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Study: Music makes cash registers ring

Who hasn’t experienced it for themselves? Once again, on a Saturday afternoon, one tortures oneself through the pedestrian zone, hardly makes any headway due to the crowd, is stressed by the noise and screams in the streets and annoyed by the bags of the oncoming ones, which hit one again and again. You enter a shop a little bit struggled and experience how the world around you suddenly becomes calmer and more relaxed. A deep breath, a look back at the people pushing past the shop – and gladly one leaves oneself to the atmospheric atmosphere without knowing exactly how it comes about.

Background music is often responsible for this pleasant experience as an integral part of the store concept. Consciously or unconsciously music can calm and relax us, but also activate and accelerate us. Studies show that the tempo of the background music can influence the pace and time perception of the customers. Based on this, scientists from the Customer Insight Research Centre at the University of St. Gallen (FCI-HSG) in collaboration with moodmountain, the Swiss market leader for multi-sensory marketing, have investigated the economic impact of in-store music in retail.

In a field experiment, they examined the influence of the tempo and tone gender of background music on the sales generated. For this purpose, the researchers played pop music in three branches of a Swiss department store chain over a period of four weeks, which differed in its tempo (fast versus slow) and tone gender (major versus minor). The impact of the music on hourly sales at various cash registers was then determined.

Many factors play a role here: sales vary considerably over the weekdays; on Saturdays, considerably more is bought than on other days. The weather also has an influence: people’s willingness to shop at very hot or cold temperatures or rain is lower than at moderate temperatures and sunshine. All of these effects were taken into account in the study, including the inclusion of hourly weather data from Meteo Switzerland.

The results show that both the tempo and the tone gender of the background music have an impact on sales in the tested department stores. Slow music leads to a higher turnover than fast music, whereas slow music in minor is even better than slow music in major. The difference in turnover is up to 5%, but varies across the different departments. Obviously, customers can be calmed down by slow music in minor. Through the pleasant atmosphere, they “switch down” a gear, unconsciously stay longer in the shop and do more shopping.


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