You want customers in your storefront to have the best possible shopping experience. You know that one of the simplest ways to influence their mood, pace, energy, and emotions is through music, but which kind?

Should you play soothing music to help them relax or fast pop music to help them move quickly?

The answer is complex, and it has a lot to do with your brand’s personality, how you want your customers to feel in your store, and their personal tastes in music. By researching how your customer base views your product, your brand personality, and your customers’ music genre preferences, you can create the perfect playlist for them.

How to Figure Out Which Genre to Play

Before getting into specific genres for specific effects, it is important to understand how to choose music for your store. Just because you want shoppers to spend more money, for example, does not mean you should just play classical to create a sense of sophistication. That might lead to shoppers feeling disconnected because of personality and music genre dissonance. There are a few areas to consider.

  • Brand personality:This is the most important element when choosing what genres of music to play. There are five elements to brand personality:
    1. Sophistication
    2. Competence
    3. Ruggedness
    4. Sincerity
    5. Excitement

People buy brands they associate with their own personality, so it is important for you to understand how these characteristics are associated with your products. This helps you design your marketing, retail storefront, and online presence.

When you’re working on your retail location, use these characteristics to pick great music that reflects your brand personality.

  • Shoppers’ preferences: Generally, older adults prefer instrumental background music while younger adults prefer Top 40 songs in the foreground. However, many of the most popular modern genres are instrumental or ambient, so you can get a wider range of song styles that can appeal to more age groups.
  • Volume: No one likes sounds that are too loud, and shoppers are no exception. Even if they like the song being played, customers will not enjoy the experience if the music is loud enough to be distracting. Finding the sweet spot between too quiet and too loud might take some time, but deciding on background versus foreground songs is a good place to start.
  • Mood, tempo, and tone: Your music choices influence your customers’ mood and physical pace. Slow music makes them walk slowly, but it might make them sleepy too, depending on the time of day. Fast music makes customers move or chew faster, but feeling rushed can lead to feeling stressed for some people.You may choose to match music choices to the time of day. For example, when people get off work, they may prefer relaxing music, but if they shop in the morning, they may want something peppier and happier to keep them awake.

Using these notes as a foundation, what genres should you choose from? Again, this is largely about what genres reflect your brand personality and your shoppers’ personal tastes, but different genres have been shown to affect buying behaviors across demographics in specific ways.

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Specific Genres Have Specific Behavioral Influences


Some musical genres have an impact on psychology, regardless of demographic.

Research over the past few decades has revealed some interesting findings.

  • Classical: One study of wine purchases found that, when classical music was played in the background, shoppers purchased more expensive wines, although they did not purchase more wine. This effect occurred regardless of how much the person knew about wine.
  • Regional music: A wine store in the United Kingdom played French music and found that shoppers purchased more French wines. When they played German music, they found that shoppers purchased more German wines. Shoppers did not report noticing this trend in themselves.
  • Ambient or instrumental: One Spanish researcher tried replacing music with computer-generated background abstract sounds, which were not musical. The result was an increase in the number of people in the store, leading to an increase in money spent there, because the shoppers were intrigued by the new and unique sonic experience. Picking a genre like dubstep or electronica may bring in more than just teens or young adults because the music is unique in texture and tone.
  • Pop music or familiar music: Shoppers experienced a little more psychological stress when they heard songs they were familiar with. They tended to focus on the music, not their shopping, and they tended to think they had spent more time in the store than they actually had. Finding music that is unique and unfamiliar, even if it is in the same genre as your demographic’s preferences, can reduce stress, allow the music to blend into the atmosphere, and promote relaxation.
  • Holiday music: As holiday seasons like Christmas approach, playing music closer to the mood or personality of the holiday may bring in more shoppers. Christmas music has been found to encourage people around that time of year to spend more and shop longer. However, outside the Christmas season, this music would be quite dissonant unless your retail store specialized in year-round Christmas items.

Focus on Your Customers’ Needs and Loves

Humans have innate emotional reactions to music, so as a retailer, it is important for you to understand these reactions so you can tailor the background music to the people you want in your store. You can even draw new customers in from a different demographic than your base by tailoring the soundtrack to their interests a little more. You can create a strong emotional bond between your brand personality, brand quality, and your customers, creating loyal fans who will talk up your product for years.