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What’s the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping?

Author: Tom Ryan

Source: Retail Wire 

A new study from the University of South Florida finds that loud music in a restaurant or grocery store leads to more unhealthy food choices, while quieter music leads to heathier ones.

Ambient music can influence healthy or unhealthy food buying, according to the researchers, because it directly impacts heart rate and arousal. Softer music has a calming effect, making people more mindful of what people order in a restaurant. Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, leading to less-mindful choices.

Beyond restaurants, the research offers insights into how grocers can influence in-store buying behavior.

“If they want to push more of the vegetables and foods at the supermarket, they are playing the low volume music. But if for some reason they want to push more of the red meat, they are amping up the volume,” Dipayan Biswas, PhD, marketing professor at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, told Tampa’s FOX 13 News.

The impact of in-store background music remains hard to pin down, in part, because shoppers often hear the tunes subconsciously. Other than volume, other factors explored in studies have been tempo, mode and genre.

An often-quoted study conducted by marketing professor Ronald Milliman in the 1980s found that supermarket sales went up by 38 percent when stores played slow music. Uptempo music encouraged shoppers to move quickly and skip impulse items, while slower music had the opposite effect.

A 2012 study from Norwegian professor, Klemens Knoferle, found that music played in a minor mode at a slow tempo was the ideal mode/tempo mix. Slow music played in major mode was found to be significantly less effective at reducing the pace of shopping and encouraging thoughtful browsing.

Among studies on music genres, a university study that came out in 2000 revealed that individuals reported themselves as shopping longer when exposed to familiar popular music but, in reality, they shopped longer when exposed to unfamiliar music. A 1993 study from Texas Tech professors found that, when classical music was played in a wine store, shoppers bought more expensive bottles.


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