Beware of Beethoven
What you hear affects what you buy online
EVER since Muzak started serenading patrons of hotels and restaurants in the 1930s, piped-in music has been part of the consumer experience. Without the throb of a synthesiser or a guitar's twang, shoppers would sense something missing as they tried on jeans or filled up trolleys. Specialists like Mood Media, which bought Muzak in 2011, devise audio programmes to influence the feel of shops and cater to customers' tastes. The idea is to entertain, and thereby prolong the time shoppers spend in stores, says Claude Nahon, the firm's international chief. Music by famous artists works better than the generic stuff that people associate with Muzak. The embarrassing brand name was dropped in 2013.
自从19世纪30年代Muzak开始为酒店和餐厅提供背景音乐开始，耳边回荡着的音乐就成了消费者体验的一部分。消费者在试穿牛仔裤或往购物车里挑商品的时候，一旦没有混音器的震动作响或吉他的琴音，就会似乎觉得缺少了点什么。此类专业公司如Mood Media，设计音频方案以影响顾客对商店的感觉，迎合消费者的品味，且其在2011年收购了Muzak。该公司的国际业务总监Claude Nahon说这一创意是为了使消费者感到愉悦，并因此延长消费者留在商店里的时间。比起普通的音乐，著名艺术家的音乐能更好的使消费者与背景音乐建立联系。这一尴尬的品牌名称在2013年被放弃。
Online shopping is an under-explored area of merchandising musicology. A new study commissioned by eBay, a shopping website, aims to correct that. Some 1,900 participants were asked to simulate online shopping while listening to different sounds. Some results were unsurprising. The noise of roadworks and crying babies soured shoppers' views of the products on offer. Chirruping birds encouraged sales of barbecues but not blenders or board games.
Sounds associated with quality and luxury seemed to be hazardous for shoppers' wallets. The study found classical music and restaurant buzz caused them to overestimate the quality of goods on offer and to pay more than they should. That backs up earlier research which found that shoppers exposed to classical music in a wine store bought more expensive bottles than those hearing pop.
EBay wants consumers to avoid such unhealthy influences when shopping online. It has blended birdsong, dreamy music and the sound of a rolling train—thought to be pleasant but not overly seductive—to help them buy more sensibly. Retailers could presumably counter by cranking up the Chopin. “Classical music does seem to be the way to go” if your only interest is the narrow one of squeezing as much money as possible from your clientele, says the study's author, Patrick Fagan, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, part of the University of London.
Few traditional shops are likely to use that tactic. H&M, a clothes retailer, airs “trendy, up-tempo” music from new artists, while Nespresso's coffee boutiques go for “lounge-y” sounds, says Mr Nahon. Grocery stores, with a broad following, play top 40 hits. The tempo tends to be slower in the mornings, when shoppers are sparser and older, and becomes more allegro as the day goes on.
Using the classics to set tills ringing may not be an option, but audio architects are thinking up new tricks for bricks-and-mortar stores. Mood Media is experimenting with an inaudible “digital tag”, attached to in-store soundtracks, which activates an app on shoppers' phones. The app can tempt them with discounts or provide more information about products. With luck, this will trigger more sales than a blast of Beethoven.