Subliminal serenades: How grocery store playlists affect purchases
- A recent University of South Florida study found loud music in a restaurant or supermarket can lead consumers to make unhealthy food choices, while quieter music may foster better food buys, Retail Wire reports. The genre of music does not appear to affect purchasing decisions.
- “High-volume music is more exciting and makes you physically more excited, less inhibited and more likely to choose something indulgent,” Dipayan Biswas, a professor of business and of marketing at University of South Florida in Tampa and lead author of the paper, published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, told the New York Times. “Low music makes us more relaxed and more mindful, and more likely to go for the things that are good for us in the long run.” Thus, if grocery stores want to sell more vegetables and foods overall, they will play low volume tunes. If they want to push red meat, they might turn up the volume, Biswas told Fox 13 News.
- But pinpointing background music is tough because consumers hear it subconsciously, Retail Wire notes. Studies have looked at volume, tempo, mode and genre to try to learn how music impacts shopper and diner preferences.
As brick-and-mortar grocery stores turn their focus to creating the best customer experience they can, it only makes sense they will give thought to the music they play. There have been numerous studies over the years trying to determine how music influences purchasing. But as Retail Wire said, it’s difficult to pin down, as customers usually aren’t aware of the background music.
That doesn't mean grocery store owners shouldn't consider the studies. One 2012 study from Norwegian professor Klemens Knoferle found the ideal shopping or dining music is played in a minor key at a slow tempo. Music played in a major key was found to be less effective in slowing shoppers down. In another study, researchers played either French or German music on alternate days in a wine shop. They found shoppers were more likely to buy French wine on the days French-style music was played, and leaned toward German wines on days German tunes were highlighted. And in still another study, shoppers spent 8% less time shopping when familiar background songs were played, compared with shoppers listening to unfamiliar tunes. Researchers said that had to do with arousal: customers who heard music they knew felt time was passing more slowly, and so they shopped more quickly, Psychologist World said.
But while grocery stores cannot afford to ignore music’s influence, determining an ideal soundtrack could be daunting.
In the past, Target did not play background music, thinking it was distracting. But as the Minnesota-based retailer redesigns stores, it's looking at providing an experience-focused shopping trip, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. A Target in a Minneapolis mall includes LED lights, concrete flooring, upbeat music, curved aisle ends and more produce and grab-and-go items at the front of the store. Joe Perdew, Target’s vice president of store planning and design, told the publication about 20% of the store’s design is dedicated to providing an experience, compared to 5% under the previous model. The company hopes each redesign will lift store sales by 2% to 4%.
In 2011, Target tested out music in its Minnetonka Ridgedale location and both shoppers and employees gave the program a "thumbs up," according to MPR News.
"It's all about activating all the senses while guests are in the store," Target spokesperson Kristy Welker told MPR News. "Guests enjoy it as part of the shopping experience. When we first started testing it and asking guests what they think, some of them even wondered if we had it there before."
It’s too early to tell whether Target’s move to add background music will hit the right notes in terms of increased sales. But as margins continue to narrow and competition gets tighter, those in the grocery industry would do well to face the music.
- Retail Wire What's the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping?
- Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science Sounds like a healthy retail atmospheric strategy: Effects of ambient music and background noise on food sales
- The New York Times ‘I’ll Have the Cake.’ The Music Made Me Do It.