Selecting the right music for your retail store or restaurant may seem like a simple task, but a thoughtful music program has the power to significantly benefit (or harm) your business. Unfortunately, music is one of those things that has the greatest impact when done wrong. Guests leave restaurants because the music is too loud, and customers complain about offensive lyrics. Even the most generic playlist has the power to hurt your bottom line. Anytime a customer leaves from a bad experience, it becomes almost impossible to regain their business.

Five Ways In-Store Music Can Impact Your Business
The positive impact of in-store music on your business

Hoping that your in-store playlist is simply inoffensive background noise is a losing strategy. The challenge for many business owners is validating the costs of an effective music program. While it is easy to recognize that your store shouldn’t play overly loud or offensive music, it is less easy to understand why a music program should be more than “not-offensive,” but actually be tailored to your specific needs. The ROI and success of such a program may appear difficult to quantify, but there are measurable benefits (as well as disadvantages) that we share below.

When executed correctly, music can tangibly improve the in-store experience for your customers and ultimately help meet your business targets. Here are five ways you can turn your in-store music into a tool for success.

1. Improve the Customer Experience

Standing out in today’s retail climate is an increasingly difficult feat. Customer expectations are extraordinarily high and only continue to climb. This competitive landscape makes it essential that your store meets the customer’s needs, creates an enjoyable atmosphere in which to shop or dine, and outperforms your competitors. We see brands from Starbucks to Macy’s trying to reinvent the customer experience in their physical locations, using everything from in-store tattoo shops, to limited edition coffees to differentiate themselves. However, one consistent trait is the shift from shopping as a transactional activity to a form of entertainment.

Music is a crucial component in building an engaging customer experience with impressive results. The numbers are staggering: 95% of customers believe that music improves their shopping experience, while 71% will spent more time in a shop where they appreciate the music, and nearly a third say that they would return because of music they enjoyed. When executed well, music can transform your shop into a destination rather than simply a point-of-sale.

2. Avoid Unfriendly Silence

Have you ever walked into a completely silent store or restaurant? The lack of music is deafening, creating an uncomfortable environment for your customers. We’ve seen major brands like Target test music-free shopping environments, but the programs are short-lived and unsuccessful. The reason is simple: silence doesn’t work. A common goal for all business owners is making your storefront welcoming to target customers, but 83% of shoppers believe that silence makes a place feel unfriendly and unwelcoming. With such a large percentage of marketing budgets spent on customer acquisition and simply getting people through the door, a music-free store is like setting up the perfect touchdown pass and forgetting to give your wide receiver a pair of cleats – it might still work, but it’s going to be a lot harder. With 41% of customers saying they would react negatively to silence, why take the chance?

3. Raise Staff Morale and Performance

Who spends the most time in your retail store or restaurant? Not matter how loyal the customer, your staff occupy more time in your shop than anyone else, but are often overlooked in considerations about in-store environment. Brands are highlighting the important role that store associates play in their retail strategy - employees are brand ambassadors able to convert customers in brand loyalists more effectively than any other technique. Keeping staff motivated and upbeat is crucial to the long-term success of any business.

Unhappy or dissatisfied employees, however, will not represent your business needs (whether through poor customer service, lack of upselling, or absenteeism) and music directly affects staff morale and work ethic: 75% of managers/business owners agreed that allowing staff to listen to music helps team working/team bonding; 80% of customers noticed an improvement in staff morale with the addition of music; and managers saw a 18% increase in productivity and 6.7% reduction in absenteeism. While your in-store environment must also promote an enjoyable environment for customers, it must also foster a positive work environment for your team.

4. Increase Dwell Time

While companies focus on questions of in-store merchandising or promotional campaigns, these strategies become irrelevant if customers are not physically present. Marketing 101 tells us the longer you have a customer captive, the better your opportunity to sell. Whether the music is wrong, or even worse there is only silence, the distasteful atmosphere gives your clients another excuse to leave before other strategies are realized.

However, the inverse also holds true. Music can attract and engage, keeping customers in your store longer, therefore improving the prospects for additional purchases. Whether it is creating a more palatable environment while waiting in line (80% marked improvement), or simply increasing the overall dwell time (35% stayed longer), music gives your business additional time with your customer, or at minimum makes it more bearable to wait an extra 15 minutes during check-out.

5. Build Brand Voice

Music has the ability to forge powerful emotional connections between your brand and customer. Like many sensory experiences, music can imprint on a person’s subconscious, allowing you to leverage meaningful memories by playing the right song. Moreover, music is another avenue to speak to your customer and define your brand voice. Over half of customers believe that in-store music should fit with the brand identity, and 44% will actually leave a store if they believe that the music is wrong for the brand. Take this example: When walking into a shop selling handcrafted toiletries from France, customers are seeking an escape from their busy lives. Music should be calming and maybe ethereal, not bumping bass from dance hits. Not only will the poor music selection force customers out the shop door, it will also taint the brand image across other channels. Music is more than a background to your shop, it is a powerful method of building a connection between customer and product.