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What are the benefits of Showroom Audio?
29-03-2021

What are the benefits of Showroom Audio?

In retail environments it is now common to hear music playing in the background, this can be known as instore audio. Often the music can go unnoticed, however it is wrong to assume that the music does not influence behaviour. By reviewing the results of six case studies that have analysed how people react when hearing music, we will consider how the use of music can be used to manipulate visitors’ behaviour in retail or open spaces.

Hearing music can make people feel good

In a retail space this is no different, the above study suggests that music has a profound effect on how shoppers behave.

When people hear upbeat engaging music, they may undergo changes to the pleasure sensors of the brain. This can initiate the release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. This chemical balance impact is known as the PAD (Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance) model. This impact varies from person to person and by the volume, tempo, type and familiarity of the music heard.

Background music will have an effect, designed or not

In 2013, Thomas Schafer published a paper in Frontiers of Psychology2, which breaks down the responses to music, the psychological categories: social, emotional, cognitive and arousal.

  • Music with a social function causes people to think about their role in society and self-expression.
  • Emotional music calls to the listener to feel something, for example: happiness, sadness or excitement.
  • Music with a cognitive function allows people to feel removed from the world, or more engaged in it.
  • Arousal-focused music excites the auditory sense and invites the listener to action.

The enthusiasm for music is not a recent development. Musical activities appear to have been present in every known culture on earth, with ancient roots extending back 250,000 years or more.

How long would you like shoppers to loiter?

The tempo and mood of music can have a direct influence on how quickly people move through spaces. When planning the music to influence shoppers’ behaviour, often retailers opt for upbeat, high tempo music, when this can actually decrease dwell time as people tend to move quicker around the space.

The familiarity of music can act as counter to this as shoppers may want to linger to hear a song in full. Clare Caldwell and Sally Hibbert of the Association for Consumer Research explains in their analysis: “Play That One Again: the Effect of Music Tempo on Consumer Behaviour in a Restaurant”3, indicates that loud, fast-tempo music that is more arousing or enervating influences people to spend less time on shopping.

How loud, is too loud?

There is no one size fits all answer to this question and there are many factors to take into consideration. A 2013 study by Myriam V. Thomas4, suggested that music played at a high volume was a turn-off to customers because it impacted the “psychobiological stress system” of participants. They concluded after exposing 60 women of an average age of 25 to relaxing music, the sound of rippling water and no audio stimulations. The results of a subsequent stress test indicated that the music impacted the autonomic nervous system of the participants.

Influencing factors include: The target audience, the quality of the audio system as well as the physical acoustics of the space. For many retail spaces, such as motor dealerships with harsh reflective surfaces, there can be awkward sound reflections and amplifications due to standing waves between parallel surfaces. An acoustic survey can highlight this, recommending acoustic treatment to the space if necessary.

A study in 2006 from Klaris and Rice, “The influence of tempo, loudness, and gender of listener on responses to music”, published in Psychology & Marketing5, suggests that woman respond more positively to quieter music than men. This can be taken into consideration when setting up background music for a specific gender target market space, e.g. a woman’s’ clothes shop.

The German Wine Effect

A well respected study of wine shoppers’ behaviour in 1999 by Hargreaves and McKendrick, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology6, examined the sale of French and German wine, whilst shoppers could hear national music.

Shoppers were played music which would be typically regarded as either French or German on alternate days around the shelves of products in a wine shop.

The study concluded that on days when French-style music was played, shoppers would be more likely to purchase French wine from the shop, and when German sounding music was played shoppers were more likely to buy German wine.

However, when shoppers were asked about their experiences in the wine shop, they said that they were unaware of the music and the effect that it was having on their purchases.

There can be little doubt that background music does have an influence on shopper’s behaviour, for we are all affected on a very basic level, and even on a chemical level by what we hear.

Music can change our mood, influence how quickly we move through a space, alter our behaviour and even help determine what we buy.

It is therefore essential when planning to introduce music into a retail environment or public space to determine not only who will hear the music but what behaviours you would like encouraged.

It is also crucial to consider the quality of the audio equipment required to deliver the music you would like, as well as the acoustics of the space.

Discover the perfect musical balance for your retail space: ask Sound Marketing for audio profiling and an acoustic survey.

Case Study References

Case Study 1
Store Atmosphere An Environmental Psychology Approach.
By Robert J. Donovan and John R.Rossiter

Case Study 2
The psychological functions of music listening.
By Thomas Schäfer

Case Study 3
Play That One Again: The Effect of Music Tempo on Consumer Behaviour in a Restaurant
By Clare Caldwell and Sally Hibbert of the Association for Consumer Research

Case Study 4
The effect of music on the human stress response
By Myriam V. Thomas University of Zurich

Case Study 5
The influence of tempo, loudness, and gender of listener on responses to music
By Klaris and Rice published in Psychology & Marketing

Case Study 6
The Influence of In-Store Music on Wine Selections
By Hargreaves and McKendrick, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology

Written by Darren Moffatt

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