Music is known for the impact it can have on one’s mood and also on perception. The influence on our perception is the result of the constant comparison our brain does about the information that comes in through our eyes and the expectations we build, based on the information we already have.

We build our expectations not just on experience, but also on our mood. Music as a stimulator comes to improve the way in which we perceive things and this is the place where musical fit comes into place, known as the process through which music can convey and trigger relevant information that may have an impact on consumer’s beliefs about products or services.

This concept of musical fit has a high potential in the retail industry because it can improve the shopping experience. The musical fit is one of the many strategies stores use, and is connected to visual merchandising, marketing tools through which stores can improve the layout of their stores and enhance the attitude customers have about products. As a form of visual merchandising, we witness now the development of “five senses of retail” that aims at optimizing the shopping experience at its higher level.

Generally speaking, some of the reasons why music is used in retail are connected to the need of setting a tempo to energize/relax customers, make them feel comfortable, slow their sense of time so as to reduce anxiety, and to define products and/or store vision. From experience, store owners state that music is believed to have an impact on time, the speed and on the amount of money people are inclined to spend.

The so-called psychology of music is important in order to understand its impact on consumer behavior, which is to be seen in purchase intentions. The effects of music on perceived atmosphere and purchase intentions have been studied during some researches that were meant to demonstrate the actual impact music can have on sales. An experiment of this type was conducted by a psychologist from the University of New South Wales in a restaurant, for one month; it investigated the way in which certain styles of music, or no music, could influence the purchasing behavior.

Four genres of music have been studied and the results have shown a different impact each one had on perceived atmosphere and behavior. Also, the way in which the restaurant combined the layout and the dishes they served to the music they played proved to have the best influence on purchasing decisions. The experiment has also proved again that the absence of music had a bad influence on sales in all the scenarios the store performed during the experiment.

Generally speaking, the style of music played is likely to have a more significant effect on customer’s perception and choices. People tend to spend more time and money in a restaurant or retail environment if the music being played is considered appropriate. Also, different styles of music and no music lead to differences in the general perception about the restaurant.

Let us now see how different aspects of music (from style to provenience or tempo) can influence the perception and the purchasing behavior of their customers:

The provenience of music: music proves to be very efficient when it comes to improving sales on products that can be valorized from a cultural point of view. This impact that music has is proven by an experiment conducted in a UK wine store: when well-known French music was on, sales of French wines outsold German wines and when the store played German music, an increase of German wines was registered. Music can become in most of the cases a trigger for impulse buying or for unplanned purchases.

Tempo: an experiment conducted in a restaurant has shown that diners tend to eat more quickly when fast music is been played, and that customers spend significantly more time inside the restaurant and more money on alcoholic beverages when slower music is on. The tempo should be adjusted according to the time of the day and the specifics of the restaurant.

Classical music: playing classical music renders a sophisticated atmosphere because of the illusion of exclusiveness. An experiment conducted in a wine store has suggested that classical music led to consumers purchasing more expensive wines, these findings proving again the theory stating that persuasion is enhanced when the music is appropriate for the context in which it is played. Classical music is believed to be a guarantee for high-quality products.

Jazz can have an impact in restaurants because it is generally used for its effect on reducing anxiety. It proves to be very effective because it can make people stay and order more. Jazz can also create the illusion of well-defined and original products, and it is best used for restaurants that sell specific types of dishes.

Pop / Top 40 is generally used in common restaurants and the impact it can have on customers is connected to the feeling of familiarity it renders. Customers generally recognize the list of songs it’s been played and this situation can make people feel more comfortable enjoying the meal. This is the reason why we can hear this type of music in highly accessible restaurants, because it is well-known that people enjoy places they perceive as being familiar.

The feeling of intimacy can have an impact on enhancing customer loyalty, this being some of the strategies restaurants use to bring back their customers. Also, customers would feel more comfortable in a familiar environment when addressing the staff and won’t be stressed about any sophisticated behavior regarding their meal, the simple function of the atmosphere that is created being that of bringing people together.