THE SOUND OF SILENCE:WHY MUSIC IN SUPERMARKETS IS JUST A DISTRACTION

Quick research facts

Supermarket customers can deconstruct the soundscape and isolate elements that provoke different emotional reactions. However, the effect of music in supermarkets remains marginal, perhaps only affecting a very small number of consumers, or in fact having no effect at all.

THE SOUND OF SILENCE:WHY MUSIC IN SUPERMARKETS IS JUST A DISTRACTION

ABSTRACT

Retailers use music in the service environment to try to change consumer behaviour with a view to increasing spend, or improving consumer mood. Previous research has largely focused on music but ignored the effects of other noises within a servicescape: yet all noises can impact consumers’ affective states, and their behaviour.

This study examines the role of both planned and other sounds within the supermarket environment. In particular, this study investigates the cognizant and emotional reactions of supermarket customers, and explores their shopping intentions in the context of shoppers’ understanding of and reaction to the sounds they perceive.

RESULTS

 

Awareness of sound 
Not all respondents were aware of music as a sound within the store. Customers were aware of planned sounds that had a purpose within the soundscape, such as barrier alarms, tills beeping and music. Various machine noises were described, such as till noises: “the voice of the self-service”, heating and security alerts.

Staff were exposed to the same range of sounds as customers in the servicescape and indicated cognizance of these. In addition, staff were more acutely aware of sounds specifically intended to aid their roles, such as oven timer alerts, security barriers, staff announcements and breakages. Staff relied on sounds for task completion.

One manager reported that the music was used to meet customer expectations:“they like to hear something in the background”. The other manager was clear that music was intended to appeal to a particular demographic, and therefore that the use of music was strategic marketing, yet was unaware of the requirements of different demographics or the music being played in store at any one time.

Human sound  = negative reactions.
Music = positive reactions. 

Sound and mood
A minority of respondents appeared to enjoy music as an aspect of the soundscape, but there was no overall perceived impact on mood. Overall, shoppers felt that music within the servicescape made little or no contemporaneous impact on their emotions, and only a small minority of shoppers were even aware of the music at all.

Sound and time spent in store
More customers reported spending longer in the store than intended, than those who spent less time than intended the current research, however most attributed this to factors other than sound.

IMPLICATIONS/LEARNINGS

IMPLICATIONS

How to conduct similar music research for your brand

STEP 1

HYPOTHESES 

 Is music in supermarkets just a distraction for the loud noises? 

  • 2 big supermarkets in two different suburban areas in Birmingham, UK. 
  • Respondents included 37 customers, 7 staff and 2 store managers.
  • Qualitative data such as semi-structured interviews.
  • Respondents were interviewed in the checkout area after their shopping. 
  • Wide range of participants including different ethnicities, income brackets, cultural identities and genders.
  • Random approach and pick of respondents. 
  • Identification and recording of ambient noises such as aleatory sounds such as doors closing, cupboards/ freezer compartments etc. Categories based on location in store, sound level and soundscape elements. 

STEP 2

METHODOLOGY

STEP 3

Survey/
Measurement

  • Customers

    • What different sounds are/were you aware of in the store?
    • Can you remember any one particular noise?- explain? 
    • How long do you think you spent in the store? 
    • Did you spend more, less or the same as you intended?  will you shop here again?- Reasons?
    • How did you feel before you entered the store? 
    • How did you feel once you had completed your shopping? 
    • If there was music playing, was it music you liked? 
    • If there was music playing, did it put you off your task?
    • Any other sounds that you liked/disliked 
    • Any other sounds put you off your task? 
    • Any other sounds put you off your task? 
    • Ease of communication/speech intelligibility – conversation with companion- conversation with staff?

    Staff

    • What different sounds are/were you aware of in the store?
    • Can you remember any particular noise or sound?  how did you feel before you entered the store?
    • How did you feel once you had left the store floor? 
    • If there was music playing, was it music you liked? 
    • If there was music playing, did it put you off your task?
    • Any other sounds that you liked/disliked ?
    • Any other sounds put you off your task? 
    • Conversation with colleague/Conversation with customer?

    Managers

    • What different sounds are you aware of in the store? 
    • Can you aware of any particular noise or sound? 
    • What sounds have you got any degree of control over?-
    • Describe elements-What control, and what degree of control? 
    • Are there any sounds you would like to control?– Describe elements-What control, and what degree of control? 
    • Are you aware of any impact of sound on consumers’ emotions? 
    • Does sound affect consumer behaviour, including repeat pur- chase intentions? 
    • Does sound, including planned sound such as music or staff announcements have any effect on task completion by staff and customers? 
    • Conversation with colleague/Conversation with customer?