How Music and Scent Can Increase Retail Sales

Good retailers know ambience matters in their business location, no matter what they’re selling. From music selection and inviting window displays, to the right product organization and a sales team to match, every detail contributes to the customer experience – even scent. The ideal shopping experience engages all five senses, which is why music and engaging or enticing scents prove to shape a shopper’s mood and experience.

Olfaction is our most primal sense and the brain reacts to smell before anything else. Scents (and music) trigger emotions, fond memories and certain behaviors in shoppers. While some retailers have done their homework on using scents in their place of business, others are getting it wrong. Here are a few tips on how to mix the right music with the right scents.

Ambient Scent

Don’t Take Shortcuts

If you’re on a strict budget, don’t be tempted to pick up some basic air freshener from your local discount or department store. Cheap, cloying aromas turn consumers off instead of inspiring them and generic diffusers – which don’t allow you to control intensity – tend to bombard areas of your store with overpowering fragrance that can leave a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste in the minds and noses of shoppers as it fades. Your store’s ambient scent should be barely noticeable. There are a number of affordable, cold-air diffusion units available that allow you to control when a scent is released and its strength.

Match Scents to Your Brand

Common sense dictates that floral and other light scents work well in women’s fashion boutiques, while spicy or woodsy scents are more effective in a men’s clothing store. Alternatively, the smell of freshly cut grass permeating a home improvement store will appeal to both men and women shoppers. Choosing the right scent improves a customer’s perception of your product’s quality while encouraging them to linger in your space longer.

Keep it simple

Depending on the size of your store, the temptation to release different scents in different product sections may be tempting, but it can be as self-destructive as blasting two types of music in the same room.  The result is usually confusion and irritation – two of the least desirable emotions you want to inspire in your customers. Consider using a gentle fragrance near the checkout area or releasing a single, appealing fragrance at various points on the sales floor.

Playing it Fast or Slow

Most consumers don’t think twice about the music playing in the background when entering a retail shop. Once inside, however, the majority of us will start to sing along if it’s a song we know. If we don’t recognize it – we usually don’t care what’s playing.

Nevertheless, the music is heard – consciously or not – and doing its intended job of relaxing your customers, lightening their moods and inspiring them to spend more money. As with scents, music affects emotions, but it also causes physical effects by increasing or decreasing energy levels and heart rates.

For example, restaurant owners are experts in controlling the audio ambience in their dining rooms. When slow music is playing, diners tend to linger over their meals longer, ordering more drinks and enjoying the atmosphere. On the other hand, fast food restaurants want to move their in-house diners in and out fast, so they play fast-paced music in dining areas.

If the aim is to encourage your customers to linger and browse for longer periods in order to drive up sales, why would you play lively, energizing tunes that essentially drive your customers out the door?

Watch the Volume

Don’t fall into the trap of playing background music that is too loud, no matter what age group you’re marketing. There’s a point – even with younger consumers – when music becomes intrusive outside of a bar or club. If your customers can’t hold a conversation without raising their voices or have serious problems hearing each other, they’re simply going to go somewhere else. Those who do manage to stick it out usually do what they came for and leave fast.

On the plus side, over stimulating shoppers – particularly young ones – with loud, high-tempo music has a heavy influence on impulse buying due to sensory overload. When being bombarded on all side by loud sounds, confusion results, weakening self-control. On the other hand, if older consumers can’t stand the ear-splitting volume levels they can hear from outside, they often won’t even come through the doors.

Match the Music to your Brand

Take the time to consider your store’s concept and the products you carry as well as the type of clientele you want to attract.

  • What does your store currently smell like?
  • What kind of music do you currently play in store?
  • Are you targeting a specific segment of consumers or do you prefer matching the music to your product?
  • How should that be reflected in your playlist?

If you’re looking to beef up sales of automotive tools, you certainly wouldn’t choose regional French instrumentals as your ambient background music. Finding the answers to those questions will help you get started reaching more customers in positive ways.

Using scents and music in your retail location is your opportunity to boost your sales and increase customer loyalty while providing a positive experience for an ever-widening segment of consumers.