Technology has transformed the retail landscape – but never overlook the power of music, writes Paul Hillyer
It’s no secret that the retail industry has fallen under a cloud of uncertainty in the UK. While online giants such as Amazon continue to make headway, brick-and-mortar stores are trying to weather the storm due to low consumer spending on the high street. This has been exacerbated by the closure of high-profile chains such as BHS and Toys R Us, with many others facing the threat of administration amid sliding profits. Against this backdrop, one would be forgiven for thinking the high-street was at breaking point. However, I’d argue there’s still hope.
We recently conducted a major survey of 10,000 shoppers around the world which revealed how retailers can breathe life into traditional stores and prevent further damage. One of the key takeaways was that 90 percent of shoppers globally say they are more likely to revisit stores that leverage music, visuals and scent together. And when it comes to music specifically, the study found it was the number one factor in lifting a shopper’s mood in-store, having an overall positive impact on 85 percent of global shoppers.
But why is the in-store music choice so important?
When used in the right way, music can have a powerful effect on elevating customer experience. Certainly, the choice of an in-store playlist can be hit or a miss for shoppers. When stores improvise and allow staff to connect to the speakers with their own choice of tracks on shuffle it can be the polar opposite of what the brand wants to represent and be remembered for. This is backed up by our recent study which shows more than half (57 percent) of shoppers will disengage if brands make poor music choices such as unenjoyable or “unfitting” music that’s played too loudly.
Not only does the right sound enhance a brand’s personality, but it also creates a sensory experience that encourages consumers to stay in store for longer. This is particularly true with younger generations – more than half (59 percent) of Gen Z audiences say they’ve stayed in a physical place of business longer because they were enjoying the music. And when you break this down by vertical, we know that in the grocery sector, one in two consumers recall listening and enjoying music while shopping. It’s clear that music can really contribute to creating a deep emotional connection between your clientele and your brand through your environment.
With this in mind, organisations need to think carefully about a wealth of factors when choosing the music to play in-store – including the brand’s values, objectives and target audiences. For example, we worked with French retailer, The Casino Group, on their new concept store in Paris ‘Le 4 Casino’, a new place to eat, relax and shop where digital services enhance and simplify the day-to-day shopping experience. When our creative team were asked to design playlists for the new space, the brand’s DNA and marketing objectives needed to be at the heart of the activation. So, by combining proximity, quality, urbanism, and modernity, the music concept was divided into three themes including ‘engagement’, ‘accompanying the customer during their experience’, and ‘cocooning’ – showcasing underground and emerging music, international pop and groove, and a soul-jazz musical mix respectively. This sound experience enabled us to create a true meeting ground of the best of both worlds – physical and digital – for the innovative store concept.
Music can also be a powerful tool for increasing productivity and focus among store staff. As employees are the face of the retail brand, it’s important that they are fully engaged in the brand. An effective music strategy can be a great tool to boost staff morale and concentration, as well as productivity – making them want to get more involved, which only improves the overall customer experience.
Ultimately, though, music should not be used by retailers in isolation. To truly succeed, bricks and mortar stores need to create a holistic multisensory experience. This will in turn make the customer experience more memorable, while encouraging shoppers to return.
As our study demonstrated, 90 percent of people will visit again and again if the music, visuals, and scent combine for an enjoyable experience.