Exploring how music as an atmospheric influences buying behaviour in a retail environment
This study aims to explore the impact of background/atmospheric music on consumers’ buying behaviour when in a retail environment. This paper will be based on a review of studies and journals that have an insight into this topic of research in particular.
Psychologist Robert S Woodworth created the stimulus, organism, response (SOR) model which states that different stimuli can generate certain responses depending on what state the organism is in. The theory employed here is very relevant when looking at how music can impact on peoples’ behaviours. In this case music will be the stimulus that generates a response from the organism (shoppers).
Music has been used in the retail world as long as the technology has been available, marketers now often try to use music as a tool to influence a consumer’s purchase decision; however, the idea that atmospherics such as this could influence buying behaviour was not first formulated until 1973 in the Journal of Retailing (Kotler, 1973). Kotler highlighted that not only could atmospherics influence buying behaviour but that an atmospheric could be a key selling point for a business. Kotler highlighted a number of sensory channels including; colour, brightness, volume, scent and temperature (as well as others.) The belief was that these elements could be altered to affect how a consumer would act in certain situations.
Mehrabian & Russell (1974) developed the PAD psychological model in order to research and analyse the relationships between consumers and retail environment atmospherics in terms of pleasure, arousal and dominance. Pleasure refers to how enjoyable the shopping experience may be, arousal refers to the intensity of emotions and dominance refers to how free or in charge of the situation a shopper may feel. This model has been used to investigate how a store environment may influence a shopper’s behaviour.
When using PAD theory, Yalch & Spangenberg (2000) narrated that “product evaluations were positively related to pleasure” whereas “product evaluations were negatively related to arousal” stating that aroused shoppers can be more alert or discriminative when it comes to the examination of products depending on what style of music is played, in this case familiar and unfamiliar music.
A literature review conducted by Turley & Milliman (2000) that focused on atmospherics on buyer behaviour concluded that music played in stores had great effect on a variety of consumer behaviours such as sales, time spent in store, traffic flow and perception of the environment. They stated that these “atmospheric variables can be conceptualized as stimuli” and that each atmospheric variable or “stimuli” could be altered in order to achieve a desirable response from consumers.
A wealth of research has been conducted concerning how tempo can affect a consumer’s behaviour with various different studies coming to similar conclusions but with some key differences that should be noted.
Milliman (1982) showed that playing slow music in a supermarket would slow down the traffic flow around the store when compared to playing fast music; this resulted in higher sales for these supermarkets as customers were exposed to products for an extended period of time and were allowed more time to make purchasing decisions. The experiment was conducted with no music, slow tempo music and fast tempo music. The nine week long study found that when slower shoppers move through the store they tend to purchase more products. In contrast, the faster customers move through the store, the less they buy. This outcome was replicated again by Milliman (1986) in restaurants. When slower tempo music was played customers would spend a longer period of time in the establishment which resulted in higher drinks sales per customer.
Research conducted by