Background music in retail and for sales areas

This is how PA applications with background music can promote sales in shops

Music affects us, in an obvious way when our mood brightens instantly while listening to a feel-good song. But music also has subconscious effects. That is why we tap our feet when we hear a catchy rhythm, sometimes even though we do not like the song itself. Where PA projects in retail are concerned, we have to remind retailers time and again to apply in-store music with a clear objective. Often a radio station is tootling in the background or the owners' favourite music is playing. Usually, however, nobody had really thought about it. Michael Krebbing from our Technical Project Management knows what you have to keep in mind when planning or installing PA applications for shops.

In retail stores, the tempo of background music influences the behaviour of customers

Here a simple ground rule applies: fast-paced music animates customers to move faster through shops.

Slow, pleasant music has a relaxing and soothing effect on customers and makes them stay longer in the shop.

Usually, that is just what retailers want: customers who stay in the shop. For customers who spend more time in the store buy more. These effects are documented in various studies. The specific use of PA applications in retail stores is part of the so-called 'sensory marketing'.

In retail, music has to support the concept of a shop

According to experts, music in a shop sharpens a brand's profile. Many retailers underestimate the effect music has on their customers, even though the first thing customers perceive often is the music. Music replaces the hustle and bustle of the pedestrian zone or the noise of the street. It welcomes the customer. Therefore, the background music is ideally an inherent part of the overall concept of the store. The positive connection with the retailer's brand is the best possible result music can achieve in retail. Thus, delicatessen retailers can create an ambience reminiscent of deli restaurants for gourmets.


High volume is a no-go

Volume in a shop is measured in decibels. 64 decibels (dB) are the absolute maximum for background music in retail. No matter how well the music is selected, if the volume exceeds a certain limit, the customer will perceive it as exhausting. As a guidance: 40 dB are soft background music and 64 dB a loud conversation.

The quality of a stay also gains importance in retail

High-quality background music is indispensable, particularly for shops of wine merchants and coffee specialists or delicatessen in general, and especially when tastings or other culinary events are also part of the offer. Nowadays, customers often expect that simple shopping is turned into an event. Event shopping is the future and perhaps the only way for brick-and-mortar stores to distinguish themselves from online retail.

For a positive shopping experience, background music is just as important as the interior and exterior of the shop.

It depends on the product which music boosts sales

Monika Imschloß is one of the world's most renowned experts for sensory marketing. She has discovered that e.g. relaxing music makes the fabrics in clothing stores and boutiques appear softer. Returning to the example 'delicatessen', her studies show that country-specific music boosts the sales of regional products. If the customer can chose between Spanish and French wines they buy the latter when listening to background music from France. This can be applied to the entire food retailing

Classical music, on the other hand, increases the willingness to buy high-priced products.

Therefore, the research by Monika Imschloß is relevant for expert planners and consulting installers. For whoever is able to advise at least basically in the field of sensory marketing has a head start on their competitors and proves how important background music is, in retail and in shops in general.


Attention: this is not about taste in music

Researchers have found out in extensive test series that it is more important that the music is suitable for the shop than the musical taste of the customers. In other words, even a rock music fan would be confused if a wine retailer would play rock music. The customer cannot make the connection between music and brand (the shop) even if they might like the music in another context. A suitable selection of music supports the store concept. Someone who usually does not listen to rock music might still like it in an alternative barber shop, because the concept is harmonious. Visual and aural impressions are consistent and the customer feels confirmed.

Several PA zones for larger shops

Music in the retailer's own shop can also mean that in different zones different styles of music would fit the bill. Perhaps the shop is divided into a lounge area for tastings and a sales area or the product range includes delicatessen from different cultures. Such projects require an amplifier that can provide several zones with different styles of music via 100 V line technique, e.g. this zone matrix amplifier.

A store with high ceilings?

Concerning PA applications in retail, you have to keep in mind if the shop is located in an old building or a converted factory building. In this case, flush-mount ceiling speakers are not well-suited because of the wide radiation range and the great distance to the recipient. Well-planned wall speakers could be an option if the walls of the shop allow for it. Wall speakers meet their limits when walls are very far apart, e.g. in shops which are located in old industrial buildings. So, if a shop is very spacious in height as well as in surface area, pendant speakers will be a good option.

We hope you found some inspiration for future projects. You are planning PA systems for retailers and shopkeepers? Have a look at our Audio Solution Guide or browse the PA-related topics in our magazine.

Which music am I allowed to use commercially as background music in the shop?

Shop owners can either create their own playlists or use a commercially licensed background music service. Spotify, for example, has a commercial licensing agreement that allows companies to play their music in public spaces. There are also a number of background music services designed specifically for retail stores, such as PlayNetwork and Muzak .

There are a number of ways to get royalty-free music for commercial use. Background music for stores can be obtained from a number of websites. This music can be used by companies without having to pay any licence fees. Caution If you're not sure whether a piece of music is copyrighted or not, it's best to be on the safe side and not use it.


We hope you were able to take away some inspiration for future projects. Are you planning public adress systems for dealers and store owners? Then take a look at our Audio Solution Guide or browse through the  topics in our magazine.

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