By Lennox Morrison
At Harvey Nichols’ flagship store in Knightsbridge, London, staff have noticed a new and unusual behaviour pattern among shoppers.
As customers stroll through the artfully displayed designer collections, many are holding their smartphones aloft, using music-discovery app Shazam to identify the track wafting through the store’s music system. Less tech-savvy clients simply ask staff what’s playing.
But hitting the right note with customers hasn’t come about by chance. For the past 18 months, the international luxury retailer has invested in the services of Music Concierge, a music consultancy, to curate made-to-measure playlists.
“We realised that customers visiting any retail environment were becoming more and more demanding of an experience. If you don’t want an experience you just buy online,” said Shadi Halliwell, Harvey Nichols’ marketing and creative director.
“From our research what we know is that if we create the right atmosphere visually, from a scent point of view and music point of view, then customers will stay longer. If you increase the dwell time then you are going to increase sales,” Halliwell said.
If you increase the dwell time then you are going to increase sales
Where businesses once relied on endless loops of Muzak, or tunes selected by a store’s manager, major brands are now taking track selection one step further, harnessing the mood-changing power of music to increase revenue. The key to this is profiling. Shops, hotels, bars, restaurants, spas and nightclubs — and even property developers selling apartment complexes — are paying companies such as Music Concierge to fine tune the soundscape to encourage clients to linger longer and spend more.
Browsing the men’s shoes section on a Saturday morning, Jack Warne, a 28-year-old public-services worker from Cambridge in England, said, “I like the music here. It’s not too full on, quite relaxed.” In contrast, shopping in chain stores on London’s Oxford Street the previous day, he’d found the volume excessive. “You can’t hear yourself think, let alone talk to the sales assistant,” he said.
Striking a chord with customers
Harvey Nichols’ brief to Music Concierge wasn’t age specific, but they did ask for a consistently inspiring luxury experience which would increase browse time, said Halliwell. “We are a British brand and we’re known to be really supportive of up-and-coming talent in fashion and beauty. With that in mind, the bespoke playlist we wanted to curate was soundtracks full of rising stars to appeal to our customers’ sense of discovery.”
Music can influence our emotions
“It’s no secret that music can influence our emotions,” said Rob Wood, the DJ who founded Music Concierge in 2007. “It can remind us of things, make us feel happy, sad, thoughtful, make us jump up and down like a possessed demon.”
This makes music a powerful tool for retailers.
“One thing we say to business owners is if you are just putting music on in an unthought-through way it could be doing a combination of all these things. But if you curate it in an intelligent, well-conceived way with your brand, your audience and your business objectives in mind, you can use that as another tool, just as you do with your artwork or lighting or service style.”
Psychology at play
Science supports the idea that music can influence certain consumer behaviour, but can it make you spend more?
Well, yes, according to Professor Adrian North, head of the school of psychology and speech pathology at Curtin University in Australia, who has researched the relationship between music and behaviour.