How to Pick the Perfect Retail Music for a Shop or Store (+ Playlists)

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How can you pull consumers into your store when they could buy the products they want from the comfort of their couch? That's a question thousands of retail executives are asking themselves right now, and the answers could have to do with price, convenience, or service. Delivering an exceptional audible experience could also play a role.

When consumers walk into a retail space and everything they encounter seems perfectly curated, including the music and playlists in your shop or store, they may never want to leave.

Music plays a big role in developing that exceptional retail experience. Here's what you should think about as you look for the right soundtrack for your shoppers.

Start With Your Audience

Talk to your marketing team, and ask about buyer personas. Larger organizations often perform this persona work in order to develop sophisticated marketing plans, and if that research has been done, you can use it.

If you haven't conducted persona work or research, don't despair. Think about the top consumers who visit you on a regular basis. Try to determine their:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level

Use that research to determine how loud your music should be. For example, in a 1993 study published by the Association for Consumer Research, the authors report that middle-aged people preferred to shop when music was playing in the foreground, so it's harder to ignore, while those older than 50 preferred music in the background. If all of your shoppers are younger, you might need to keep the volume up a bit. If everyone is older, quiet might be key.

Next, think about the music your audience is likely to know. Familiar music helps your audience to hum along while they browse, and if the music in your shop seems happy or positive, your consumers might reflect those emotions.

It might take some research if you're not in the same age group or economic bracket as your shoppers. But once you understand what they're likely to know, and you've dug in to select the happy bits from the catalogue, you're likely to have a playlist that's tailored to your target market.

"Dig deep into your product lines and think about how they make consumers feel about themselves and the world around them, and you'll have great ideas for a playlist. People think about what they will do with the product they're buying, and they want the music to support that vision."

Think About Your Product

Think about the playlists you've created. You probably have a set of songs dedicated to workouts, another set dedicated to romantic moments, and yet another dedicated to relaxing. You know, deep down, that music should match the activities you're engaged in.

Just as you wouldn't play heavy rap music while you're settling down to sleep, you shouldn't offer your consumers musical choices that seem either unusual or jarring. Make a choice like that, and it could have an impact on your bottom line.

For example, in a study published by the Association for Consumer Research, wine shop retailers offered consumers the choice between top 40 music and classical music as they browsed for their beverages. They found that consumers made more expensive purchases when they listened to classical music when compared to top 40 music.

This makes sense, researchers said, as wine tasting is considered both a little foreign and a lot sophisticated. People who enjoy wine may think of themselves as refined and perhaps a little superior. Playing very refined music, that often comes with a hint of the foreign, helps to reinforce the upscale experience. It allows those consumers to indulge without even thinking about it.

The name of a study published in The Sociological Review explains this concept in a different way. The name of the study, 'When You're Trying Something On, You Picture Yourself in a Place Where They Are Playing This Kind of Music,' seems to imply that some shopping experiences require vision. People think about what they will do with the product they're buying, and they want the music to support that vision.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Services Marketing, researchers found that women shopping in a clothing store felt the most at ease in a store if the music they heard was both familiar and happy.
In a study published in the Journal of Business Research, the authors found that people stayed in retail environments longer when they were exposed to unfamiliar music. Their brains were processing the new music, so it took them longer to move through the space. If you were hoping for a long trip, this would be just right.

Ponder Your Business Goals

While your consumers and your products will have a deep influence on the choices you make, your business goals will also help you make smart decisions.

For example, some retail outlets are designed for quick transactions. You want people to come in, find what they want, and leave again without lingering. Other retail spaces are designed for browsing. You want people to stick around.

But on the other hand, if you know your consumers will stay for a long time but you don't want them to notice, you might need entirely different music. In a study published by the Faculty of Economics and Business at Ku Leuven, researchers found that people standing in long lines were more likely to tolerate them when the music they heard was slow and calming.

Think about your goals and challenges, and find ways to make the music deliver the experiences you're hoping for.


1. Casual Happy

Song: Change the World
Artist(s): Eric Clapton

Song: Sister Golden Hair
Artist(s): America

Song: Sing a Song
Artist(s): Earth, Wind & Fire

Song: Say You Love Me
Artist(s): Fleetwood Mac

Song: Saturday in the Park - 2002 Remaster
Artist(s): Chicago

Song: Reelin' In The Years
Artist(s): Steely Dan

Song: Ok, It's Alright with Me
Artist(s): Eric Hutchinson

Song: My Girl
Artist(s): Otis Redding

Song: Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
Artist(s): Marvin Gaye

Song: Easy
Artist(s): Commodores

2. Sophisticated

Song: Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
Artist(s): Frank Sinatra, Count Basie

Song: Come Fly with Me
Artist(s): Michael Bublé

Song: Agua De Beber
Artist(s): Astrud Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim

Song: Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)
Artist(s): Four Tops

Song: Ain't That A Kick In The Head
Artist(s): Dean Martin

Song: Unforgettable
Artist(s): Nat King Cole

Song: At Last
Artist(s): Etta James

Song: Beyond the Sea
Artist(s): Bobby Darin

Song: Breezin'
Artist(s): George Benson

Song: Don't Know Why
Artist(s): Norah Jones

3. Alternative

Song: 4EVER
Artist(s): Clairo

Song: Absolutely
Artist(s): Ra Ra Riot

Song: Adult Diversion
Artist(s): Alvvays

Song: Alaska
Artist(s): Maggie Rogers

Song: The Wire
Artist(s): HAIM

Song: All We Ever Knew
Artist(s): The Head and the Heart

Song: Almost (Sweet Music)
Artist(s): Hozier

Song: Humility (feat. George Benson)
Artist(s): Gorillaz, George Benson

Song: Someday
Artist(s): The Strokes

Song: Butterflies
Artist(s): Kacey Musgraves

Consider the Legal Issues

Mixing music is fun, and it's tempting to hop into your own CD collection to create the perfect music and playlists to shop by. But there are serious legal implications for DIY DJ work.

Experts writing in Entrepreneur report that small business owners must have a license to play the music they've chosen, and playing music in stores or other business locations without a license can come with steep fees. A California store was forced to pay nearly $200,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees in a recent case, the experts said. It's not safe to wing it.

Getting that license can be complicated, as there are several different entities that work as go-betweens. As the National Federation of Independent Business points out, a composer may have a license with one entity while the band may have a license with another.

That's why working with a company like Cloud Cover Music is so smart. We have negotiated relationships with all licensing firms, so you won't be at risk for legal issues when you use our products. We can also help to develop playlists that are just right for your consumers, your products, and your brand. Ready to get started? We are. Contact us.


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