"Now on special offer, the anything cheese from ...", "Fresh anything in the anything department ..." - and then a poorly produced jingle follows. Uh-uh. First impressions are everything in the retail world. From the moment a customer steps into the store, they are inundated with stimuli vying for their attention. In order to still create a remarkable environment, branches need to create an inviting and appealing environment – and that includes the audio technology. This guide will give you an overview of the different types of audio equipment that are important for the retail trade. And what you should consider when selecting the individual components.
Audio technology for trading chains: An underestimated factor
Music in the supermarket, in the electronics retailer or at the sports chain store? For lay people, this does not sound like a high priority. But this is a mistake: The right audio system helps create the desired atmosphere, whether you want it to be fun and lively or calm and serene. With music, you can guide customers through the shop and increase the time they spend there. What is certain is that sound influences consumers either subconsciously or consciously. What changes most is the amount of time a consumer is willing to spend in a shop. This ultimately influences customers' purchasing decisions and their shopping basket size positively or negatively. At the same time, many branches of trading chains need professional intercoms, options to broadcast advertisements, as well as voice alarms.
3 speaker types for trading chains
The first step in any audio system is choosing the right speakers. There are three main types of speakers used in retail environments:
- Speakers for background music: They are designed to blend into the background and deliver smooth, unobtrusive sound that does not disrupt customer conversations and the shopping experience. In the retail trade, you need a lot of stable, reliable speakers. Ceiling speakers the best choice here.
- Speakers for foreground music or for specific areas: These are larger, more powerful speakers designed to provide dedicated sound to a single area, for example with themed music. Wall-mounted speakers that are mounted more at ear level. Or other speakers that you can use in a more targeted way than ceiling speakers such as column speakers.
- Special speakers: These speakers are used for special applications such as announcements or entire paging systems. An example would be PA A/B sound projectors for wall mounting in warehouses. Here, speech intelligibility is particularly important.
The tempo of the music as a decisive factor
In particular, the tempo of the background music has an influence on customers. In an experiment conducted in an American supermarket, different pieces of music were played in the supermarket every day at different tempos, some fast, some slow. Meanwhile, they tracked customers' shopping speeds and recorded the store's total daily profits. Researchers found that customers walked through the shop faster when the music was fast. This gave them less time to make impulsive purchases and take in the range of goods on the shelves. Slow music, on the other hand, had the opposite effect: It slowed down shopping and customers bought more during their visit. As a result, the supermarket generated a significantly higher daily profit just by playing slower background music in the shop.
The theme of music as an incentive to buy
There is also a connection between the type of music and purchasing behaviour. For example, in various trials, it was found that customers who listened to French music also bought French goods, such as French wines or French cuisine specialities.
4 Areas of application for PA technology in trading chains
1. Providing sound for individual displays
More and more branches of trading chains are using screens for special product ranges. This kind of digital signage offers ever better display qualities, and the displays themselves are also becoming thinner and have higher resolutions. They are a great way to give more (and more useful) information than static, analogue displays. They also relieve staff of repetitive requests, freeing them up to focus on other tasks. These displays are often connected to integrated systems and apps and can be used to display various promotions, customer visits and events – even with editorial content or sound.
Sound projectors are perfectly suited for individual areas and displays. They can be aimed at the point in front of a screen or display and broadcast the appropriate sound to the customers there. This allows customers watching an explanatory or promotional video in front of a display to enjoy an immersive digital experience without affecting the calm atmosphere of the rest of the showroom.
Studies on digital signage in grocery shops found that customers are most likely to respond to messages that relate to their current environment. Customers are least likely to respond to traditional brand messages. An example: Customers waiting in line at the branch bakery are more likely to respond to useful announcements about new baked goods than customers browsing the aisles. This means that directional sound in retail trade is perfect for a better customer experience. For example, you could point out suitable products in the product range to customers queuing at the meat counter.
2. "Digital Sound Signage": Attention to specific thematic and product categories
Different areas of the shop have different uses and therefore benefit from different background sounds. A soothing soundscape from nature makes an area for hiking equipment more experiential when "hiking through".
3. Audio branding
Create a consistent audio branding experience for your customers. Are you perhaps already using acoustic branding in your other marketing channels, a slogan, jingle or soundtrack? Then this branding belongs in your branch as well. Audio branding generates:
"comfort": The customer is in the right place.
4. Accessibility and barrier-free access
Acoustic signals are an important orientation aid for visually impaired people. This is especially important if individual product segments in your branch require special explanation. Audio technologies can therefore make it possible at all for people with an impairment to enjoy a self-managed visit to your shop. Induction loops are commonly used "assistive listening devices" that enhance the shopping experience for customers with hearing disabilities.
4 Factors for the selection of speakers in trading chains:
- Sensitivity or sound pressure : How much sound does the speaker produce per watt of power? Higher sensitivity means that less amplifier output power is required, which can lead to savings in energy costs. In the retail trade, this is particularly relevant when speakers are active for long hours, several days a week.
- Directivity pattern or directional effect: How wide is the speaker's "sweet spot" – the area where the sound is evenly distributed? A narrower radiation behaviour means that the speaker must be aligned more carefully, while a wider radiation behaviour means that the sound is distributed more evenly in the room. There are good rules of thumb for the planning of ceiling speakers.
- Frequency response: What range of frequencies does the speaker reproduce? A straight frequency response means that the speaker reproduces both deep bass tones and high treble tones, resulting in a fuller sound. For background music in the retail trade, you can definitely make concessions in terms of bass.
- Speech intelligibility for announcements and advertisements. However, this is not only an issue for the speakers, but also for the acoustic planning.
When you enter a busy retail shop or a crowded office building, the last thing you want is for the noise level to be so overwhelming that it is difficult to concentrate or hold a conversation. This is where acoustic planning comes into play. Simply put, acoustic planning is the process of designing a space to control the acoustics or sound in that space. This can range from the use of sound-absorbing materials on walls and ceilings to the strategic placement of furniture and equipment. By taking these measures, companies can create a more pleasant and productive environment for employees and customers.
Amplifiers for branches of trading chains
Reliable 100-volt technology is often used in retail trade. Accordingly, a PA amplifier is required. So far, so easy. For the selection of the amplifier, it is then important which music sources the branch uses. In most cases, an amplifier that can play FM radio but also has other input options, such as MP3 players, noise-free DAB+ tuners and Bluetooth, is a good choice.
When choosing an amplifier, be sure to also consider the power rating, cooling requirements and features such as EQ control and overload protection.
Other audio equipment for use in branches
In addition to speakers and amplifiers, there is a wide range of other audio equipment for the retail trade:
- If the amplifier is not sufficient as an audio source, a digital stereo tuner is an alternative for receiving FM and DAB+.
- For announcements throughout the branch, it is best to use a PA telephone announcement adapter for connecting to an analogue AB extension on a switchboard.
- A 24 V emergency power supply ensures maximum operating safety.
Audio is a critical component in providing customers with an immersive and engaging shopping experience. When selecting audio equipment for a sales area, it is important to consider the type of environment you want to create, as well as the size and layout of your space. With so many options on the market, a professional audio consultant can help you make sure you choose equipment that meets your needs and fits your budget.