How to boost sales with sound


I often get the question whether sound and music can really boost sales in retail. The answer is quite simply a determined ‘yes’. I thought I’d devote an article to the subject to explain how sound and music affect people to buy more.

First of all it is important to realize that music can boost sales, but that does not mean that it will. Many retailers seem to think that playing any sort of music will make their shops perform better. It does not. In fact, choosing the wrong music, bad sound or the wrong volume can lower your sales quite dramatically.

So how does that work? How come we are so deeply affected by music that we display different buying behavior, simply because different music is playing? Let’s look at the science behind this magical power of sound.

Music has a strong influence on how we feel. This is because it affects us on countless different levels. When music reaches our ears it triggers a chain of reactions in our body and mind. It physically alters biorhythms such as our heart and breath rates, and it triggers strong associative processes in the brain. Furthermore it causes the release of hormones and so it measurably alters our physiological and psychological state.

As any retailer will know, our physical and psychological state has a huge effect on how we behave when shopping. When you feel stressed, you are far less likely to take the time to really listen to a salesman’s arguments than when you feel relaxed. When you are happy you are likely to buy different food than when you are sad. We hardly make any rational choices when shopping. It all comes down to what is happening subconsciously.

Studies have shown, for instance, that the loudness of music affects how we perceive time. When playing louder music, time seems to pass at a higher pace. This, in turn, causes us to compensate by moving faster. So without anyone being aware of it, you can affect how much time people spend in your shop by simply altering the volume of your instore music.

Having people spend more time in your shop could boost sales since it allows for more impulse purchases to be made. On the other hand, having people leave quicker might allow you to service more clients in the same amount of time. It all depends on your formula and strategy which would benefit you most.

This is a typical example of a choice you face when determining what kind of music would best suit your shop. Altering time perception alone is shown to have the potential to boost sales by up to 33%! So think about what might happen when you take some time to carefully examine which music would best support your formula and strategy.

Thomas van Straaten
Instore Media Consultant

Leave a reply


  1. Scott gronsbell 17 januari, 2013 at 13:23 Beantwoorden

    Some excellent observations on the proper application of music marketing. As a consumer I have experienced The good, The bad, and The Very Ugly!
    System integrators are not effectively addressing cost, quality, and performance attributes in the pre sales meeting with the end user. Not having the proper ( delivery ) design for this extremely important Branding, Environment, and Ultimately positive Sales experience is liking eating soup with a fork, it doesn’t work!
    I live in the A/V world, it is my job. Rubber stamping designs ( based on the last install ) with the wrong product just nullifies everyone else’s hard work. I sell paging speakers, so when I go shopping or out to dinner with my family I look up. Every once in a while I smile, but most of the time The disappointment is obvious from my scowl.
    I would love to see an article about design based on Acoustic environment, not dollar amount
    Scott Gronsbell
    Soundsphere Speakers

    • Thomas van Straaten 18 januari, 2013 at 08:26 Beantwoorden

      Dear Scott,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and reply! Appreciate it very much.
      I agree with your message. The problem (I think) is in the fact that many retailers still see music as a bit of entertainment that is just there for fun. When I meet people who feel this way any conversation about a music system will come down to the dollar (euro in my case) amount.
      I do see a positive change here though. When I tell them music is actually a marketing tool that is vital to the overall feel and performance of a retail space, suddenly the costs look a little less important. And rightfully so. A properly installed system playing the right content can boost sales by large percentages (I measured 15,7% in a shop I recently consulted). So saving a few pennies is simply a waste.
      Good to hear you are putting this message out there as well!

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