One of the first things that a customer encounters when he enters a store is, of course, the background sound. It’s a known fact that music is a stimulus which has a huge influence on people in general, but here, since we’re talking about retailment, we must say it has a big influence on customers – it can increase or even decrease your sales.

There are a lot of music-related articles on the internet, about how it influences customers and so on, and the majority of them present how different types of music have different effects on people or how the music tempo affects purchasing habits. But does someone really talk about the difference between hit songs and unknown music in a store? If they have different influences on customers and how exactly do they reverberate in their brains?

Well, now I am not only going to introduce you in the way music in a store affects (positively, negatively or not at all) customer’s brain, but also in the way people could have different reactions to hit songs vs unknown music. Thus, questions regarded this subject, like “What”, “How” and “Why”, will be answered in the following lines.

The impact of background music in a store has been studied all over again, having a long history of exploring. When it comes to this, experts were particularly interested in finding if music can increase business sales.

Brunner published a review of the early research (around the year 1980) in the Journal of Marketing, in 1990, summarizing some ideas: first of all, people – named “humans” – to emphasize the universality of this, I guess, have emotional reactions to music (it’s not rocket science, but it’s a fact worth mentioning).

Then, different elements of music create different reactions – different emotional responses (these elements might be time, texture, pitch); and, last but not least, these emotional responses are moderated by familiarity and personal preference of the music – and that’s the part that we’ll be focusing on most now.

Brunner recommends that retailers understand especially HOW music can influence consumer behavior. For this, you can regard the results of some experiments conducted by different experts. Milliman, one of them, examined the effect of the music tempo in two experiments – one, on supermarket shoppers, and the other – on restaurant diners, back in 1980. He discovered that people were more tempted to stay longer – and even spend much – when the music tempo was slow.

Other experts, Knoferle, and his colleagues, led other experiments, also to examine the effect on tempo, and also mode and its impact on store sale. The main modes are the major mode – associated with happiness, and the minor mode – associated with sadness. These experiments revealed the strong connection between tempo and mode: when the music is in a major mode, tempo doesn’t really have much of an influence, but a combination of music in a minor mode and a slow tempo increased sales much more easier than a minor mode music in a fast tempo.

Tempo and speed are just some variables of the music whose effects were studied through experiments during time. But there are a lot of other variables which deserve our attention when it comes to their effects on consumers and the possibility that sales will increase. And now, as I said earlier, I am going to focus on one of them: the familiarity of music.

Music is a very good stimulator of the cognitive process. If the customers hear familiar music, they will recognize the images faster. Everything seems to be just fine till now – but it’s not really, ‘cause that’s when things start to get a little bit more complicated. It seems that when a person already knows the music played in the store, the efficiency of recognizing the image actually decreases; so even though it may seemed to be the other way around, it’s not.

Brief, when a customer hears a song that he knows, he will tend to stop from what he’s doing and focus on it, instead of continuing the shopping at a fast(er) speed. Because when people hear something that they enjoy listening, their attention focus on music, and they will have the tendency to concentrate less on their tasks, making them more difficult to achieve. Also, familiar music makes customers perceive the time they spend in a store longer.

So it was discovered that when the music was less familiar, customers shopped for longer, even if they believed the exact opposite. The tricky thing though is that the time they spend in a store is actually longer when the music played there is familiar, but the actual shopping time is longer when the music is unfamiliar.

But, when it comes to products, shoppers tend to evaluate them more favorable if the background music is familiar and, therefore, surely enjoyable for them. This happens because a familiar music puts them in a good mood, and that can eventually lead to the impression that an object is more satisfying, and, by default, this could mean more purchases.

Familiarity is a variable which goes from a music that is totally unknown and that have never been heard, to a very familiar music. This “very familiar music” refers to music that one likes to listen to and often hears, and this could be either a particular song (hits, in the majority of cases), either a whole style or genre. To study the effects of the familiarity of music, it can be measured on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being unfamiliar and 10 – very familiar.

When someone hears new music, they experience something new. And when people get to know better something, they grow attached to that and they have more freedom in experiencing it. And when someone is familiar with something, they don’t have to pay attention to the details and this enriches the experience.

All in all, you have to keep in mind that, when a customer likes the music you play in your store, it is very likely that he will spend more time there and also return, but you must not forget though that a familiar music makes the customer focus more on it than on the actual shopping action.