Trader Joe’s and Barneys launch podcasts

Source: The Barneys Podcast/Apple Podcasts
May 07, 2018

Trader Joe’s wants to explain while Barneys New York looks to inspire as each launch their first podcasts.

As part of a five-part series, Trader Joe’s executives and store captains “open up about the way the retailer does business, what sets it apart from other grocers, where and how it discovers its products and what customers can expect in the future,” according to a release.

Topics include the shortage of parking at many locations, whether or not online selling is planned, and what listeners need to do to recruit a Trader Joe’s to their neighborhood.

Said Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel, “Inside Trader Joe’s has allowed us the air — literally — to delve a little deeper into our story and to answer the questions our customers have asked of us, in our own fun and interesting way. It’s a good start to a conversation we hope to continue.”

Barneys is taking a different approach with its eight-episode podcast. The series “celebrates fashion, style, culture — and most of all, personality” using interviews with related artists. In the first blog, Daniella Vitale, the first female CEO in Barneys’ 95-year history, speaks with artist and poet Cleo Wade about women’s issues and leadership. Designer Rick Owens, celebrity hair stylist Sally Hershberger, and chief content officer of Teen Vogue Phillip Picardi are also interviewed.

Said Ms. Vitale. “Being at the center of the creative and fashion worlds, Barneys New York has so many stories to tell.”

Once rarely used by retailers, podcasts are growing in popularity. According to Edison Research, 24 percent of the U.S. population listened to podcasts on a monthly basis in 2017, up from 12 percent in 2013. Millennials and Gen-X members are the most frequent listeners.

An infographic from Concordia University finds the growth being driven by the ubiquity of smartphones, online music services and time spent in transit. Multitasking potential as well as the “brain stimulating and addictive effects” of audio listening were also found to drive podcast’s appeal. A study from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center found that the retention rate of auditory learning is two-times higher than reading and four-times higher than attending a lecture.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see podcasts opening a deeper level of engagement with consumers for retailers? Will podcasts become an essential communication tool for retailers or is the opportunity limited?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"The question for me is why podcast? Visuals are so much more memorable from a story telling POV."
"Podcasts bring forward the human side of a business (which is always there). Trader Joe’s podcast is especially human..."
"Podcasts are like any other broadcast media — good content builds viewership/listenership. Bad content does exactly the opposite."

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20 Comments on "Trader Joe’s and Barneys launch podcasts"

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Jon Polin

Kudos to Trader Joe’s and Barneys for trying new initiatives to connect with consumers. As early movers in the corporate podcast space, I see these efforts being successful (whatever success measures each company has set). The key will be having information that is genuinely relevant and interesting to their respective consumers. I think these two companies have that, but not all do. Personally, heck yeah, I want to know what Trader Joe’s has planned for the online world.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

The new wave sweeping retail seems to be telling your “story.” To engage consumers requires several key ingredients: a) knowing your target consumers very well, b) content that adds value, and c) telling a very compelling story.

Podcasts can’t hurt. But in this age of streaming content will consumers make the time to view a podcast, let alone a series? The best part of this strategy is that it’s all very measurable, from clicks all the way to ROI.

Max Goldberg

Podcasts are one of many ways that retailers can engage and enlighten consumers, bringing them closer to the brand. Consumers want to see what goes on behind the retail curtain. Trader Joe’s and Barney’s are using podcasts to build a stronger relationship with their customers. Now if TJ’s could just do something, other than talk, about the lack of parking….

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

A top retail and brand priority is to tell your story and sell your story — ideally, involving customers in that story. Podcasts appear to be making a comeback and they have a long shelf life, so a critical success factor is to keep it lively, informative and on message with insights that can move the needle toward greater consumer loyalty or inclination toward trial.

Sterling Hawkins

It’s another vehicle to build experience and deeper connection around the brand. Opening the doors to consumers gives them a depth not otherwise possible. I like the limited run podcasts to test the waters and understand if the approach and message is resonating before committing to something more long term. As Lyle mentions above, lively and informative is key.

David Weinand

Interesting indeed. I like the limited run nature of these podcasts as I’m not sure it’s a long term play for retailers. I think in order for these to work, the brand already has to have a strong following and some cachet — as does Trader Joe’s and Barneys. I can’t imagine if JC Penney or BJ’s launched a podcast, it would get any traction. As already stated, the metrics will be easy to determine and these brands should have some good learnings from the projects.

Anne Howe

Smartly, both Trader Joe’s and Barneys are using podcasts with goals aligned to the brand’s essence. TJ’s has always been a little bit mysterious, revealing tidbits through stories, and Barneys never fails to inspire going out on a limb for the sake of fashion. The question for me is why podcast? Visuals are so much more memorable from a story telling POV.

Rick Moss

Anne, I too think TJ’s and Barneys will benefit from telling their stories. While visuals would be nice, I think video serves a different function. Podcasts are for those times of the day when you can (or at least should) only listen: walking or driving to work, cooking, etc. And when done well, they can be more involving than watching TV because they stimulate your imagination. Sometimes getting people to create their own pictures can compel them to concentrate more, which may account for the greater retention rates cited in article.

Mel Kleiman

It sounds like a good idea, and for early adopter it may work for a while. But the world of information is getting too crowded and after a short shelf life, this one is going away.

Neil Saunders

People do like podcasts and they like the stories told through them.

So long as these are relevant and interesting, they stand a chance of gaining a sizeable following. However, if they become too introspective, too corporate, or too advertorial then I suspect followers will turn away.

The bottom line is that if done right, this can be a smart form of advertising and brand development.

Susan O'Neal
4 years 3 months ago

Podcasts bring forward the human side of a business (which is always there). Trader Joe’s podcast is especially human, giving the people who comprise their business an opportunity both share and invest in why they do what they do. It’s a recognition that the relationship with their customers is not just about good products at a reasonable price, it’s a partnership and a collaboration and I believe it will pay off in the form of greater patronage from their most loyal customers. People do business with people they like, enjoy, trust … who bring them multi-dimensional value.

Ryan Mathews

Podcasts are becoming an important tool in the retail toolbox, but we can’t afford to confuse the form — which is good — with the content, which depends on the tool user. Any path to communicating with the customer is a potentially good path, but whether that potential actualizes itself depends a good deal on what is being communicated.

Let’s look at Trader Joe’s first. I understand the content is ostensibly driven by customer questions, but, “Come to our stores even if you are going to have a hard time parking”? Points for honesty, but perhaps not the best messaging to build traffic. “Lobby to get our store built near you”? Again, maybe something you shouldn’t be asking your customers to do.

I found the Barneys approach a little more sustainable since it seems a tad more customer-centric. But, like all tools, the devil is in the details. Podcasts are like any other broadcast media — good content builds viewership/listenership. Bad content does exactly the opposite.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

The limited time frame of these podcasts is good for a test as to whether customers want to hear from their retailers and which approach might be more successful. The novelty of a retailer doing a podcast may draw customers initially. The approach of these two podcasts — about the retail or about lifestyle trends — will also be tested. Will consumers tune in to hear the retailer explain or talk about itself or to hear artists talk about lifestyle trends? I think consumers will be more tested in the latter approach.

Lee Kent

I love the concept of offering more ways to connect and have conversations with customers. With these two brands and their diehard customers, there will likely be some traction. I am not so sure I see podcasts taking off for a lot of other brands. Attention spans are short and consumers love visuals. I also am thinking about the content. Young people may not be that interested in knowing how to get a TJ’s in their neighborhood, but if they make it fun and quirky it could be a huge hit. Kudos for trying and my 2 cents.

Brandon Rael

Storytelling and the backstory around a brand and their products are what resonates really well with today’s super informed, and digitally connected consumer. Podcasts are yet another social medium for retailers, and brand across the various segments to connect, engage. Who better to tell an interesting backstory than an iconic retailer such as Barneys New York?

Retailers are challenged to scale beyond novelty as brands are becoming increasingly more visceral, merging both the digital and physical shopping spaces. Storytelling and connecting with your local communities are compelling strategies for ensuring that the art and science of retail are balanced, and provide a compelling reason for consumers to stay engaged and loyal.

Ultimately, the more social channels retailers engage with consumers the better. I suspect that many other retailers and brands will join the fray soon.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
4 years 3 months ago

Podcasts can be a great medium to enrich customer engagement with loyal fans. As noted in the article, podcasts are seeing a resurgence amongst consumers during their busy schedules. As an audio only medium, it leverages the listener’s imagination. Barneys and Trader Joe’s have chosen interesting topics for their limited series and I suspect this will further connect them with those loyal customers in a deeper way. I’m not sure this will bring them new customers who are not familiar with what makes these brands special already. Likewise, I don’t see brand that don’t already have a unique cache to them releasing podcasts. I doubt we will see a Sears podcast anytime soon for example, but why not Under Armor or Rebecca Minkoff?

James Tenser

I’ve always been an aural learner, but I’m not convinced that podcasts will move the needle much for retailers. I do favor storytelling as a technique, but I think retailers need to lean toward visual presentation to engage and attract shoppers.

Amazingly, podcast shows presently number more than half a million. So while they are popular, the podcast audience is rather splintered.

I can imagine retailer podcasts might make the most sense for “enthusiast” audience segments with deep commitments to lifestyle activities like fashion, cooking, home decor, pet training, fitness, etc.

Also, the emerging voice-assistant technology sector could be a “wild card” for the podcast medium. “Alexa, play the latest Barneys podcast,” might become a thing. Imagine if you could respond to the program by saying, “Alexa, pause podcast and order me one of those.”

Mike Osorio

Very interesting to see the growth in podcast listening in our video-centric world. The logic of course is in the time spent commuting and also in working out when video viewing isn’t an option. My son devours audio books during his commute and a young colleague does so on his runs. Both interestingly have moved from mostly listening to music to listening to books and motivational speakers. Podcasts are perfect for this generation of listeners and those companies with stories that resonate to their interests will succeed.

Similar to effective YouTube offerings, companies must be authentic with the medium chosen, provide content that is engaging and true to that brand’s DNA, and keep up with new content and audience engagement. Both Barneys and Trader Joe’s have the type of cult following that should eat this up. I don’t see it being effective for more mass/mainstream retailers and brands.

Min-Jee Hwang

Retail in 2018 requires change and trial and error. These retailers are smart to try something new to connect with customers and bring new ones on board. Consumers want an inside look into retailers, as many aim to align their purchases with their values. Retailers that open themselves up in a way that their target market finds genuine and helpful will get ahead.

John McIndoe

In 2007, a study found the average American receives 5,000 impressions daily. Today, it must be double that. In addition, 68 million people listen to podcasts. These tend to be Millennials with bachelor’s degrees and above. Podcasts let retailers reach shoppers and stand out from print, TV and mobile ads, while at the same time targeting shoppers likely to spend more. Trader Joe’s quirky, homey podcasts, in particular, reinforce their brand. As a Trader Joe’s shopper myself, it reminds me and reinforces why I shop there, very customer focused, somewhat eccentric, high-quality products. It’s very shrewd.

"The question for me is why podcast? Visuals are so much more memorable from a story telling POV."
"Podcasts bring forward the human side of a business (which is always there). Trader Joe’s podcast is especially human..."
"Podcasts are like any other broadcast media — good content builds viewership/listenership. Bad content does exactly the opposite."

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