Reimagining Physical Retail Locations by Using Emotional Content

Online shopping has become a revolutionary force, reshaping the world of retail as we once knew it. With more and more consumers choosing to have products delivered to their front door, traditional brick and mortar retailers are looking for new and innovative ways to lure shoppers back into their stores and retain their relevancy in the marketplace – especially during the holiday season.

One solution retailers have discovered is a new emphasis on experiential marketing. With an increasing investment on immersive environments, stores and restaurants are reimagining their locations. Rod Sides, Vice Chairman of Deloitte LLP, points out, “Retailers should modify their assumptions about what drives traffic, engagement and holiday sales growth, and realign around customer experience, creating relevant, emotional and inspirational connections that go beyond just product, price and assortment.” And a key component of establishing a meaningful relationship with consumers is leveraging a custom-curated in-store music soundtrack that aligns with the brand and helps to establish the desired environment.

Music, in a multitude of profound and diverse ways, is a powerful tool. With its ability to recall cherished memories or vividly present a vision of the future, music is like a time machine – giving the listener a true sense of time and place, with the additional capability of stirring powerful feelings. Holiday music can be especially compelling in this regard. Classic songs can invoke nostalgia for seasons past by inspiring reflection, while contemporary renditions of holiday standards can provide a fresh take and the chance to engender new memories and traditions. It’s difficult to think of a more effective way for a brand to simultaneously transform their physical space and emotionally connect with their consumers. In other words, the “right music” can have a monumental effect on the success of a business by differentiating and strengthening their experiential value.

Illustrating this point, Brian Wright, CEO of Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, recently relayed the following feedback from a guest regarding their revamped playlist; “The music playing at Bertucci’s for the holiday season is a welcome throwback to the great music that used to always play there. I’ve been a regular customer for many years and the old combination of pop standards and Italian music added to the dining experience. Artists such as Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra are far superior to anyone current… younger people would benefit from exposure to this timeless music.” Clearly, Bertucci’s has made a meaningful connection with this guest and (most likely) a sizable portion of their audience.

But beyond song and artist selection, there are other important considerations to keep in mind; namely sound quality and volume. The most skillfully crafted and brand-focused playlist in the world will have little impact if it’s broadcast over a low-quality sound system. Moreover, music that is too loud can inhibit conversations and drive customers away – weakening or damaging the effectiveness and purpose of the music. Audio delivery is even more important during the holiday season because Christmas music (loved by some, avoided by others) can be a polarizing force – especially at high volumes or broadcast over an insufficient sound system. A brand may also consider adding holiday music as only a percentage of their playlist. This may ease any sort of unfavorable impact, but still provide the opportunity for the desired outcome. Much like an ingredient in a recipe, too much, too little, or low quality will have a negative effect on the overall taste of the entrée.

Today, the world is at consumers’ fingertips. Almost everything they want or need takes only a few clicks of a mouse for home delivery. But clearly, as the vast majority of shoppers will still visit stores this holiday season, brick and mortar locations still fill a need. Consumers long for experiences. They crave branded environments and well-executed personal interaction – well beyond what can be found in an eCommerce transaction. And music, with its influence, scope and reach, should be an important consideration when developing a brand’s identity. After all, in the “recipe” of retail, music can be one of the most important ingredients of all.