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Opinion and Insight
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M&S In-store Music Scrapping: A Missed Opportunity

soundlounge, 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Soundlounge explains how optimised music can have a substantial positive impact on both sales and revenue

M&S In-store Music Scrapping: A Missed Opportunity

In recent weeks M&S announced its move to scrap music across its retail stores nationwide - according to M&S spokespeople, this commercial decision was based on "extensive research and feedback from their customers and colleagues”.

Of course, many of us will empathise. I have walked out of many a store myself, garment in hand standing at the till, because the music was literally driving me out of the shop. We can all understand that endless piping of repetitive, bland and mindless background music would sap staff morale and infuriate customers, but I cannot help thinking that M&S are missing the mark by removing music altogether. 

 In our 30-year-long experience consulting for retailers such as Fortnum & Mason, Debenhams, New Look, Pandora, we have found optimised music to have a substantial positive impact on both sales and revenue. Over the years, our research has shown that the right music/sound will increase customer capture at the door, dwell-time, browse-time, basket size and overall spending, as well as boost staff motivation and productivity. But this is only true of optimised music: strategically sourced and curated playlists that reflect the brand guidelines and designed specifically to enhance the shopping experience. Ideally too this optimised music will complement each store's environment and importantly speak directly to the audience walking in through its doors. 

 All too often retailers rely on playlists that are based on nothing more than ‘a feeling’ and track popularity or the manager’s personal taste. These often end up being bland, repetitive (how I hate playlists that effectively say ‘it must be 2.0’clock because it’s Lady Gaga’) or worse – sound like formulated, music-by-the-yard, wallpaper playlists. As you’d expect, the use of this kind of music very quickly equates to noise pollution and drives sections of customers away in their droves (PRS research quotes 4 out 5 customers walk out when the music is wrong).

So what do you do when something isn’t working for you? Do you just take the easy route and simply walk away from the idea? Installing speakers that enhance the environment is an expensive operation. Do you ask if it is the act of playing music that is the issue or the actual music itself?

 The process of creating bespoke music playlists for a store can be an expensive first step and continuing to get it right requires ongoing investment. But our experience shows that when a retailer stops and understands not only their consumers’ music behaviour but looks to match that with their patterns of behaviour in the store (not always the same), they will see both qualitative and quantitative ROI times over.

Designing optimised playlists is an in-depth process of art and science, involving not only creative music expertise, but also research and data analysis, creation of store sound style-guides, bespoke playlists, ongoing checks and balances etc. But those retailers who do get it right find that they can literally increase dwell time in the store by an impressive 17%. After that it’s up to the retailer to actually sell the product! Music, like any other component, can only do so much!

Category: Retail and restaurants , Retail stores

Genre: Music & Sound Design