Over the years, there have been numerous studies to show how playing different types of background music can influence shopping behaviour. Everything from music volume to tempo can all play a part in how consumers spend money and behave in shops. Choosing the right background music for your shop isn't as easy though as ticking all the right boxes; there's an art to optimising the background music for the sort of shopping experience that you want to create and there is no one size that fits all. You must first determine the type of shop you run, and how you want customers to feel while they're shopping. And even then, there are many other variables at play such as time of day and what's on sale.
What type of background music should you play in a shop?
The volume and tempo of the background music can significantly affect the traffic flow within your shop. When you play fast-tempo or loud background music, it can cause customers to move more quickly around the shop, but without reducing the volume of sales. So playing louder music when your shop is nearing closing time may help to push those last few customers to the checkout point a little quicker. However, playing loud music that doesn't agree with your customer may also cause them a small amount of frustration and provide the customer with a negative shopping experience, that they themselves may not even be able to explain. People perceive shorter shopping time durations (compared to actual time spent in-store) when they hear music that they like, so long queuing times can feel shorter if you are playing agreeable music. Customers may not realise why they are enjoying a pleasant shopping experience, or even acknowledge any feeling other than indifference toward it at all, but subconsciously they will be correlating your shop with a positive shopping experience and will be more likely to shop there again.
Slow music can often cause shoppers to move slower around your shop, encouraging them to take their time shopping and buy more. Of course, this is not likely what you want during closing time, but would probably be better suited to those off-peak periods during the day when you do not have a lot of shoppers in-store.
If you play classical background music in your shop, it may give the illusion that the shop is expensive and cause budget-concerned customers to question the prices of purchase more before finalise any decisions. However, in shops that sell more high-end merchandise, or items considered to be "classy" (such as expensive wine), they may suddenly develop a "richer taste" and opt for the more expensive bottle...
In any case, the challenge is selecting what sort of background music would be most suitable to your business and your shop's customer demographics. Are you looking to increase overall sale volume, customer dwelling time, customer turnover rate or maybe you want to push customers toward particular sale items? You will need to align your choice of background music with the business' brand, product range and target demographic. Subtle differences in your shop environment can dramatically affect both the way in which your customers make purchase decisions and the way your store is perceived.
Effects of Background Music on Consumer's Behavior: A Field Experiment in a Open-Air Market (2007) http://nicolas.gueguen.free.fr/Articles/EJSR2007.pdf
The Influence of Background Music on Shopping Behavior: Classical Versus Top-Forty Music in a Wine Store (1993) http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=7467
Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers (1982) http://freakonomics.com/media/Using%20Background%20Music%20to%20Affect%20the%20Behavior
The Power of In-store Music and its Influence on International Retail Brands and Shopper Behaviour: A Multi-Case Study Approach (2002) http://www.semus.lt/medziaga/1.pdf