When you think about the most popular radio stations in the UK you might be tempted to suggest BBC Radio 2, and with 15million listeners they certainly have a solid section of Brits tuning in. But Asda FM broadcasts to 18 million shoppers and 167,500 staff every week (figures from 2010 and likely higher now). They don’t really have a choice but are described as ‘listeners’ anyway.
Asda started their in-store radio station back in 1991 and although other large supermarkets aren’t committed on quite that level, we often hear music played in sections of Tesco at particular times of the year. Many high street chain stores, particularly those selling fashion, feature music in the store in some format. This isn’t just to keep the staff from boredom, these huge companies have clearly invested in music based on years of research.
Music is a very powerful thing. Have you ever watched a rom-com and noticed a happy, upbeat song played as soon as the end credits kick in? It’s so that you get up out of your seat and leave the cinema convinced your experience has been happy and worthwhile. As a retailer, music can give you access to these types of emotions in your customers, too.
Shopping is more of an ‘experience’ than it’s ever been, often a social event and something to look forward to for many consumers. So adding the right soundtrack can build customer loyalty and increase their spend in your store.
The positive benefits of playing music extend beyond the direct influence of your customers as it is very likely your staff will appreciate background music playing (as long as there is enough variety to avoid driving them crazy!).
The most important thing to mention is that if you play music in your store you need to make sure you’re legally covered to do so. Broadcast of a radio station or pre-recorded music (CDs, MP3s etc) require a licence from both PPL and PRS. The cost of these licences is dependent on the size of your retail premises, the size of any staff areas and also on the number of staff you have. This means that for a typical independent retailer with few staff and a small shop, the licences are relatively cheap.
There are some solutions which avoid this cost. BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association) for example offer a royalty free music service, where retailers can pay a one-off fee to receive equipment and memory cards featuring music which can be legally played without a PPL or PRS licence. You can also purchase royalty free music online using sites like AudioJungle. The downside of royalty free offerings is that the music will not usually be anything popular that your staff or customers are likely to be familiar with.
Whether you choose licenced music or royalty free alternatives you will need to put some consideration in to the types of music you play in your store. While having music is a benefit to your team it is more important to ensure that the music played will be enjoyed by your customers, with the absolute worst case scenario being that they do not notice or are not bothered by it. Music that is too loud or inappropriate risks potential business as people are keen to leave the store to get away from it.
The simplest set up in terms of technology is a portable / standalone stereo tuned to Radio 2. It’s the most popular UK station so you stand the best chance of it featuring content that your customer base will enjoy, although other BBC stations might work better depending on your demographic. It’s best to avoid commercial stations with advertising unless they feature ads which promote products you have for sale.
A standalone stereo might not be the best fit if you are looking to play specific music though, as you’ll be constantly changing CDs and may find that a reasonable collection of music does get boring quite quickly. A better alternative is to use a music streaming service like Spotify, where you can build a playlist that could run for an entire day without repeating songs or requiring intervention from yourself or staff. And if you already have a computer running in the store, perhaps as part of your EPOS system or in a back office, it might simply be a case of connecting this to a suitable speaker to get your in-store music up and running. If you choose to use a portable device like an iPod to play music, make sure it’s out of customer sight and reach.