As a retail store owner, you want your customers to enjoy their experience while they shop. There are many things you can do to enhance the time they spend in your store.
Colors can be carefully chosen, spacing between displays can enhance each product, and even the music playing in the background can help them relax, find what they need, find new things they want, and feel great about your brand.
In fact, music is deeply connected to our emotions, so playing retail music in your storefront can have a huge impact on the experience your customers have in your store and how they perceive your products or services. It can also have an impact on your employees. Even if you cannot make many changes to the environment around you, background music can help to reduce ambient noise from the outside world and the other customers, improve mood, reduce anxiety, and enhance focus – that is, as long as you choose the right music.
How to Choose Music for Your Retail or Storefront
Calming music generally helps customers slow down, enjoy browsing, and relax into the retail experience. Faster music with a stronger beat can make them move or eat faster, but their mood may still be improved because they feel energetic.
Small retailers reported that in-store music choices did, in fact, impact customers: 63 percent reported music encourages customers to stay longer and 76 percent believe they can influence consumer behavior with music. Of people who like in-store music, 72 percent think having music playing in a retail space makes it more inviting.
But what kind of music makes customers do all these things? It depends a lot on genre, tempo, tone, and mode or melody. Classical music, for example, makes people willing to pay more for luxury items, such as more expensive wines even if they do not know much about wine. Luxury items like watches are perceived as even more high-end, and people in psychological studies report that they would be willing to pay more for these items compared to the items they purchase in silence or while listening to ambient noise or another genre of music. However, in stores marked as convenient, fast, or cost-friendly, playing classical music creates a dissonance with the rest of the store, and customers in these situations report feeling negatively about that experience.Loud music causes customers to move faster through the store, but this will not be a pleasant experience for many people.
If your store needs fast turnover or people to move more rapidly, consider up-tempo, happy music for retail stores instead. This kind of music can also improve your employees’ mood and focus, making customer service interactions more pleasant and helpful.
Slow-tempo pop music has been reportedly associated with more impulse purchases, so if your store focuses on novelty items or has a lot of items near the cash register, this may be a good choice for you. The most recent pop songs, as listed in the Top 40 Charts, can bring in more teenagers and young adults, and encourage them to spend more. Jazz and classic rock, on the other hand, may attract an older demographic. If your store is associated with a specific age group, consider focusing your playlist to their interests.
Planning your music – or working with a professional service to design and plan it for you – is crucial to creating the best atmosphere for your customers. Randomly shuffling from music you have licensed to play in your store is not enough. The time of day may influence the customers who come in, what they want to buy, and how willing or able they are to stay in the store for longer. However, don’t get stuck on one long song; play several songs, which can keep your customers’ minds engaged.
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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:
- 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.
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.
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 buy your products and 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:
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 the best music for shopping 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 shopping 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.
Specific Genres Have Specific Behavioral Influences
Some musical genres have an impact on psychology and purchasing behavior, 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.
The Ultimate Starter Playlist for Retail Establishments
Based on the information above, each playlist for each business should be customized. However, here is a playlist to get you started in your retail store:
- Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, 2nd Movement "Romanze"
- “Girl from Ipanema” in its original Brazilian bossa nova
- John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”
- Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”
- Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump”
- “The Mambo Craze” by De-Phazz
- “Interstellar Overdrive” by Pink Floyd
- “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
- Duane Eddy, “Moovin’ ‘N’ Groovin'”
- Bill Doggett, “Honky Tonk, Part 1 and 2″
- The Ventures, “Walk, Don’t Run”
- Miles Davis, “Right Off”
- Mahavishnu Orchestra, “You Know, You Know”
- James Brown, “Ain’t It Funky Now”
- “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
- “Mad World” by Michael Andrews
- “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix
- Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”
- “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
- “Blackbird” by The Beatles
Variations on this playlist are strongly encouraged. The one above includes several popular, jazz, blues, cover songs, classic rock, and classical music, which can smooth the way to the cash register for your customers.
Song: Change the World
Artist(s): Eric Clapton
Song: Sister Golden Hair
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
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
2. Sophisticated: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/31Ikgr609uJdMqmjWIHQpi?si=RlwFPbuaRJe3ECChlisJSw
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
Artist(s): Nat King Cole
Song: At Last
Artist(s): Etta James
Song: Beyond the Sea
Artist(s): Bobby Darin
Artist(s): George Benson
Song: Don't Know Why
Artist(s): Norah Jones
Artist(s): Ra Ra Riot
Song: Adult Diversion
Artist(s): Maggie Rogers
Song: The Wire
Song: All We Ever Knew
Artist(s): The Head and the Heart
Song: Almost (Sweet Music)
Song: Humility (feat. George Benson)
Artist(s): Gorillaz, George Benson
Artist(s): The Strokes
Artist(s): Kacey Musgraves
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 attract new customers 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 buy and talk up your product for years.
- How Background Music Can Make Your Customers Spend More Money. (December 16, 2016). VMSD.
- Using Store Music for Retail Zoning: A Field Experiment. (1993). Association for Consumer Research.
- In-Store Audio: How Much Do Pace and Tempo Actually Matter?. (September 21, 2017). Vibenomics.
- How Music Can Affect Shoppers. (December 7, 2017). Spectrio Blog.
- Music Genres That Increase In-Store Sales When Played. (May 25, 2017). Zen Merchandiser.
- The Best Background Music for Shopping in Your Store. (April 18, 2017). Spectrio Blog.
- Brand Personality: What Is ‘Brand Personality’? Investopedia.
- The Subliminal Influence of Ambient Music on Shoppers. Psychologist World.
- The Psychology of Music: Why Music Plays a Big Role in What You Buy. MotiveMetrics Research.
- Music and the Shopper. (December 3, 2014). Psychology Today.