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Say It With Music To Put Customers In The Mood For Shopping

December 2006

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Retail Asia

Music and sound systems have great potential to influence consumer behaviour towards sales. Retailers have long awaited measurement and execution standards to maximize this potential. Equal Strategy CEO Simon A Faure-Field believes that quality sound is both a merchant’s tool and a competitive advantage. In the following article, he explains how music helps define a unique store atmosphere and separates it from other stores by entertaining customers, employees and anyone else appreciating the brand.

Imagine a customer shopping for athletic gear in a sporting-goods store that is as quiet as library or has a sound system riddled with static. What influence – positive or negative – does that environment have on the customer’s opinion of the store and motivation to buy merchandise? Businesses cannot afford to lose a customer where it is very affordable to win them over with effective audio merchandising. On that premise, businesses are turning more and more to creative music and quality sound systems to differentiate their brands to excite and entertain customers.

As a design tool, audio sets the mood of a store, It can cause people to tap their toes and think “this place just feels right”.

One study on consumer behaviour has found that seven of 10 retail customers preferred businesses with music, and six of 10 ended up spending more in their purchases, thanks to music’s influence. Another report showed a 38% sales increase in stores using low-tempo music.

Since the introduction of business audio over 75 years ago, there has never been any kind of industry standards for the design, installation and performance of business-music systems. In the absence of industry standards, some key players took on a leadership role to identify, document, and enforce fundamental methods and procedures for the benefit of the businesses that would employ such standards.

The standard is simply a process that can be applied to each retailer’s unique needs. As a result, a number of retailers, sound-system designers and installers now find sound systems clearly outlined, easy to operate and consistent and balanced across the chain.

Primarily, a collaborative effort between the sound-system designer, music stylist and the retailer must be made to establish what the performance needs are for a specific environment so the designer can work on how to deliver the music and, if applicable, advertising messages.

What mood do they want to create? How is the brand positioned? Is the music classical? Instrumental? Edgy hip-hop, chill out, new age, techno or pop rock? What type of tonality does the type of music require? What tempo, pitch and textures? What low and high volume settings will maintain store consistency? Are there areas of the store where activity increase or decreases throughout the day? What are the customer-traffic patterns?

The answers to these questions help define the design of the system and, most importantly, the content.

The business-music industry should be viewed as an art as much as a science. With documented performance criteria as the framework of a quality sound-system design, the art of music can take hold in the business environment.

From collaborative meetings with the retailer, the sound-system designer takes note of the artistic impressions and demographic considerations that the retailer needs in the environment. The designer must then methodically seek out high-performance audio components from leading manufacturers, detailing for the installer how the components should be put together.

The installer’s work and the system’s ongoing performance can be scientifically measured to verify that the system meets the original expectations of the retailer. Then, the art of music programming can come through with precise execution of the music style, tempo, vocals and all other features that will appeal to the store’s audience.

High-fashion retailers today have the ability to combine the strengths of creative audio entertainment with their visual merchandising decisions. When we start integrating sound into visual merchandising we realize we are not talking about visual merchandising after all, we’re talking about merchandising and marketing; and I think that is where the discussion ought to be all the time.

But when retailers take into account not only auditory factors but also olfactory and scent stimuli, then they are really ready to take their brand atmospherics to the next level. Music and scent synergise beautifully in the retail environment, creati8ng a 360-degrees sensory environment in which the brand can live, breathe and function.

For the Asian region, these ideas remain cutting-edge but, already, many retailers are catching on to the possibilities of addressing the total brand atmosphere.

Simon Faure-Field is the founder and CEO of visionary customer-experience consultancy Equal Strategy. The company advises global brands across multiple industries on how to achieve consistency in ‘brand atmospherics’, specifically telephone and customer-environment touch points.

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