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Buy a Red Door and Paint it Black: How Music Affects Consumer Purchasing In-Store

How Music Affects Purchasing In-Store

In our day-to-day activities, music can play an important role in “getting us through it.” A student uses calm, relaxing jazz as a study aide for an exam, while a delivery driver’s head bobs along to “Born to Be Wild” to pass the time on the road, and a retail store use Christmas music to lightly entertain shoppers while they get their holiday shopping done early (or last minute). Music has been proven to have attributional benefits, such as raising IQ levels, relieving anxiety, or promoting a social atmosphere. The effect music has on the mood of its listeners is impactful, whether it’s being listened to actively and consciously, or subconsciously received as background noise.

But shoppers aren’t wandering through malls for a free concert, they came to your store with a purpose in mind. Just because they’re not actively listening, doesn’t mean the subtle background music won’t affect a customer’s shopping list. In fact, there are many studies produced on the topic of music’s effect on enhancing the shopping experience. A study by Cain-Smith & Curnow found that “loud [and high tempo] music causes customers to move through a supermarket more quickly, without reducing sales value” while a study by Milliman found that “low-tempo music causes shoppers to move slowly, but they also buy more.” As you might expect, louder, more upbeat music will cause customers to move more quickly and make hastier purchase decisions. This atmosphere is often found in venues promoting a fun and upbeat atmosphere, like a bar or dance club. On the other hand, softer, low-tempo music can create a calming atmosphere that encourage customers to take their time, as you’ve likely experienced on your last grocery trip.

A separate study by North, Hargreaves, and McKendrick dives into this connection and explains that background music in stores is not only meant for mild entertainment, but to prime them in a way that encourages specific behaviors. In other words, music elicits certain emotions or desires that can put them in the best mindset to shop and optimize their experience in-store. In this particular study, French and German music were alternately played in a wine shop. Although the shoppers were not of predominantly French or German background, they were able to understand the specific culture the music was meant to portray. Results demonstrated that on days when French music was played, French wine was purchased more often than German wine, and similarly, on days when German music was played, German wine outperformed French in sales. At the end of the study, shoppers were evaluated on their experiences in the shop, and they stated that they did not notice the music being played and believed that their purchases were not influenced in any way.

Depending on the setting and atmosphere you are in, certain music is often more appropriate than others. For example, if you’re shopping in a Toys R Us, it might feel strange to be suddenly hit with the guitar riff from Stairway to Heaven, or the surprise you would feel if you’re browsing in Abercrombie & Fitch and get an earful of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Customer experience is the most important aspect of selecting the type of music to play in your store. Consider the culture of your own business and evaluate the effect specific genres would have on your customer base.

Retailers that are able to harness the power of music to accentuate their brand experience in-store will find the conversion rates on their shoppers at a whole new level. Consumer behavior can be a predictable engine, and if retailers truly understand their target customers they’ll be able to design an environment that puts customers in the optimal mindset to purchase with their brand. But don’t forget that customers are there to shop, Van Halen.


About Scanalytics

Scanalytics is among the top 10 fastest growing “Internet of Things” companies, measuring human behavior insights through intelligent floor sensors. The SoleSensor platform translates consumer foot traffic into actionable data through a dashboard interface for real-time and historical viewing of trends in physical spaces. Using the floor sensor technology, brands capture and analyze occupancy, traffic patterns and engagement times to increase conversions and improve ROI.

With over 40 million impressions to date, Scanalytics has deployed SoleSensors across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Southeast Asia. Learn more at: www.scanalyticsinc.com

More Stories By Jason Trovela

Jason Trovela is a Market Research Analyst at Scanalytics Inc., an Internet of Things company that analyzes consumer behavior insights through smart floor sensors. The analytics platform helps businesses drive more foot traffic and increase the ROI of their locations by measuring how many people enter a space, what routes and patterns they take, and how long they engage with a product or display. Jason works with the marketing and product teams at Scanalytics researching new opportunities to enhance the technology and identify new market applications.

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