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Music impacts people physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviorally— which is why it has always been a good tool for marketers. From radio jingles to surround-sound-quality TV advertisements, music is used to motivate a desired emotion and inspire action.

Music is a vital piece of the retail experience puzzle– the corner piece, in fact. It’s often the stimuli a consumer is immediately exposed to when entering a retail space, and we all know how important first impressions can be. Without that introduction, the experience may seem silent and awkward— but too much can cause sensory overload and lead to an unpleasant visit.

Brands use music to communicate their image beyond what the eyes can see. It’s used to instill a feeling in the consumer specific to that of the brand itself and the category in which it resides. All brands are different, which means the feelings they want to convey are also specific to their identity

So what should brands consider in order to communicate their corporate image and provide a positive retail experience for the consumer?


In 1982, a study was conducted at a New York City grocery store investigating the effect of music tempo on shoppers’ buying behaviors. The results showed that playing slower music led to more time spent in the store and an increase in gross product sales, compared with more upbeat music. The PAD model explains that fast music leads to a high level of arousal which in turn leads to moving at a faster pace through the store. Conversely, music with more relaxed tempo prevents these high levels of arousal and slows down the pace at which shoppers move, leading to an increase in items purchased.

Another study was done in a restaurant environment by Caldwell and Hilbert in 1999. The study showed that customers spent a higher dollar amount on alcohol in addition to spending more time eating when exposed to slow tempo music, while fast music led to quicker and shorter wait times for incoming patrons.

These studies indicate that music tempo has a direct effect on how long consumers will dwell in the space as well how much they will ultimately spend during their visit. Brands must consider the desired speed they want a visitor to traverse their retail space when choosing a music playlist.


Smith and Curnow conducted a field experiment in 1966, measuring the impact of music volume on the amount of time people spent in stores. The results showed that loud music led to less time spent shopping, compared to softer music. However, the study showed that the volume had little effect on total sales. Furthermore, some research suggests that loud music can lead to a distorted perception of how much time has passed, particularly in females, who tend to think less time has passed when loud music is playing.

There’s not one right answer for choosing the perfect volume level in a retail space. As a matter of fact, it likely depends on the brand’s target audience characteristics. Another study revealed that the audience’s average age should be a focal point when deciding on the volume level. Younger shoppers tended to spend more time shopping when music is played at a higher volume, whereas older shoppers spent more time when the music was in the background or at a lower volume. This finding plays hand-in-hand with today’s cross-generational marketing challenges.


The type of music being played is one of the first things shoppers will notice when entering a retail space. This music must not be chosen based on what employees want to hear, but rather on what lifestyle image a brand wants to portray in the minds of their shoppers. Additionally, brands should chose a genre that fits its category and inspires patrons to make a purchase decision.

One study investigated the effect of playing modern pop versus classical music in a wine store. The results showed that more money was spent when consumers listened to the classical music rather than Top 40. Interestingly, shoppers did not buy more quantity of wine but instead chose the more expensive bottles. Other studies show that, during the holiday season, shoppers buy more holiday-related goods when Christmas music is playing in the store.

These studies show that the genre of music being played signals shoppers to buy specific items. Classical music is a symbol of sophistication, status, or class therefore encouraging the purchase of more expensive bottles of wine. Christmas carols herald yuletide joy and giving, inspiring shoppers to purchase items relative to the season.

Lastly, the genre of music should always represent the brand identity. A retail store selling maternity clothes should obviously avoid heavy metal or gangster rap in favor of something soothing like nature sounds or kids music. On the other hand, a retailer carrying clothing and accessories for a niche market like skateboarders or other extreme sports would probably choose a louder genre like punk rock or hip-hop.


The right genre of music playing at the right volume and speed will help create a positive shopping mood for patrons as they peruse the space. The next step is to insert effective marketing messages that will educate, inform, or promote products and services to the captive listener. The ultimate goal, of course, is to inspire the audience to take action. Using experienced voice talent and professionally recorded messages, make your opportunity count—offer up lifestyle notes to reinforce the brand identity, mention where to find certain products or services within the store, or notify listeners of great deals and current promotions. Lastly, tell them to follow you on social media, helping you utilize retail music to go beyond the wall of retail.

These four elements provide a solid foundation for implementing overhead music in your retail space and creating a positive shopping experience— which reflects the brand’s personality and maximizes the opportunity to communicate with customers. It’s important to remember that these elements change based on the audience in the space— and that, for most retailers, the audience can change quite frequently; weekly, daily, or even hourly. It’s important to have the flexibility to change or update the music and messaging on the fly when needed.

For more information on the best ways to use music in a retail space, visit Codigo’s website today!