iBiquity is doing something right. Realizing that part of the HD Radio solution is to get inexpensive, cool-looking hardware into the hands of consumers is a key factor. Now the Insignia portable at $50 is on the market, available at Best Buy, and it's a chance to flood the market with inexpensive, portable radios. There are lots of nice features on this Insignia unit, so to provide a little insight on the buying experience, our intrepid reporter, the Conclave's Jay Philpott made the trek to a St. Louis Best Buy. Here's his report:
Upon reading in this morning's trade press that the first portable HD radio (the Insignia NS-HD01) was available as of today, I resolved to get one. By early evening, I had a chance to get to my local Best Buy, and before walking in, reflected on the tales I've heard over the past few years about how uninformed the sales people at the "big box" stores were when it came to HD radio. I braced myself for the worst, but it wasn't the central problem I experienced.
I was happy to learn they had received 5 units, and according to the sales person, only three remained. The question was: Where was the radio? Although it was assigned to the "home theater" department, it wasn't stocked there... it wasn't in car audio or computers either.
At one point I had three sales associates surfing the store computer, calling out SKU numbers and canvassing the store. I was happy to hear that they were a bit more informed as to what the product was even if they still referred to it being a device that was "like satellite." At least they knew it was an adjunct to FM. Finally, the stock of radios was located in the section with mp3 players... and that makes sense, although there was no prominence in the display to alert anyone to the presence of this new product.
The Insignia is a pretty cool-looking radio, unlike some of the designs of its tabletop predecessors. It's about half the size of an iPhone, has a nice LCD interface and pretty intuitive controls... it does not have an onboard speaker - so the only way to listen is with earbuds or headphones.
Still, it's a nice device. But, there is work to be done to insure that consumers won't have to endure the process I went through. I'm not so sure that the moderately interested buyer would wait the 40 minutes I did just to get this new radio, even at the very reasonable price of $50. And the manufacturer needs to be a bit more aggressive with the store to get shelf space and signage.
As an industry, we should support this effort with better promos than those offered by the Alliance. They seem to be shooting more for creative writing awards than selling actual radios. None of the ad campaigns has really done much to entice a consumer to the medium of HD Radio by extolling the virtues of the unique programming.
And as individuals in the industry, I submit we all commit to this exercise: Pick a Best Buy in your market and go there as a normal shopper. Inquire about this product. See what product knowledge the sales associates possess. If they seem to struggle with the product description, how it works, etc... help them through it.
Let the teaching and learning (and buying) begin! An appropriate spirit since the Conclave begins this week!