How In-Store Music Tricks You Into Spending More

At about this point in the holiday season, most of us have been subjected to listen to Christmas songs whether we want to or not. 

If you think you’ve heard more slow, sappy songs than upbeat tunes, you might be right but the reason might surprise you. The reason Christmas music is played in every retail store from Thanksgiving through December is not to spark the holiday spirit, and retailers with a sound knowledge of how in-store music influences shoppers can get more of your money.

In a landmark 1982 paper, “Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers,” researchers found that the tempo of a store’s background music can influence both the pace of customer traffic flow (i.e., how much time people spend inside the store) as well as how much they spend.

The two main take-aways of the study:

  • Fast (uptempo) music makes people move more quickly through a store, and they end up buying less.
  • Slow (downtempo) music makes people move more slowly through a store, and they end up buying more.

The bottom line? Slower music leads to slower shoppers, which in turn leads to shoppers taking more time to browse and interact with more products. In the supermarket study, sales volume was, on average, 38% higher on days when stores played slow background music.

It turns out that all holiday music is not created equal – at least as it relates to manipulating the brains of shoppers.

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