In this post I will address the considerations you, as a retailer, might have to make concerning your personnel when implementing background music in your shops. There are a few pitfalls you might encounter, and I will give you some guidelines as to how to overcome them successfully.

It is important to realize that the interest of your store personnel might differ from yours. Whereas you are trying to create the perfect retail environment, they might see music purely as entertainment. Something to help them get through the day.

Retail Personnel

I often speak with shop personnel and they almost always have a strong view on the music playing. What they often fail to realize is that it is a vital part of the retail formula. The conversation immediately turns to music taste. The employees want to hear their personal favorite music played in the shop. This is understandable. They want to create a pleasant environment for themselves, as they probably have to spend eight hours a day in it.

This tend to result in conflict between the retail chain management and the floor personnel. Management comes up with a music strategy and implements it, but the store personnel ignore it and plug in their own iPods or switch channels. The result is a waste of money and a non-uniform image across different locations of the chain. Not to mention the fact that it’s illegal to play unlicensed music in a public location.

If your employees see music as a means of entertainment to get them through the day, they may not subscribe to your well thought-out strategic music formula. You have to inform them and convince them of the functional character of music as a marketing tool. Let them take part in the development of the strategy so they know what the music is doing there. I encourage retail chain management to share their music strategy documents with store managers and employees, to let them see why you do what you do. If they see the necessity of your approach, they will endorse it.

Another question that often rises is about music repetition. How long should an in-store music playlist be? Some argue that it does not have to be any longer than the longest visit you expect from your customers. So let’s say your customers spend a maximum of fifteen minutes in your shop. A playlist of about fifteen to twenty minutes would suffice.

The advantage here is that you can choose extremely specific music. Just those couple of tracks that perfectly represent your brand. Nothing else.

The problem is that your employees will go crazy. They will hear the same song dozens of times a day. A general rule of thumb is that the length of the workday, times three, played in random order will be enough to keep your employees from getting bored of the same old song. So if your personnel works in shifts of eight hours, you would need 24 hours of music, played in random order. Then still, you will have to add and delete some music at intervals to prevent boredom.

The problem that arises is that you now have a very broad, radio-like music profile. Your specific branding might suffer.

The question is, which is more important? Here are some considerations for you to make:
– That specific ‘brand-X’ sound becomes more recognizable with a narrower music choice. Whether this is important depends on your brand formula.
– Extreme repetition might demotivate your employees. A motivated employee is likely to sell more.
– It is key to inform your personnel of the functional character of background music. The reason you are playing music differs vastly from the reason why any individual would. Explain that.

The ideal solution is strongly dependent on your brand DNA and retail formula. Therefore there is no ready to use solution. Just be sure to make conscious and well-informed choices and communicate them clearly to your employees.

Submitted by Thomas van Straaten, International