Marks & Spenser, the U.K.’s largest chain store, has decided to stop playing music in its stores following feedback from customers, the retailer announced at the end of May 2016.
For the past 10 years, M&S had been playing piped music in its 852 stores, following the example of many other retailers. Complaints from customers and anti-noise groups, coupled with extensive research, prompted the policy change. The switch comes a month after supermarket chain Asda adopted a policy of having a “quiet hour” in its Manchester store, turning off all music, televisions and escalators for the benefit of autistic customers.
These retailers’ move away from muzak reflects an awareness of the impact subtle psychological elements of store atmosphere can have on sales. Here are a few ways sales psychology can influence buyer behavior.
Retailers have long known that music influences customer behavior. Pioneering studies date back to 1966, but the most influential study was a landmark 1982 paper exploring the effects of background music on in-store behavior, which determined that piping slow-tempo music generated 38.2 percent more sales than fast-tempo music. A recent review of those findings clarified that slow music only increases sales when paired with minor mode. Retailers who opt to play in-store music should be selective about the type of music they play.
Color is another atmospheric element that can affect buyer behavior. Hygienics company Tork recently studied the brainwaves and heart rates of diners to determine how colors impact restaurant dining experiences. Previous research had suggested that getting color and place settings right could potentially double sales. Tork’s research identified eight specific colors that positively influenced diner behavior. For instance, green has a calming, relaxing and welcoming effect, making it a good color for a social dining experience such as having coffee with friends. Orange has a fun connotation that makes it ideal for breakfast or lunch with children. Blue is relaxing and welcoming but non-romantic, making it good for family-oriented restaurants. Red is better for romantic settings, while white is optimal for business dining.
Color also has important online applications for e-commerce. For instance, online marketers have found that buttons get better results when button color contrasts with the surrounding background, whereas choosing the same color can kill sales.
Lighting can also impact buyer behavior. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that restaurant diners in well-lit rooms are 16 to 24 percent more likely to choose healthy foods from the menu, a result researchers attribute to the fact that lighting promotes increased alertness. Conversely, diners in dimly-lit rooms ordered 39 percent more calories. Similarly, lighting manufacturer Zumbotel found that one retailer’s sales went up 12 percent when their store installed a new lighting scheme geared toward target customers. Zumbotel recommends that retail lighting should use high-contrast distribution that makes it easy for customers to find their way around, color temperatures that accentuate the spatial features of stores, windows to highlight contrasts, and accent lighting and backlighting to draw attention to shelf areas.
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Factors that influence customers’ feeling of security can also affect sales. Security cameras can increase buyer confidence by making them feel safe while shopping. Some retailers, such as American Apparel, are even repurposing security cameras to double as market research tools to study shopper behavior and better optimize sales, the Wall Street Journal reports. Stores can use cameras to gather vital sales data, such as how many customers enter the store, how many leave without buying, how many make a purchase and how many are repeat customers.