22nd May 2017 KVHstudios

How In Store Music Can Go Badly Wrong…

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When instore music goes wrong When instore music goes wrong


Instore radio is an amazing tool for shop owners and businesses. Having songs, talk and promotions in store or on site gives the chance to set the mood, to trigger positive customer habits as well as promoting and encouraging sales. What happens when some shops try to set their own playlists…things can go very wrong indeed.


You have probably been in those stores, the kind that have their own playlists booming out. Songs that don’t fit the tone, time or mood of the day. Too loud, too quiet, too fast, slow or even with a smattering of profanity.

The clear majority of stores which mess with their customer experience will get it wrong – very wrong indeed. Which means that they can lose sales, they can annoy potential customers and even drive footfall away from the store.

Music matters when it comes to shopping, as we have covered in earlier blog posts. The beat, the tempo, the kind of music and the times they are played are both a science and an art.

When it goes wrong though, stores are likely to lose more than just a sale, they will lose their sales funnel – as people decide to visit competitors for a less invasive, or more appropriate shopping experience.


The sounds, the talk and the music that your customers hear in a store should be designed to complement the overall experience of a shop, restaurant, bank, or whatever the place may be, is trying to produce.

Having a specialist provider means that guesswork is removed from the process, and a store’s ambience can be created by audio experts with a vast amount of experience in crafting positive customer experiences.

The right sounds for the type of customers, the demographic groups you’re targeting, are vitally important and play a huge part in setting the right soundscape for customers. Music is such a powerful factor in creating feelings & experiences for customers, that needs to be carefully engineered.

What stores are trying to do with music is tap into emotion. Imagine watching a movie without any music, it just doesn’t work.

Music sets the pace, tone and rhythm of a story and a shopping trip.


Music is emotionally evocative and that’s what retailers need. They need to be in the heads and hearts of customers, helping to influence purchase decisions and shopping behaviour.

A study in the European Journal of Scientific Research suggests that music at a loud volume gets people to move through the store quicker, whereas slower and quieter music makes them stay longer.

While slow tempo pop music seemingly makes people spend more on impulse purchases, and the effect of tempo and key seemingly affects the mood enough to alter shopping choices as well.


Speaker playing instore music

Speaker playing instore music

While music can influence customers in a variety of ways, the main purpose of using it in a retail setting depends on how a specific retailer wants its customers to behave. Sometimes they want people through a location quickly (like a fast food restaurant). Other times they want shoppers to linger.

The sweet spot for retail is moving people around a store at the right speed and creating an atmosphere which converts browsers into paying customers. Music moves the feet, opens the mind, and can help open the wallet too.

When music is poorly utilised, that is when customers want to get away from the din; they are not minded to spend and they end up complaining, or just voting with their feet, and leaving. Without professional assistance, even the best intentioned of instore musical plans can go wrong.

The issue of music in stores can be contentious – but it works. So there needs to be a balancing act, and there needs to be real thought and effort which goes into making sure the customer experience is enhanced not hindered.


Instore music in supermarkets

Instore music in supermarkets

The difficulty in setting the correct tone is that people tend to only focus on songs or music that they really like, or really dislike.

For stores, shop owners and retailers, or banks, and all kinds of public environments, there is a need to get specific sounds right, contributing to an overall experience.

Music choices for retail stores don’t have to have customers dancing in the aisles, but the sound can’t leave people putting their fingers in their ears either.

Think of statistical bell curve, at each end is sheer pleasure or absolute annoyance. The goal, and where professional instore radio is the answer, is to consistently hit that middle curve.

The aim is to get customers into a pleasant mood, without driving away those with different musical tastes.

Sounds easy? Nope, it’s massively complicated, and that is where expertise & experience comes in; too tinny, too loud, too much bass, too high pitched, too sweary, too modern, too old. Background music choices for businesses is a minefield, and there are no second chances – once someone is turned off, they often won’t return.

Volume, speed and type of music played does have an effect on a shopper’s behaviour. If a store gets the type of music wrong, in tests customers report thinking that they’ve spent more time in store than they actually have, which is a very negative indicator of customer experience.


Here are five facts that help professional instore radio providers tailor a brand’s musical output, to improve customer experiences.

  1. Spotify claims that popular music tastes peak at age 33. Before that, most users only want the latest hits, after that age, anything but!
  2. The University of Notre Dame suggests that music tastes are becoming broader overall, people are less likely to hate certain types of music than they were a generation ago.
  3. Listeners aged between 13 and 14 years old almost exclusively listen to tunes by artists at the top of the charts.
  4. Men display an increased tendency to like music which can be defined as “away from the mainstream” – this perhaps explains why kids are more likely to be embarrassed and confused by their Dad’s musical choices.
  5. Nostalgia is powerful. Listeners want to be taken back to their youth, so music that was popular when a target audience were growing up is often a great choice.
  6. This is a complex area for any business, with so much at stake, don’t leave it to chance when it comes to setting the mood instore – poor musical decisions can harm revenue.
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