Online sales are booming, snaffling 28% of all retail spending. There are still some advantages that physical stores have over web sites, however, including creating the right ambience to encourage consumers to spend more.
One of the key ways High Street stores encourage shoppers to buy more is by playing the right kind of background music. Stores that play music encouraging customers to spend more can see sales increase by up to 38%.
New research from the home delivery specialist ParcelHero has revealed online shoppers may also be open to the return of background music and sounds on retail sites. It found nearly 40% of online shoppers would like the option of hearing selected background music on fashion and home furnishing store websites, providing they could choose whether to play it or not. That could give retailers who can offer the option of ambient music an advantage.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘In the 1990s, web stores had to face the music after consumers turned against background sound. Web sites that played music got a bad rap and many sellers stopped using sounds altogether. The music used on sites in the early days of e-commerce came on automatically, and often rather loudly and suddenly. This was bad for anyone stealth-shopping at work, while loading any kind of extra content, such as “muzak”, slowed early websites almost to a halt.
‘As a consequence of this consumer backlash, most retail websites now echo to the sound of silence. That puts them at a disadvantage compared to High Street stores. Music and ambient sounds play a significant role in encouraging shoppers to linger and buy items. Since the arrival of the pandemic, even many stores that didn’t previously play background music have introduced it. For example, some Tesco Superstores, such as its Bicester outlet, previously only played background music at Christmas. It started playing music permanently to counteract the worrying silence that accompanied supermarket trips during that unsettling period when only limited numbers of people could shop at one time.
‘However, shops don’t just play music to cover the silence. There is also a lot of sales psychology at work. For example, music with a slow tempo leads people to think time is passing slowly. Therefore, supermarkets often play slower music, encouraging shoppers to spend more time in the store in the hope they will buy more. Many major stores use the services of companies such as Imagesound to supply everything from playlists to AV equipment.
‘The music licensing company PPL PRS claims 66% of UK adults say that the type of music a shop or business plays influences what they buy. For example, other studies have shown that when French music was played in a wine store, French wines outsold German wine, and vice versa when piping in German music. The customers were completely unaware of music’s influence on their product choices.
‘Classical music can also encourage people to spend more in upmarket stores and restaurants, while PPL PRS says 35% of shoppers are likely to treat themselves to extravagant clothes if pop music is playing.
‘As yet, webstores can’t compete against town centre stores when it comes to other “atmospherics” such as aromas. For example, spraying pine scent increases spending at Christmas. However, it’s now time for the web to come alive with the sound of music. This is an easily accessible tool that has been shown to encourage consumer spending.’
Alexandra Carr, PR & Communications Manager for PPL PRS, adds: ‘Playing music in store can have a real benefit to both the customer and the employees who work there. Our research shows that consumers enjoy hearing music whilst they shop and socialise, and certain genres of music can influence their spending habits and the time they spend in the establishment. Music that is recognisable and relatable can help to ease feelings of anxiety or stress, as our expert music therapist Marianne Rizkallah points out, which in turn could encourage people to linger longer and perhaps make purchases they would not have necessarily made when rushing or stressed.’
Concludes David: ‘ParcelHero’s latest research also revealed sound can give websites one big advantage over High Street stores. 9 out of 10 people told us they want to see product videos with sound on retailers’ sites, providing they can choose whether to play them or not. They told us that this would significantly increase their likelihood of buying a product.
‘To find out more about how retailers are evolving to meet changing consumer requirements and developing a combined “brick and click” approach, see ParcelHero’s study on the High Street of the future at: https://www.parcelhero.com/research/shop-of-the-future