IT Guide to Enterprise In-Store Music: Technology for Multi-Location Stores

Your business is growing and expanding into multiple locations, which is a great moment for anyone who has started a company. You worked hard on your original brand, creating a setting that patrons could enjoy and feel at home in.

You want your customers to recognize your stores as you expand. You want them to keep associating you with the hard work you’ve put into making your original outlet a great place to shop or dine. You worked hard to create a great ambiance, and you need to make sure that feeling continues throughout the rest of your stores.

Music is an integral part of creating a great atmosphere in any store, gym, spa, or restaurant. When the business expands, you want to maintain the feelings your original playlist created. This may require changing your overall approach to the music for your business.

Music in Retail Influences Patrons

One of the simplest, most inexpensive methods for producing a consistent ambiance across your stores is through music. If you’re a business owner, you likely already work with performing rights organizations (PROs) like BMI, SESAC, and ASCAP to purchase licenses to their catalogues of music. PROs manage access to music by offering copyright licenses to people who wish to use songs. They then distribute that money in the form of royalties to musicians who are members of their organizations.

For more than a century, PROs have managed this approach to copyright for musicians, composers, and music publishers in the United States.

However, as internet access has changed how people listen to music in their daily lives, streaming services have proven to be an effective way to manage playlists and mood music. Business-focused streaming services are a great way for retailers, restauranteurs, spa and health club managers, and other business owners to use licensed commercial music for business in their store.

Once you expand to multiple locations, just having access to the major PROs’ catalogues of music is not enough. In one store, you could manage mood-inspiring playlists, but with multiple storefronts, you want to make sure the mood you set, the genres of music you choose, and even the volume of the music and in-store announcements remain consistent. This is part of your brand, and you do not want to lose it as you grow. Many large businesses use different approaches to music branding, so the sense of your store carries over into all your locations.

Music Branding Is Important as You Expand

The effects of music in retail were studied closely in the 1980s when Dr. Ronald E. Milliman found how background music can influence shoppers’ behavior. His studies involved how volume, tempo, and mode or melody can influence how individuals move through different stores, and these aspects of music are still studied today.

Slower tempos and harmonies composed in the major scale tend to induce relaxation and happiness. Faster tempos, louder volumes, and minor scales tend to cause shoppers to move faster, but they do not necessarily leave sooner or buy less, depending on the type of store. A lot of the influence of music can change by demographic. If your small business has relied on the presence of music to attract the attention and loyalty of a certain group, you already understand how to use music for your business.

Music has been shown to change the consumer experience and encourage extra purchases and other signs of brand loyalty.

Studies have found that when playing music for retail stores, 40 percent of people reported they spent more time in the store because they liked the music; 31 percent reported that they would come back to a store if they enjoyed the soundtrack; and 21 percent reported they would recommend a store to their friends and family if they liked the music selections. On the other side, 50 percent of people reported that they left a store when they did not like the music selected, and 39 percent who left reported that they would not go back. In addition, 97 percent of managers report that music choices strengthen brand personality.

As your business grows and you open more storefronts, you want to keep the loyalty of your current fans while showcasing your products or services to new people. Once you understand more about the mood you create in your store by using foreground or background music, certain tempos, and certain modes, you can apply this understanding to a broader, unified music strategy for your whole chain.

Music is not just a tool to keep your customers shopping longer. It is the voice of your brand, expressing who you are to loyal and new customers alike.

Creating a Unified Music Strategy

When you have one storefront or restaurant, you can leave a music player and basic sound system set up, and show each employee and manager how to operate the hardware to play specific playlists that you have created. Although you can reproduce this setup in a second, and even third, location, eventually you will need a more centralized library to keep the music in each of your stores close to your brand. This requires a unified strategy that combines hardware and software with your brand identity.

If you’ve relied on a commercial music streaming service, you may consider working with a company that can tailor your playlists based on genre, mode, tempo, or tone. You may also consider working with a music service that has its own unique catalogue to choose from, so your store will sound unlike other stores around you.

Rule out offensive songs. Even if your primary demographic may be all right with explicit content, when you have more storefronts to manage, you will attract new groups of people who may not appreciate certain words or phrases. When you work with a music service that tailors your soundtracks to your brand identity, you can rest assured that they will consider your new, larger audience.

One major success story with a fully unified and integrated music strategy is Starbucks Coffee. In 1999, the coffee company purchased Hear Music, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then later launched a record label.

This allowed the company to hire artists to specifically write and record music exclusively for Starbucks locations around the world.

They also have in-house music curators who study demographics in the 24,000 locations around the world, tailoring music selections to who wants coffee, at what time of day and in what part of the world. More recently, Starbucks has partnered with Spotify for business to release playlists of its music. With the power of their record label, the company can also sell its CDs in storefronts and online, so patrons who enjoy the tunes they hear while they enjoy their coffee can find this music, which is closely associated with the Starbucks brand.

Hardware Impacts the Quality of Your Music

Your original storefront may have relied on one or more high-quality wireless speakers and a dedicated tablet or computer to stream music through an internet service. When you expand to new stores, however, your basic setup must become more professional, and you must take the challenges of new spaces into account.

A basic professional sound system setup features:

  • A music player.
  • An amplifier.
  • At least four speakers, one for each corner of the room.
  • A microphone for in-store announcements as needed.

If your space is larger than 2,000 square feet, you may consider more speakers. Often, businesses use six speakers on a monophonic channel, not stereo. Home systems recommend stereo for two to four speakers, which makes you feel surrounded by music. However, in a larger space like a commercial establishment, music in stereo means that your customers will lose some of the music if they are not equidistant from the speakers.

The quality of the speakers is affected by distance from obstructions and from each other. You may consider hanging smaller speakers from the ceiling so they are not visibly in the way in your stores, but ceiling height can influence their effectiveness.

There are some general rules, depending on your budget and the quality of sound you need to achieve.

  • With eight-foot ceilings, one speaker every 256 square feet is cost-effective; every 128 square feet is recommended; and every 64 square feet provides excellent sound coverage.
  • With 10-foot ceilings, a speaker is needed at least every 600 square feet, but one every 300 square feet provides good coverage; excellent coverage is one every 150 square feet.
  • With 12-foot ceilings, you should have a speaker every 540 square feet for decent sound coverage, but excellent coverage involves one about every 270 square feet.

More powerful speakers, sound systems with subwoofers, and other setups will have different recommendations. If you have very high ceilings or multiple open stories in your establishment, working with a consultant to find the best speaker layout is important. It may involve having visible speakers on walls or near tables instead of in the ceiling.

Volume and quality of music are deeply important to all patrons. In one survey, 82 percent of people said they wanted the volume of music audible, but not too loud. Music quality can influence the perception of volume.

You may consider adding a mixer to adjust the volume and prevent a “tinny” quality or static sound coming from each speaker. You can use the mixer to adjust the bass or treble of each song so it suits your establishment. If you are unsure how to best proceed with this, consider working with a music service that offers hardware. They can keep each song consistent in volume and mode with the other songs – not just by picking music from similar genres, but by moderating the track quality using software and professional grade amplifiers and speakers.

When you have different storefronts, the size of each space will be a little different. You may have one store that is larger than the others. It may have higher ceilings, or it may have obstructions like walls or thin windows that allow ambient noise from outside into the shop. You need to have internal consistency in the quality of music, but provide a setup that allows managers to adjust the music to their specific location’s needs. When you work with one company to unify your music, tailoring it to your brand, you can provide consistent equipment across your storefronts so you can more easily train new employees on your specific hardware and software.

Software Allows Consistency and Analytics Measurement

One of the most important elements of working with a larger music streaming company is the ability to manage multiple sound systems and soundtracks in stores from a central location. This does not mean a music player located in the original store. Instead, it means an online dashboard, which allows you to control when certain playlists will activate in which locations and when they will turn off. This can keep patrons and employees energized in the early morning and late afternoon, mentally prepare those in your establishment for certain events that may occur later, and encourage specific shopping patterns or eating behavior based on rush times of day for your business.

With a central software dashboard, the layout of each music player can be consistent and familiar to employees across stores. This is important for employee training and satisfaction, as well as your peace of mind. While you have a central, custom piece of software to manage your music, you can also use this program to gather data about the influence of music in your stores. When you played certain playlists, did the music influence sales, employee happiness, and other factors? You can match your sales reports to which playlists were played when, and create even more nuanced playlists later to keep your shoppers happy and relaxed.


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