Plato, the big-brained Greek philosopher, once wrote, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Oh, and it can also help sell jewelry.
Numerous studies have proved that music has a profound effect on our mood, actions, and even physiological functioning—truisms retailers can harness to cultivate an in-store experience that encourages their clients to spend.
A heavy, hard-driving beat, for example, can speed up a heart rate and inspire purchases. Classical music also inspires sales by imbuing the atmosphere with a general feel of affluence that magically loosens purse strings.
But for many retailers, music is an afterthought at best. John Bradley, cofounder and chief music officer for CustomChannels.net, says many stores play the wrong music, adopting a “We’ve got music, let’s just use it” attitude. “That’s like saying, ‘We’ve got paint and lights and I guess that’s okay,’?” he says. “Retailers need to pay as much attention to music as they do to the other [elements] in the store.”
The appropriate music for any store depends on its ambience and clientele, says Kerrin Wallace, cofounder of London-based Audio Sushi. “The music must fit the brand,” she says. The biggest mistake she sees when working with retailers? “Letting staff choose the music,” she says. “The employees often select music that suits their own taste, rather than taking into account the wide and varied tastes of their customers.”
But the value of strategic audio programming is catching on. Gone are the days of tuning in to FM radio (who wants to listen to ads when they shop?) or plunking a CD into the stereo system every few hours. “More retailers are taking in-store music seriously,” says Wallace, who believes business owners should attempt to gain “a deep understanding of who their clients are and what they are listening to, then customize the playlists to suit their tastes.”
While services such as Custom Channels and Audio Sushi are gaining steam—offering retailers the ability to microcustomize their music selections and air them over the Internet—satellite radio is currently the gold standard for retail establishments. The commercial-free channels are grouped by genre and offer a consistent, surprise-free flow of tunes in every musical taste.
Stan Ackerman, manager of London Jewelers in Manhasset, N.Y., chooses SiriusXM channel 16, The Blend, which plays adult contemporary pop hits of the past 30 years. “Casual, light music,” he says. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Lux Bond & Green’s West Hartford, Conn., location also uses satellite radio, but employees are allowed to channel-hop. “A combination of oldies and newer top 40 music” is the usual fare, says sales associate Ann Mittelmann. “But it depends on the employee. We don’t target a particular type of customer.”
Such nonchalance may not last. According to the National Retail Federation, the 2013 holiday season is the tipping point: More consumers will shop online than in physical stores. With such stiff competition afoot, it may be only a matter of time before every aspect of the brick-and-mortar experience—including the melodies wafting through the air—comes under sharper scrutiny.