As a small business owner, you want to make sure your storefront or restaurant is appealing to as many customers as possible.
You want them to stay and browse the items in your store, enjoy more food or drink, or soak in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
When you created the interior design for the space, you or your designer took customers’ psychology into account. However, interior layout, colors, and lighting are not the only ways to create a specific atmosphere in your shop; music is a great way to invigorate shoppers’ energy or relax diners enjoying an upscale meal. If your business is still in the process of growing, you may not be able to afford a large custom installation, but you can still strategically place speakers based on your space and use a special music streaming service to manage mood-based playlists.
What to Consider in a Retail Sound System Setup
In order to decide what kind of sound system you need to set up to create the best ambiance for your store, there are some elements you should think about.
- What is in the environment? Are the floors carpeted, hardwood, concrete, or another material? Are there acoustic panels, or is there not much insulation between you and your neighbors? What are the ceiling tiles like? Tiny details can drastically change how sound reflects off surfaces, how it is absorbed by furniture, or how it is distorted by other sounds from outside.
- What kind of tone and volume are appropriate? How loud or soft music is influences whether it is experienced as foreground or background sound. Some people prefer foreground music while others prefer background tunes. Additionally, the key each song is written in, the speed at which it is played, and whether there are lyrics or not can greatly influence customers’ behavior and attitude. You can use some demographic research to determine which genre, tone, and volume of music will be most appropriate for the group you want to reach with your business. Many business owners find it beneficial to use at least four speakers, one for each corner of the room. This means you can reduce the volume coming from each speaker while blanketing the room in your musical choices. When customers stand next to the speakers, they won’t feel like the music is too loud, and when they are farther away from the speakers, they won’t feel like the music is too quiet. With larger storefronts or more ambient noise, you may consider adding more speakers.
- What kind of technology will you use? Using a wireless speaker and your smartphone works well in your home, but it likely won’t sound great in your business. Using multiple speakers, on a monophonic channel, can create the best surround sound without losing any of the parts of the song to a stereo speaker arrangement. Many systems designed for homes include the option of stereo outputs to create vibrant surround sound with more than one speaker, but in an environment with a lot of noise or a shopper moving quickly through the space, stereo sound means that aspects of the music will be lost, depending on where customers are in the store. One underrated piece of sound system technology is the amplifier. This can regulate the volume of music from each speaker while improving the overall quality of the sound coming out of the speaker. Amplifiers take the signals from the playing device – which can often be a smartphone or a tablet – and smooth them out, so they do not sound tinny or crackle with static. You may consider chaining amplifiers together if you have a noisy environment, like a restaurant with a small, busy kitchen. You may need to consider wire size and type, working with laws about building codes and considering the amount of power it will take to amplify the signal from the music player to the furthest speaker. Additionally, high-quality equipment, especially hardware created to work specifically with your streaming music service, can improve the quality of the overall sound.
- How can musical variety improve mood throughout day? Some shoppers may wish to come in early while some diners prefer to snack late at night. Different demographic groups respond to different genres and speeds of music, so creating multiple playlists for different groups, different times of day, or for some holidays can encourage your customers to enjoy the atmosphere of your business.
- What else do you want to broadcast? Do you want to play ads for promotions your store offers? Do you host events you want to talk about? Will you need to page customers to let them know about seating or available items? Your sound system can play music, but it can also allow you to communicate with your customers, and, with new ways to link into smartphones and tablets, allow them to communicate with you.
- What flexibility would you like for future updates and adjustments? Working with one company for both hardware and software means that you can get consistent service, updates as the product changes or your business expands, and even help installing the system. Instead of cobbling a new system together, working with a professional company for a complete, synchronized system can greatly improve the sound quality and your customers’ experience.
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Technical Details for Commercial, Restaurant, or Retail Sound Systems Can Be Tricky
Any basic sound system, whether commercial or home-based, will start with a music or sound player, like a radio, smartphone, or record player. Then, this will be attached to an amplifier that boosts sound to the speakers. Finally, the system will have at least one speaker; retail and restaurant settings will have at least four speakers.
A 70-volt commercial system is standard, but the setup is different than with a home 70-volt system. Home systems have multiple inputs or multiple amplifiers. A retail system with one amplifier with no load impedance problems can work well with many speakers attached to it.
Placing the speakers depends a lot on the square footage of your retail space. Generally, the rule is to take the height of the ceiling, subtract five, and then multiply by two. For example, your business has 15-foot ceilings; 15 minus 5 is 10; 10 multiplied by 2 is 20. Each of your speakers should be about 20 feet apart.
Once you have decided on your sound system, consider if is it enough for your store. Ideally, your business will grow and expand, so you may need to move to a new location or develop a franchise. If you have multiple locations, you will want to create continuity in the atmosphere between all your stores or restaurants, which you can do with music, but you may require a different speaker configuration.
Consider working with a commercial music streaming service that licenses music with performing rights organizations (PROs) to give you access to the widest variety of music, sound, and even streaming radio, so you can create the perfect feel for your store. Many of these services work with specific hardware, so you can coordinate your streaming service with specific sound system options.
- Choosing a Hi-Fi System for Your Retail Business. (December 12, 2014). Reg Point of Sale.
- Designing a Custom Retail Store Sound System. Mood Media.
- How to Install a Commercial Sound System. wikiHow.
- Introduction to commercial audio systems. (July 24, 2018). Crutchfield.
- Advice for Installing or Remodeling the Sound System in Your Business. (February 1, 2016). The Custom Channels Blog.