EXCLUSIVE: How In-Store Music Increases Grocery Sales

The right background songs can drive consumer behavior, expert tells Progressive Grocer
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Grocery music
Using data and brand identities to create a curated, relevant playlist can boost dwell time and traffic.

It may be music to grocers’ ears to learn that background songs do, in fact, influence shoppers. According to research conducted by MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music), 72.6% of shoppers notice the background music playing at grocery stores. 

The Stockholm-based Soundtrack Your Brand offers 100 million songs that are licensed for grocery stores and claims that background music has the potential to lift sales by 10%. Co-founder and CEO Ola Sars, who earlier co-founded Beats Music that was later acquired by Apple, told Progressive Grocer in a recent interview that music can create a harmonious shopping experience. “Music affects us as human beings – music affects the way we feel, how we perceive time, the mood we’re in,” he said, adding that he got the idea for the B2B streaming platform after doing more research on the topic. “There was this idea that what we were doing in the consumer market could be applied to the commercial market.”

[Read more: “Peacock Becomes Instacart’s 1st-Ever Streaming Partner”]

Sars cited the advent of proverbial elevator music, which began for a reason. “In the 1920s, they were putting music in elevators when people were nervous. It was about the notion that music would calm people down," he explained. 

In today’s grocery stores, music has the potential to create a host of moods and, ultimately enhance conditions for sales. The key, Sars says, is to find and play relevant songs and ones that have been properly licensed to avoid any liability. “We are disrupting legacy background music, when business had satellite downloads with no intelligence. What happens if you play the right music at the right place and time?” he asked. 

Streaming can be an important part of a marketing toolbox. “If you are any grocery store or brand, you have a brand identity, a marketing team and CEO who thinks about the brand you are delivering and works to deliver that experience across all channels. You can translate your brand values into music and music profiles,” Sars noted.

He shared a hypothetical example. “Say a grocery chain is known for being organic and trustworthy, but still progressive and modern. We can help them interpret what those brand characteristics mean in music, using data from our data universe,” he said, noting that a playlist for an independently owned chain of three stores on the East Coast would look very different based on that business’s brand.

As with other aspects of operations and marketing, effective background music can vary by location. “Geography means that music for a chain can sound different in Miami than in New York. It still needs to be your brand, but adjusted, depending on where they are in the world, with a local repertoire,” Sars said.

Daypart also impacts the vibe. “In the morning, the music in Miami needs to sound a specific way. They know what kind of customer comes in then, and what they want to achieve with that customer. And then there are others who come in for casual shopping at lunch,” he added. 

Retailers can also mix it up a bit based on the kind of day it is. “There are not a lot of things as a grocery retailer that you can change quickly and be contextually relevant – you can’t change products on shelf in real time, but you can change music if it’s raining outside and make it a more warm experience with music,” Sars pointed out. 

Grocers can even make playlists for different areas of the store. “If you have a wine bar, for example, you want to have people stay for a while and calm down, so it’s a different experience. And then in the main aisles, you keep the tempo up so people move through,” Sars suggested. 

Messaging can be incorporated into the streaming of licensed songs as well. “We are rolling out a messaging platform. If you are playing an adopted soundtrack and creating mood and balance, you can also add messaging promoting different types of products – like, ‘Today we have a special price on Oreo cookies’ or ‘Please visit our wine department, where we are having a wine and cheese tasting,'” said Sars. “The ability to create your own marketing channel, in synergy with the music being played, is a way of turning a music platform into a tactile marketing platform.”

He shared data supporting the allure of curated streaming platforms. “We did some research with a big European chain this year that found when they applied the right music at the right place and the right time, they saw dwell time increase by 5.7%,” he reported.

That same chain conducted a test, with the curated collection playing in some stores and a series of popular hits playing in others. “With the (curated playlist) they had increase as much as 16%. It’s real money,” he declared. 

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