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The Subliminal Influence of Ambient Music on Shoppers

The Subliminal Influence of Ambient Music on Shoppers

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But just because customers aren't paying attention to music, that doesn't mean that retailers don't take advantage of the subtleties of musical choices as a tactic to make customers spend more.

North, Hargreaves and McKendrick (1999) found that themed music influenced wine purchases.

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Disconcertingly, when shoppers were asked about their experiences in the wine shop, they said that they were unaware of the music and the effect that it was having on their purchases (北京“限竞房” 打起价格战 同质化造成选择困难).1

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Shopping to the Beat: Track Tempo

The mood and atmosphere of a shop that music contributes to are essential in influencing customers. Specifically, it is the pace, or tempo, of ambient music that can have the most significant effect on shoppers.

In an experiment conducted in a U.S. supermarket, Milliman (1982) played various pieces of background music with varying tempos each day - some fast, others slow. Meanwhile, he tracked the speed of customers as they shopped, and recorded the supermarket's total daily profits.2

Milliman found that when fast-paced music was played, shoppers walked more quickly through the shop. This gave them less time to make impulsive purchases and to absorb the range of items for sale on the shelves. Conversely, slow-tempo music had the opposite effect - it slowed customers down as they shopped and people purchased more during their visit.

As a result, significantly higher daily profits were earned by the supermarket simply by playing slower background music in the shop.

Chart Toppers vs Unknown Tracks

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Yalch and Spangenberg (2000) looked at the effect of playing well-known music compared to music which customers would likely not be familiar with in a shop. In the study, shoppers were given either a fixed length of time to shop or a less restrictive time allocation. As they shopped, either obscure or easily recognised tracks were played as background music.3

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Researchers explain this by the level of arousal which recognisable music generates: when paying more attention to the music, time may have seemed to pass slower, leading to the customers hurrying their shop.

Bach vs Bieber: How classical music make you spend more

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Areni and Kim (1993) set out to find out whether classical music could make people spend more money in a wine shop. They played either classical music or top-40 chart music in the shop on different days of the experiment.4

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Jacob et al (2009) found that romantic music influenced floristry customers.

Jacob et al (2009) further investigated the impact of different musical genres on customers in a study of florist shop visitors. They monitored customers' purchasing decisions when either no music, pop tracks or 'romantic' music were played in the background of the florist. The researchers found that romantic music had the greatest effect in persuading customers to spend more on the florist's offerings.5

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Apart from our individual reactions, which are based on each person's tastes and past experiences, different attitudes to music in shops have been found across various population demographics. For example, Kellaris and Rice (2006) women react to more to quieter music than men do.6

Combining Music

1. Discipline them: Of course disciplining our children is a given in any home. But we need to ask ourselves if we are disciplining our children properly? Who
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But we know that ambient music is not the only influence on our shopping patterns: product variety, quality and pricing all affect the choices that we make. However, the effect of the shopping experience is significant, and it has been suggested that music has more of an influence on customers when other factors are taken into account.

One study, looked at a multitude of situations in a mock-up shop, including one situation in which Christmas music was played, another where a Christmas scent permeated the air, and another where the music and scent were combined. Researchers found that the scent alone had a negative effect on shoppers' behavior. However, when the scent was combined with seasonal music to match, a coherent, fuller experience was created, and as a result, they had an opposite, more positive effect on shoppers (楼市降温现22个月来首跌 今年房价或将下行?).7

v. 降低,婉谢

  1. North, A.C., Hargreaves, D.J. and McKendrick, J. (1999). The effect of in-store music on wine selections. Journal of Applied Psychology. 84(2). 271-276.
  2. Milliman, R.E. (1982). Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers. Journal of Marketing. 46(3). 86-91.
  3. Yalch, R.F. and Spangenberg, E.R. (2000). The Effects of Music in a Retail Setting on Real and Perceived Shopping Times. Journal of Business Research. 49(2). 139-147.
  4. Areni, C.S. and Kim, D. (1993). The influence of background music on shopping behavior: classical versus top-forty music in a wine store. Advances in Consumer Research. 20. 336-340.
  5. Jacob, C., Guéguen, N., Boulbry, G. and Sami, S. (2009). 'Love is in the air': congruence between background music and goods in a florist. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research. 19(1). 75-79.
  6. Kellaris, J.J. and Rice, R.C. (2006). The influence of tempo, loudness, and gender of listener on responses to music. Psychology & Marketing. 10(1). 15-29.
  7. Spangenberg, E.R., Grohmann, B. and Sprott, D.E. (2005). It's beginning to look (and smell) a lot like Christmas: the interactive effects of ambient scent and music in a retail setting. Journal of Business Research. 58(11). 1583-89.
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