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Music and Grocery Experience with Actionable Data to Solve Challenges

With actionable data on how music solves many of grocery’s common employee and customer challenges. The moment they cross your doorstep, consumers are having a brand experience. That goes for your employees as well. Get practical advice on how music can enhance in-branch satisfaction, boost loyalty, unify your brand voice, and boost employee retention.

Music and Grocery Experience with Actionable Data to Solve Challenges

Content Summary

Music & Boosting In-Branch Loyalty / Satisfaction
Factors in supermarket selection
The role of music in customer satisfaction
Driving emotional and psychological responses
Tempo and familiarity
The net-net
Music & Connecting All Marketing And Communication
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a unified brand voice
The importance of consistency
Lessons to be learned
But all elements have to work together
Music & Employee Retention
An ongoing challenge
Additional costs
The power of the environment
Examples from other industries
Music = health benefits
No one-size-fits-all answers

Music & Boosting In-Branch Loyalty / Satisfaction

  • Second only to price/value considerations, the in-store experience remains a key determiner of customer satisfaction
  • Music is a critical component of the experience — creating strong psychological and emotional responses
  • Proper use of music can influence behavior — resulting in higher per-visit spending, and boosting overall customer satisfaction
  • Improper use of music can create precisely the opposite effect

Factors in supermarket selection

There’s no getting around the fact that the triumvirate of low price, good value, and convenience are the key drivers for consumers’ choice of grocery store. That said, the importance of each factor varies by both age and gender. According to a study by Customer Communications Group, Inc., males are more likely to rank Good Value for the Money as their top loyalty factor, while females are more likely to list Lowest Price.

However, when price, product and access are considered similar between retailers, other factors come into play — chief of these being a positive overall shopping experience.

Rise in online shopping

On average, 50% of in-store supermarket shoppers also ordered groceries online in 2020. The breakdown:

  • Gen Z: 66%
  • Gen X: 52%
  • Boomers: 37%
  • Millennials: 61%

Change in shopping patterns According to Forrester, global online grocery shopping revenues are expected to double between 2017 and 2022. At the same time, bricks and mortar supermarkets are shrinking — the average sales area having been reduced by 15% since 2010. As the industry becomes more complex, it’s never been more important to explore all factors that drive consumers to select one grocery retailer over another.

The role of music in customer satisfaction

The link between customer satisfaction and long term retention has been long documented. And a key element of customer satisfaction is the creation of a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. Studies have shown that the tangible product or service being offered constitutes only part of overall satisfaction. The remainder is a reflection of the atmosphere in which the product or service is presented — which is why atmosphere is used as a marketing tool to create desired effects on shoppers and influence their purchase decisions. These same studies highlight the role music can play in motivating shopper behaviors.


“The key to customer retention is customer satisfaction.”

Driving emotional and psychological responses

It has been found that music releases dopamine in two main places in the brain; the dorsal and ventral striatum. When you’re enjoying a positive experience — such as listening to a favorite piece of music — these areas of the brain are triggered.

You’ve no doubt experienced similar moments yourself, when you involuntarily tap your feet, drum your fingers, or nod your head along to a piece of music. The tempo of a song can even influence your heart rate and breathing patterns, resulting in positive emotions.


Music has been shown to directly affect behavior at the point of purchase. In controlled tests, altering the in-store background music had a significant impact on shopping behavior — including the customer’s pace as well as the amount spent.

Tempo and familiarity

Uptempo music tends to make people move more quickly, resulting in less time spent in the store and fewer purchases altogether. Meanwhile, slower, downtempo music causes shoppers to move at a more gradual, easy-going speed. A 2010 study found that the average gross sales of a supermarket increased from $12,112.35 for fast tempo music to $16,740.23 for slow tempo music. That’s an increase of more than 35%.

Other studies have looked at the effect of playing well-known music compared to music with which customers would likely not be familiar. The results were surprising. When given no time limit, shoppers who heard recognizable tracks spent nearly 8% LESS time shopping. Researchers explain that when shoppers pay more attention to the music, as they would with familiar tracks, time may seem to pass more slowly. This could lead customers to think that they’re spending more time in the store than they actually are — and, as a result, hurrying their shopping pattern.

The net-net

When properly curated to nurture specific emotions, in-store music is an invaluable tool for boosting customer satisfaction. And that satisfaction translates directly into higher sales and increased loyalty

The power of music to create an emotional response can also impact the way we perceive time. Multiple studies have demonstrated that a period of waiting is judged to be shorter when there’s accompanying music — which is why music is used in areas from waiting rooms to supermarkets to either subjectively reduce the length of a wait, or to encourage shoppers to remain in-store longer.

Music & Connecting All Marketing And Communication

  • Transactions are not the same as engagement — customers expect a great overall experience
  • Music plays an important role in creating brand continuity
  • Many grocery stores have been slow to adopt some of the customer-centric, experience-based improvements made in other industries — which means there’s an opportunity for savvy store owners to distinguish themselves from the competition

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a unified brand voice

In an overcrowded marketplace, it’s harder and harder for brands to distinguish themselves. And there’s very little likelihood that consumers will retain a brand impression based on an isolated occurrence. By consistently repeating — not only the same message, but the same tone and voice — a brand can dramatically improve the odds that consumers will remember it positively.

But there are more potential pitfalls to an inconsistent brand message than a simple lack of recognition. The erosion of trust is a very real risk.

consistency = trust

64% Of consumers say that shared values are their primary reason to develop a relationship with a brand. That’s by FAR the top driver over any other consideration. If your values keep changing, or your message isn’t consistent, your customers will lose their trust in you.

The importance of consistency

As a cautionary tale about the danger of inconsistent brand messaging, allow us to cite an old — but priceless — example from the grocery category; Colgate’s 1982 launch of frozen meals called “Colgate Kitchen Entrees.”

A recognized leader in oral care, Colgate was eager to expand their brand and saw frozen entrees as an opportunity. Not surprisingly, consumers were confused. Not only was it an already crowded category, but the total disconnect between what consumers saw as a respected, wellknown toothpaste brand and a new, unknown line of food products was too much to overcome. Shoppers stayed away in droves, and the test quickly failed.

Granted, that’s an extreme example. But it highlights the importance of a consistent brand presence.

The power of getting it right

Countless studies have shown that a strong, consistent brand message is critical in influencing buyer behavior. The more a company stays true to its image and message, the more trusted they become in the eyes of their audience. If your brand consistently sends mixed signals, customers aren’t sure what to believe — and as a result, they’ll be less likely to stand behind you.

Lessons to be learned

But there’s far more to brand integrity than simply avoiding glaring missteps — it’s about providing consistency across all channels and all points of contact. And that’s especially important for businesses like supermarkets, which have both multiple locations and multiple opportunities for sensory contact with consumers.

One example that offers an interesting comparison is Goodwill. Goodwill and grocery are both fighting for relevancy amongst younger demographics. For instance, 49% of Millennials and Generation Z say they prefer to shop in the resale sector. What’s more, Goodwill shoppers are split fairly consistently across age and income groups.

Pamela Russom is the Marketing Manager for Goodwill Industries of New Mexico. When discussing the importance of consistent audio as part of the overall experience, she says “Having a thoughtful music mix is the key — for us, it’s been universal, upbeat feel-good music, which is particularly important for our shoppers and participants.”

While it might not be the first name that leaps to mind, Goodwill Industries provides a surprising parallel to grocery.

Addressing sensory factors in this way is a critical part of creating a relaxing environment — and improving the overall experience. Placing the customer at ease should be job one. For proof, many of us needn’t look further than our own experience — places where the overall atmosphere made us feel like we belonged, and places where we instantly felt out of place.

But music is only part of the story. “What binds it all together is the mix of in-store announcements and phone prompts,” Ms. Russom continues. “It’s built enormous synergy between the store itself and the rest of the brand experience. People call in and hear the same voice on the phone that they hear in the store. It builds confidence.”

Sensory comfort is every bit as important as physical comfort. And it’s a key component of maintaining a unified brand presence across multiple channels.

Continuity pays

It’s not just anecdotal — research shows that a consistent brand tone pays tangible dividends:

  • 23% Increase in revenue by consistent branding across all channels.
  • 60% Of millennial consumers expect a consistent brand across all channels.
  • 90% Of users expect to have the same branding across all platforms/channels.

But all elements have to work together

Providing a consistent experience across all touchpoints is key to building and maintaining strong relationships with customers. It also allows you to make the most of your marketing dollars by reinforcing your message everywhere — a lesson that Pamela Russom has learned firsthand.

“Our budgets aren’t huge, so reinforcing our message to the public is hard enough,” she says. “We don’t run hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of television commercials. So consistency in messaging is vital, just because we don’t have that frequency that a larger advertiser would have. You have to take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce messaging everywhere — across signage, POS, in-store audio, and also on the phone. It all works together to push that message out more frequently and consistently.”

Take advantage of the opportunity

Shoppers are subconsciously influenced by what they hear around them. That’s why sound throughout your store needs to be carefully curated to create the most consistent brand voice possible. By considering the entire sensory experience of your customers, you not only improve their overall experience, you can also heighten customer loyalty and satisfaction, and boost your bottom line.

Most consumers (up to 78%) say they trust brands that produce custom content, compared to generic content.

Music & Employee Retention

  • Grocery stores face unique employee retention challenges that can be partially addressed with music
  • Music has been shown to reduce occupational stress, a common issue for grocery employees
  • A crucial factor in retaining employees is the creation of a welcoming environment — and music is a key component of that effort
  • The benefits of music are achieved with all age groups

An ongoing challenge

Employee turnover is one of the primary challenges facing companies in all sectors. But the grocery industry faces a unique set of challenges. The phenomenon certainly isn’t new — grocery stores have long been considered a “first job” or “summer gig” for many people. But the issue is worsening. According to the 2017 Independent Grocers Financial Survey, the turnover rate for supermarket employees is a staggering 48.9%. And that turnover comes with a high annual price tag — the estimated annual cost of turnover can be as high as $67,200 per store, with the average cost of replacing a part-time employee being $4,200, according to data from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council.

The reasons are varied, but include the issues of low wages, low company loyalty, and the lure of better opportunities elsewhere. The hourly nature of the work creates other hurdles — as most part time workers aren’t eligible for a company’s health plan. While some of the larger grocery chains have tried raising wages and providing access to telemedicine to overcome those obstacles, these are costly solutions and not feasible for everyone.

  • 55% Of people would not return to stores with poor customer engagement.
  • 40% More employee turnover costs over actual profits across the supermarket industry as a whole.
  • 28% Difference in shrinkage levels between engaged and nonengaged employees.

Additional costs

Adding to these high costs is the negative effect on productivity. According to an Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, roughly 30% of companies said that it can take over a year for a new employee to reach the productivity level of a departing one. High turnover means operating your business with an unreasonably high number of inexperienced employees, leading to lower productivity. It’s also a warning sign of low morale among a workforce — which is another key indicator of overall productivity.

morale= Low This morale can be further further compromised by the fact that oftentimes, supermarkets don’t exactly roll out the red carpet to attract new hires. Between inconsistent HR contact to faulty application kiosks, applicants can be left wondering just how valued they are by the company. And this low morale can have direct and costly consequences.

The power of the environment

The impact of your store’s environment can’t be overstated. If your store is a pleasant place to work, it ensures your staff are better able to be cheerful, helpful, and focused on their roles. If they are contending with an atmosphere that leaves them irritable and struggling to concentrate, they will be less helpful to customers — not to mention more likely to leave. To that end, sound — and in particular, music — is an element that needs to be carefully curated. We all know the stereotype of stores irritating staff and shoppers by endlessly playing the same handful of Christmas carols. But that phenomenon isn’t limited to the holidays. When in-store music is repetitious, grating, or simply out of sync with its audience, it can have an enormous impact on the contentment of shoppers and employees alike.

Ensuring your employees remain engaged is vital to creating a more pleasant customer experience.

Impact on customers

A survey by SDL, a customer engagement company, found that it can take two years on average for customers to trust in a brand. Worse yet, it takes more than twice that amount of time to hit the “revenue tipping point” — the point at which customers actually spend more money on your brand than competing brands. It takes five years to get there. Whether through inexperienced staff or low morale, poor employee engagement can significantly delay or even damage that trust.

Examples from other industries

TRI Pointe Home Builders is one of the nation’s largest home builders, creating homes and neighborhoods for customers at all price points and life stages.

With locations spread across much of the country, they wanted a unified strategy that would allow for playing music in both model homes and offices — not just to appeal to home buyers, but to create an inviting environment for both employees and real estate agents. However, recognizing that musical tastes can vary by region, they didn’t want to simply dictate the same music in all locations. Instead, they allowed each region to customize their own playlists.

They found their answer with Custom Channels. By enabling each region to customize their playlists to cater to the demographics in their region, Custom Channels created a centrally-managed solution that kept TRI Pointe’s communities — and workforce — happy.

Wag N’ Wash is a leading supplier of pet grooming services, as well as natural food, high quality supplements, and toys. With franchise locations from Washington State to New York, they understand the challenges of maintaining a consistent, welcoming brand environment — a factor that’s just as important for employees as it is for customers.

Understanding the role music plays in creating the proper environment, Wag N’ Wash turned to Custom Channels for a solution that works. The result was an engaging, upbeat experience that has pleased both staff and customers alike.

“Not only does Custom Channels ‘get’ the franchise space, their support is one of the best I have experienced in close to two decades.” – Rob Flanagan, President, Wag N’ Wash

Improving employee satisfaction is obviously a multi-faceted undertaking. But any list of retention techniques will include creating a more engaging, comfortable environment. One way to do this is through the proper use of music. The music in your location provides a persistent soundtrack to your employees’ day, and one that they will come to love or loathe, over time. A well-crafted playlist can help a team stay motivated and upbeat, while a bland or repetitive mix can dampen their spirits.

Music = health benefits

Listening to music also has a multitude of health benefits, including:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved immune function
  • Aided memory
  • Increased motivation


Studies showcase the productivity benefits of music:

  • 90% Of workers perform better when listening to music.
  • 88% Of employees produce more accurate work when listening to music.
  • 65% Of business owners agree that music makes employees more productive.
  • 77% Of small- and medium-sized business owners believe that playing music increases employee morale.

No one-size-fits-all answers

While there are obviously several factors that contribute to costly employee attrition, some are more easily remedied than others. A focus on creating a welcoming, comforting environment should be among the first items on the list. And the proper use of music is a crucial component of those efforts.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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