Back to School Music for Retail

The end of August through beginning of September is a crucial time period each year, when all retailers are affected by back-to-school consumption. This effect goes far beyond the sale of school supplies: it extends to all types of goods. Back-to-school shopping isn’t limited to children, either – for most families this time of year signals life-transition and newness.

Even individuals without children behave differently this time of year due to their perceptions of end-of-summer changes.  In fact, early September often receives more attention than the actual new year each 1st of January.

Therefore, it is no surprise that most retail locations employ a wide range of sales tactics this time of year. Shops are full of special discounts and promotions, vying for customers to use their spending money at their location. Music is one of the most undervalued tools that can influence the impulses of these shoppers.

Give in to the Impulses

To use music well, one first must think about the mood the customer will be in when they enter the shop. In the back-to-school season, customers are usually eager to spend money on things that they see as necessary. The idea they have about what they are going to buy may be vague, but for sure they are going to buy something. The objective of the music is to motivate them to do so.

There are many ways to categorize music. The two most common classifications are foreground and background music. Foreground music contains vocals and is recorded for mainstream purposes, whereas background music (also known as ambient music) is instrumental, and is usually recorded for commercial purposes.

A 1990 study by Richard Yalch and Eric R. Spangenberg revealed that listening to foreground music  puts customers in a more active mood, causing them to make more impulse purchases. The difference is even larger for customers who are shopping for something specific. This factor increasing the possibility that they spend more on additional items by 28%. At the end of the day, this phenomenon is one of the main objectives of managing purposeful buyers (those with a purpose of buying something specific): to make them spend more than they had originally planned.

Crowd Avoidance

The classic problem of high-traffic shopping seasons is that when shoppers are out in full force. Establishments are often unprepared prepared in size or logistics. The problem is not only the creation of long lines. It is also that shops become so full of people that there is no space left for movement – decreasing the possibility that customers will enjoy their shopping experience.

The best choice in these situations is to utilize slightly faster music. In 2014 findings confirmed that customers subconsciously follow the rhythm of the music when walking in a store. The more upbeat the music is, the faster their pace will be – whereas mellower music causes a slower walk. This brings us to a conclusion that we need to use faster music in critical retail situations. Like this we will avoid in-store congestion and allow customers to move more easily through the space.

This fast-paced music trick is often used in the fast food restaurants, where the objective is to achieve fastest possible rotation of the customers. With an accelerated rhythm, they will buy, eat, and leave.

However, it’s important to be careful how we apply this technique. At SoundMachine we recommend using it only sparingly. The optimal situation is that more mellow music will play the majority of the time. This creates a better environment for customers to observe items displayed in the shelves and to spend more time inside the store, thus spending more.

Key Strategies for Key Moments

There are a few dates during the year, whether it’s the back-to-school season or Christmas, where families’ expenses go up. In these times, we recommend to have a defined marketing strategy, including a music strategy. This tends to be one of the less expensive and easiest to implement marketing tactics. Retailers only need to follow expert advice and change from one playlist to the other without the need for constant follow-up – and with results that have been consistently confirmed for years.

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