Music…time to tone it down

As a consultant to retailers for over 40 years I have to admit one of my sins. I was pro adding music into the retail environment. As human beings we hate silence and if we do experience silence we start making some sort of noise…silence is deafening.

As consumers we hate going into silent empty stores and hence retailers have relied on “Musak” to create the ambience required to encourage the consumer to buy. For many retailers the right music at the right volume has enhanced the shopping experience.

Is music now killing sales?

The UK based retailer Marks and Spencers in June 2016 announced that one of their strategies this year to grow sales was to eliminate the “Musak” in their stores.

Is this a wise or foolish decision? Time will tell.

Marks and Spencers say they have listened to their customers and the response was “kill the music”.

There is also a lobby for silent restaurants, music could be a thing of the past.

What does the research say?

In 1982, a study was conducted in the grocery retail sector in New York on how tempo affected shopper behaviour. Playing slower music led to more “linger time” in store and an increase in sales.

A study in a restaurant environment in 1999 showed that customers spent a higher dollar amount on alcohol and “lingered longer” when exposed to slow tempo music, while fast music led to quicker and shorter wait times for guests.

A study by Smith and Curnow in 1966, measuring the impact of music volume on the amount of time spent in stores. Loud music led to less time spent shopping, compared to softer music. Volume had little effect on total sales.

There’s not one right answer for choosing the perfect volume level in a retail space. Audience’s average age should be a focal point when deciding on the volume level. The research did show that younger shoppers spend more time shopping when music is played at a higher volume, whereas older shoppers spent more time when the music was in the background and at a lower volume.

This research was carried out a few years ago and may be classed as dated. The consumer of today is being bombarded all the time by noise and is now looking for a quieter shopping experience.

Decibel levels

The decibel levels for normal conversation are 60-65dB and long exposure to decibels levels of 90-95dB can damage the ear and cause hearing loss. A recent survey carried out in the UK by Charlotte Kemp and reported in the Daily Mail June 2nd 2016, found the following results in major stores

  • Topshop, Oxford Street 73.8dB
  • Apple, Regent Street 74.3dB
  • Hunter, Regent Street 72dB
  • Marks and Spencer 57.9dB

In some stores it is difficult for a sales person to have conversation with the customer.

Perhaps it is time to “tone it down”.

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