Music and full shopping carts in supermarkets

Shrieking guitars, noisy R&B singers, or rather classical music, we have all heard it in the supermarket. You have your hands full with the day-to-day operation of the shop and communication with customers. It would make it all the more fun if we did this while we were humming?


The professor

In 2011, Gordy Pleyers, professor of psychology at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, conducts research in a few supermarkets. For a few days, he will measure the speed at which customers push their shopping carts in the aisles of the shops. Some days there is no music, some days there is up-tempo pop music, followed by some days with quiet background music. Silence is perceived as a threatening environment by customers and staff. After all, when a person dies, we take time for “a minute’s silence”. The time that customers took to pass through the aisle was remarkably longer with the slow music than with the up-tempo music. So can you actually make a link between background music and sales? Perhaps not directly, but on the “slow” days the tickets at the cash registers were bigger. We assume that when we move through the aisles more slowly, we get into contact with the products for a longer time and buy more.

The “humming”-effect

A second important factor was the recognisability of the music. As we all know, we have two brain halves. And one side is more developed than the other. Thus, some people linger longer in the “emotional” right side, while others switch more quickly to the “sober” left side. But every stimulus, including music, enters via our sensitive right side. Half of the western population is rather “emotionally” oriented and will immediately feel the effect of the right or wrong music. They will recognise the melody, feel the vibe, and start humming along. It is believed that 10% of the population is highly sensitive, experiencing stimuli much more intensely. These clients will start to consciously get nervous if the music disturbs them. This applies not only to your customers, but also to your staff.

Grandma loves rock

For years, radio stations have been working with a playlist of mainly current hits, occasionally varied with a classic from the previous decades. People in their fifties and sixties love current music. After all, they have danced to 70’s Rock and New Wave and recognise many of their elements in today’s music. The easy-going grandmother of 62 years old really likes Bazaar or Balthazar. So if your customers are between 7 and 77 years old, everyone can feel young by playing recent hits, without forgetting the nostalgic touches, of course. After all, there is a direct link with music and the perception of products and surroundings. Research showed that when classical music was played in a wine shop, customers tended to choose more expensive bottles.

 Carnival in the supermarket

Every shop has its own identity. The relationship with the local customer is currently very important again. Uniformity no longer exists because it is simply no longer accepted by the customer. If the supermarket in Aalst really wants customers to feel at home, they really do not need to be ashamed to play that local carnival classic through the speakers every now and then in February. Of course, every business manager determines the DNA and image of his business, as he wants to translate it to his customers. If it is appropriate to stand out from the crowd every now and then, you are certainly allowed to do so. Be careful to maintain a good balance between “fun” and “irritation”. Who does not like Christmas music on Christmas Eve, but has had enough of it during the first week of January 03rd ?

Tomatoes in promotion today

Do these recorded messages, these “commercials” really work? If you ask the customers, they will always claim not to be influenced by advertising. Research in supermarkets, however, shows the opposite. If you show a commercial about tomatoes, not only will more tomatoes be sold, but the whole fresh food department will get more visitors. After all, the brain unconsciously makes associations. A commercial for the wine department will also stimulate the sale of cheese. That is why it is not crucial to show product promotions, but to put specific departments and services in the spotlight. There will always be an effect. A third of customers decide what to eat in the shop, what if they hear just then that the BBQ season has started?

Tips for the ideal background music

  1. Ask yourself, what do I want for my customers, a quiet place or rather a dynamic environment and adjust the rhythm of the music accordingly.
  2. Provide the “humming effect” with recent music, nostalgic touches, positive vibes and take the edge of things. Work on the local anchoring, not only per region, but even per village.
  3. Communicate with your customers in a professional way by audio spots and focus on departments and seasons rather than product promotions.