By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 12 May 2011)
Does music heard while shopping or eating at a restaurant influence what you buy and how much you spend? A number of studies indicate that it does. In particular, researchers have found that loudness, tempo, and genre of music have significant effects on how long consumers spend in shops and restaurants, how much they purchase or consume, and whether they view brands or individual products favourably or unfavourably.
Music Volume Influences Time Perception and Time Spent Shopping
Music volume is negatively correlated with shopping time, but people in grocery stores playing loud music make just as many purchases despite shopping for a shorter period of time. This indicates that sales per minute are much higher when music is played loudly than with soft background music (Smith & Cumow 1966).
Researchers have also found that when department stores play Top 40 music, shoppers over 25 believe that they have spent more time shopping, whereas in stores that play instrumental easy listening music, people under 25 feel that they have been in the store for longer than they have. These findings suggest that unfamiliar or less-preferred music slows down perceived time for the shopper (Yalch & Spangenberg, 1990).
Music Tempo Affects Consumer Behaviour
Experiments conducted in the 1980s found that in both supermarkets (Milliman, 1982) and restaurants (Milliman, 1986), slower music creates slower traffic flow, which means that people shop for longer in a supermarket and spend more time eating and drinking in a restaurant. Both studies found much higher sales volumes in the slow tempo condition. This is unsurprising, as consumers who are moving more slowly are more inclined to see additional items they would like. Restaurants playing slow music had longer waits for tables and much higher customer bar bills as well. Interestingly, although restaurant patrons didn’t eat more in the slow music condition, they drank far more.
Studies have shown that classical music may be particularly effective in triggering increased spending (for more on this, visit the Classical Music page).
Music and Product Evaluation
Unsurprisingly, people are more inclined to desire a product that has been advertised in conjunction with music they enjoy than one that has been paired with unappealing music or no music at all (Mitchell, 1988; Simpkins & Smith, 1974). Numerous studies have also shown that consumers are more likely to buy products when the music used to advertise them is aligned with the product. These effects work for both individual products and entire brands (Oakes, 2007).
Oakes’s (2007) research review indicates that in addition to whether or not music is the consumer’s preferred type, congruity between music and the product being advertised is also very important. The most effective music used in advertising is that composed specifically to match the product, although recall of advertising messages can also be enhanced by using popular songs, particularly when the music is played without lyrics. Those listening to the advertisement are inclined to sing along, supplying the missing lyrics either in their minds or overtly, which increases their involvement with the advertisement and the likelihood that they will remember it afterwards (Roehm, 2001).
More Music Articles
To read more about music psychology, including the link between music preferences and personality traits, whether or not certain genres of music influence behaviour, how music therapy is used to treat a variety of conditions, and more, visit the Music Psychology page.
Bruner, G. (1990). “Music, Mood, and Marketing.” Journal of Marketing, 54(4), 94-104Milliman, R.E. (1982). “Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers.” Journal of Marketing, 46(3), 286-291.
Milliman, R.E. (1986). “The Influence of Background Music on the Behavior of Restaurant Patrons.” Journal of Consumer Research, 13(2), 286-289.
- Mitchell, A.A. (1988). “Current Perspectives and Issues Concerning the Explanation of Feeling Advertising Effects.” In Nonverbal Communication in Advertising, Sidney Hecker & David W. Stewart, Eds. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Oakes, S. (2007). “Evaluating Empirical Research into Music in Advertising: A Congruity Perspective.” Journal of Advertising Research, 47(1), 38-50.
- Roehm, M.L. (2011). “Instrumental vs. Vocal Versions of Popular Music in Advertising.” Journal of Advertising Research, 41(3), 49-62.
- Simpkins, J.D., & Smith, J.A. (1974). “Effects of Music on Source Evaluations.” Journal of Broadcasting, 18(3), 361-367.
- Smith, P., & Cumow, R. (1966). “‘Arousal Hypothesis’ and the Effects of Music on Purchasing Behavior.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 50(3), 255-256.
Yalch, R.F., & Spangenberg, E. (1990).”Effects of Store Music on Shopping Behavior.” Journal of Consumer Marketing, 7(2), 55-63.