Updated: Jun 16
Do you think the music you hear in a bar, hotel or restaurant can influences sales?
Interior design strategies are vital for any successful bar, restaurant or hotel. Menus, lighting, seating layout, materials, and colors all combine to deliver a great customer experience and to bring the brand to life.
Of all sensory inputs, we respond quickest to sound. It’s the sense that reaches the brain first and functions as an organizer for the rest of our senses. Whether we realize it or not, sound guides our choices every single moment. So why are sounds and music so often overlooked as part of the design strategy? Mainly, it's because nobody has tested exactly how music that matches a brand influences sales, emotions, and guest experience.
The biggest experiement of its kind
Previous research (Among others Milliman, 1982; Areni, 2003; Lammers, 2003; North et al., 2000 & 2003) has shown that music can influence sales and customer decisions. But technical constraints limited the size and scope of those studies and made it difficult to determine the exact impact music had on sales.
Surprisingly few studies have examined the business impact of in-store music that reflects a brand’s values. And no earlier studies have looked at the impact of playing music by artists from outside the charts that nevertheless is a good fit for the brand.
A system change Soundtrack Your Brand's streaming solution made it possible to schedule music across an unlimited number of locations. Now we could see precisely how music moved sales, second by second. This technology revolutionized how music is played and the way we can measure its impact.
A massive study This study, analyzing a pool of nearly two million purchases, is by far the biggest study on the subject to date. Researchers from The Swedish Retail Institute and Soundtrack Your Brand combined rigorous quantitative research with in-depth fieldwork research. Each method helped paint a picture of just how music moves sales, what effect brand fit music has on customer satisfaction, and what role song popularity plays.
What exactly is brand fit music?
Brand fit Music with a strong brand fit matches the brand’s personality. It’s music that “feels” like the brand. In the same way that the chosen interiors, materials and lighting in a restaurant can evoke certain emotions, music can also play an integral part in how a brand is perceived. Because the sound is unique to the brand, it becomes ownable and helps a brand build stronger and longer lasting relationships with its customers.
Customer fit Customer fit music, by contrast, is music that matches the customers' taste in music. But the more diverse the customer base is, the more difficult it becomes to develop a distinct sound that matches the full spectrum of musical preferences. An entirely diverse customer base yields a list of the most popular current songs across all genres – and as a consequence, this sound is not ownable.
How the study was done
To test our hypotheses, we packaged the music into four different playlists.
1) Brand fit A Songs that fit the brand. Includes both songs from Spotify’s top 1000 Sweden list and songs that are less well known.
2) Brand fit B Songs that fit the brand. Includes only songs from Spotify’s top 1000 Sweden list. Only well- known songs.
3) No brand fit Songs randomly selected from Spotify’s top 1000 Sweden list. Only well-known songs.
4) No music By comparing 1 with 2, we could study the effect of less popular music in the playlists. By comparing 1 + 2 with 3, we could investigate how music that reflects the restaurants' brand values pushed sales. By comparing 1 + 2 + 3 with 4, we could examine how much the mere presence of music moved sales.
The researchers set out to discover just how much brand fit music could influence consumer behavior and perceptions. Quite a lot, as it turned out. Playing music that reflects brand values makes a big difference in sales compared with playing random popular songs. Playing a mix of popular and less known songs that still have a good brand fit turns out to be a recipe for even higher sales. Playing music that has a good brand fit with the restaurants evokes a broad range of positive emotions among the customers.
When it comes to playing music in stores and restaurants, common sense suggests the perfectly reasonable idea is that one should play music that the patrons enjoy. However, our research shows that this approach often proves surprisingly ineffective as a way to increase sales.
Three years ago, researchers at HUI Research – the Swedish Institute of Retail – wanted to investigate if music that aligns with a brand’s values moves sales. Until then, researchers across the world had conducted smaller field studies on how music influences sales and customer perceptions. However, those studies had been limited to the effects of different music characteristics, such as tempo and music style.
We wanted to take a radically different approach – investigating how the congruence between music choice and brand values affects sales. Earlier research suffered from technological restraints. Playing the exact same songs at the same time across many stores or restaurants was simply unfeasible. That’s when a startup called Soundtrack Your Brand knocked on our door and said they had the tools to help us conduct a much more extensive field study. And so we did. It’s the largest field research on the influence of music in restaurants to date, and the results were mind-boggling. This field study is only the beginning. Soundtrack Your Brand’s streaming technology has opened the doors for even larger and more comprehensive research. Stay tuned, and keep listening.