Music psychology for your store

When customers walk in to a retail store, what is one of the most immediate environmental factors that they take in? The physical aesthetics of the store is likely at the forefront of your mind but what about the atmosphere and the store mood? This environmental element is easily adaptable though the type of in-store music playing. The right sound can differentiate one store from another and enhance the brand identity, for a fraction of the cost of other store improvements. Retailers are often willing to invest so much into the physical aesthetics of a store, ranging from the colours, lighting, shelving displays and store layout in order to drive store sales yet music is left as an afterthought. Music as an atmospheric variable should be a higher priority for stores as it’s relatively inexpensive to provide, and can easily be adapted and changed to suit different times and days of the week based on the primary customer demographics at that time.

abstract people shopping

The effects of music and the influence it has over buying behavior has been proven time and time again in the past. Customer behavior is influenced by a number of factors including the tempo, genre and volume. When used correctly music can keep people in a store longer, increase enjoyment and drive sales… however it’s not that simple. The music is only effective when the genres are targeted to the customers. In addition to this if the music is too loud or too fast it can cause people to leave, or decrease the time they spend in-store.

A number of people have conducted studies into the effects of music on customers. In 1982 Milliman et al. conducted a study into the effects of music tempo on customer buying behavior. The results concluded that slow tempo music led to a greater amount of time spent in-store as well as increased gross product sales compared to fast tempo music. Fast tempo music makes customers move at a quicker pace throughout the store due to increased arousal. For many, particularly those who are shopping alone, the experience of shopping can be quite relaxing and music can further encourage them to take more time to browse and potentially be exposed to more products.

The volume of music is critical to its success and the type of atmosphere the store is trying to generate. In 1988 a study by Yalch and Spangenberg concluded that younger shoppers under the age of 25 are more likely to spend longer shopping when music is foregrounded however older shoppers preferred music to be in the background. Although this study may still be accurate it’s not a one size fits all approach and should be judged on an individual store basis. For a setting such as a grocery store which needs to appeal to people of all ages the music should be moderated to a level whereby it can be heard but isn’t overpowering. This itself if often an issue as staff adjust the music manually based on their own preferences.

The genre of music played in a store is likely the most difficult component to plan out. Various studies have proven that playing particular types of music can lead to targeted product sales however these effects are reduced when the music is familiar to the customers. Playing popular music can evoke a sense of fun and positive affiliations however it then also brings in the issue of music preferences. In 1999 North, Hargreaves and McKendrick concluded that people perceive a shorter waiting time when they hear music that they like. People can easily get lost in a song and forget they’re waiting at a checkout or in a waiting room. Within a retail or services environment this can be useful in keeping people in store longer. The difficulty here is that music is subjective and perceived differently by all individuals. So how do you pick music to suit everyone? A good starting point is to look at the demographics of customers in your store and assess whether this varies at different times/ days of the week. The next step is to bring on a music content provider that can help take the guesswork out of what music you should play, in order to appeal to the majority of your customers. A basic playlist will just be a set of songs that play in a cyclical nature throughout the day. For a more targeted music approach its suggested to find a music content provider that can play specific songs at different times throughout the day, to match the varied customers coming in. In a supermarket setting for example it’s often older people in the early mornings, parents during the day and professionals after 5pm. This also isn’t taking into account the lunch crowds ect. which are different store by store based on their proximity to other workplaces. The people coming in to a store at 8 am are very likely to have different preferences to those rushing in after work.

Within a chain store these selections can be even more complex. A single retail store only has to look at the demographics for their individual store, however a chain store might be looking for music to suit over 700 stores, all in different locations around the country. Until now most chains have had to select one playlist or radio station to play either nationally or state by state. The level of customisation wouldn’t allow beyond that, until now. Distribution Media can now offer retailers an in-store system which allows them to customise music nationally, by state or even down to the individual stores. Music can also be set to play at different times of the day to suit the changing customer base and their music preferences. To find out more contact us today.