Consumers consider themselves beyond the influence of such factors, however music psychology studies have shown that the right audio has a direct influence on many behaviours beyond conscious awareness. Research has shown that consumer behaviour is highly sensitive to background music in the shopping environment.
Studies show that customers select more expensive wine in a wine merchant when exposed to classical music as opposed to pop music. We associate classical music with sophistication and affluence; hence shoppers feel in a more ‘higher class’ frame of mind. Since music has the ability to prime certain thoughts, customers were more likely to buy more expensive wine with music that primed thoughts of affluence.
Consumers make decisions in a logical and rational way however, environmental psychology studies point out that very subtle changes in the retail environment can dramatically shape consumer behaviour. This supports evidence that the behavioural economics viewpoint of what consumers do is rather irrational, and is largely driven by the unconscious processing of the external environment.
Although people do not walk around a store evaluating the music at a conscious level, background music is able to influence emotions beyond recognition and exert a powerful unconscious influence over consumer behaviour.
Despite background music being highly controllable by a store or company, many businesses fail to optimise this in-store marketing technique for a number of reasons. Firstly, background music is usually chosen by the management. Secondly, the way in which most companies would test the influence of their retail environment on consumer behaviour is likely to be through attitudinal surveys and other traditional marketing techniques. Acquiring consumer insight in this way largely ignores the unconscious processes that drive their behaviour.
To quote music psychologist Dr Vicky Williamson: “Music positively influences consumer mood/emotional states through psycho-physiological reactions and autobiographical memory associations. It also creates a sense of auditory privacy, so valued in these days of the personal music device, thereby promoting browsing and diluting the conscious passage of time. Silence by comparison can be intrusive, as it throws unwelcome attention on the consumers’ behaviour. By extension, silence can also suggest a lack of care for the quality of consumer experiences.”
PPL music researchers also found that 86% of retailers believe that background music can help to relieve tension and awkward silences for their customers.