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The Sound of Shopping

We are captivated by music. Its influence profoundly contributes to how we feel and act every day of our lives in wonderful ways that we fail to be conscious of. While we may begin to understand this when we choose to take part, like when we put on headphones or go to concerts and have terrific experiences—one ought to consider how they become affected by the music they do not choose, such as the music at a restaurant or shopping mall. Research suggests this area of study promising for business owners and consumers curious about their own buying behaviors.
We are now beginning to keep pace with the intuition shared by poets, playwrights, and composers, revolving around the power of music and the human brain. Marketers are discovering this to be fundamental to the study of atmospherics—the practice of designing store environments to project a certain image and induce certain behaviors, as well as a practice known as zoning—where a marketing team will play certain types of music in certain locations to draw the attention of a certain consumer. For example, playing newer music or a younger crowd that is shopping for sneakers, or playing classical music for the sophisticated folk at the wine cellar.
Simple put the folks running the speakers have more in mind than you may think, they are using audio to provoke you to buy stuff, and it’s been shown to work.
The effectiveness of this strategy has been demonstrated by researchers. In a paper by Charles S. Areni and David Kim (1993) an experiment took place in an actual wine cellar using classical music. The results of their experiment concluded, by comparing the behavior of the patrons purchasing wine while listening to classical music against behavior in the same store while playing “top-40” music, that classical music influenced the buyers to spend more. The amount of items actually handled, that is, picked up from off the shelves, didn’t contrast to any significance—yet more money was spent.
In an often cited paper by Ronald E. Milliman in 1982, a thorough study was conducted using a supermarket model that showed the tempo of music can affect human psychology. We have an intimate relationship with tempo, the theory being that we develop this relationship through a form of empathy where we relate the tempo of a song to the tempo of a human. Milliman’s research supports idea, the results of his experiment showing that a store with a slow tempo soundscape will keep the shoppers moving about calmly and taking their time. When the tempo is slower and so are the customers, the extra time spent in the store results in more purchases; in Milliman’s experiment there was a remarkable 38.2% increase in average per day sales.
Music is, at a subconscious level, able to influence the consumer to buy. The sound of a Starbucks promotes coffee sales. The upscale restaurant plays tunes that provoke the seated customers to go order something fancy and enjoy the meal. Relaxing tunes at a supermarket ask the individual to take their time, checking off each item on their grocery list and enjoying their time out of the house. The sound of shopping is the music that influences you to buy—and asks you to enjoy, and come back next time.