My first stop was a very well known department store; one you can find in most shopping centers throughout the country. As I was browsing the departments, I felt oddly unwelcome and uncomfortable. Then, I noticed the eerie silence. Without some background music, I couldn’t shake the awkward feeling and hurried out of the store without making a purchase.
During my trip, I also visited two much smaller, but very popular, clothing stores. At one, the music was blaring; so loud I could hardly concentrate, let alone hear. I left before I finished browsing the first rack.
Then, there was a store in the “Goldilocks Zone.” There was music playing. It was noticeable, fun, and hip, but not overwhelming. Shoppers throughout the store were smiling, singing, and interacting. Shopping—and spending my money—became a pleasure.
Like the department store, this shop had a broad customer base: children, teens, men, women. Unlike the other stores, the music was appealing in genre, volume, and tempo. These factors, according to Francine Garlin and Katherine Owen, authors of Setting the Tone with Tune found that music played in retail can “impact sales, amount spent, gross margin, actual and perceived time in the environment, patronage, unplanned purchases, brand/store image and evaluation, rate of purchase, pace of shopping, brand choice, brand switching and satisfaction.” They consider music a leading contributor to the overall retail environment, and cite an MIT study that concludes an emotionally taxing environment can negatively affect patronage even more than price considerations.
Simply put, the best music for stores is music that is appealing to shoppers. Choosing the right volume and tempo is crucial, as music that is too loud or too slow can actually increase the perceived time spent in store. By focusing on your ideal customer and his or her needs, wants, and personality, you’ll be able to choose overhead music that delights shoppers and improves sales.