold marketing can also be very reactive to lifestyle trends or special events throughout the year from Mother’s Day to the birth of a celebrity baby or sporting event. 

Ultimately, on-hold marketing provides retailers with chance to increase store footfall, uplift website traffic, boost sales and keep customers happy. And a happy customer will shop again and share their experience and purchases on their next Instagram post. 

And retailers can’t put a price on that. 

Mark Williamson, sales and marketing director at PHMG


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