5 immediate impacts of music in retail

There has been a great deal of psychological research into the impact of music on the consumer. Many retailers make the mistake of assuming that music has general effects. In fact, the effect of music on our brain and body is multi-dimensional and depends on a number of complex interactions with internal factors (our current mood, reason for shopping) and external variables (location, weather, economy).

The complexity of music induced behavioural effects means that you cannot presume to assume. There are no simple, catch-all rules and it is important to consider a strategy that is personal to your brand, environment and trading aims.

This blog consolidates some of the scientific data that Immedia work with when developing music strategy. We will focus here about the impact of music on “fresh starts” – the new customer, the brand re-launch or the new business. Here are 5 of the top recent music psychology findings that relate to retail behaviour, right from the start:

1) Musical ‘fit’

It is vital that music ‘fits’ with the brand and the ethos of the environment. Beverland et al. (2006) examined the role of in-store music and brand fit using in-depth consumer interviews.

They found that musical fit was important for attracting new consumers, who viewed music as a key cue to the brand’s position, image and quality. Investing in music was also reported to be a quick and effective way to re-direct or re-design a brand identity/ relationship.

2) First impressions

Zander (2006) conducted a study looking at the effects of music on peoples’ impressions of product endorsers and brands based on the theory of ‘musical fit’.

After listening to specially designed commercials, subjects rated the endorser’s personality and impressions of the brand. Different music led to significantly different impressions of the endorser (on factors like diligence and exuberance) as well as the brand (on factors like strength and energy).

3) Sweet music

Sounds like a simple point, but the music in a retail environment should sound as good as or similar to the way that people hear it in their everyday lives. This relates strongly to first impressions. It can take a few seconds to tune into the music in a new environment, but the effect of the sound quality is likely to be instantaneous.

We have excellent memory for the music that we hear on a regular basis and a failure to match this standard in a retail environment is likely to induce consumer dissatisfaction. And an unhappy consumer votes with their feet.

4) The domino effect

Many people think of memory as a tool that we use to recall what we want, when we need (when it works!) But in reality a great deal of memory is involuntary. Think of memory as a line of dominoes – once a memory is triggered it sets off a cascade of related memories whether we like it or not. And music is a great domino trigger.

My favourite example of this effect is the wine shop. In this study they played French music in a wine store and found that people were 3-4 times more likely to buy French wine; when they played more German music people bought more German wine.  The fascinating thing is that people were often unaware of what music was playing or why they chose that particular wine. This simple demonstration shows that your mind makes links, triggered by musical associations, and that this can directly impact on our choices without us even knowing it.

5) Music online

It is well known that music can affect the pace at which people move around a retail space. However, similar effects have been found when people are sat at a computer. This has large potential to affect online retail behaviours.

Lai et al. (2011) explored the effects of background music tempo (fast or slow) and playing method on behaviour in a new online store. They found that first time visitors viewed more web-pages and felt they had been browsing for less time when they heard fast tempo music. Playing varied music for different pages also resulted in more shifting frequency, longer perceived time, and less memory for what had been seen. Continuous playing of the same music conversely resulted in better memory for the products viewed.