Audio Musical experience
Posted on by Jolien Teuwen

Influence your customers’ (buying) behaviour using the right background music

Music is an enormously powerful avenue to our emotions. Music calms, music soothes, music awakens, and music amplifies. Sometimes, we are aware of these emotions; take the experience at a music festival or performance, for example. But much more often, we are confronted with music of which we are not aware.


“This is also the case with the many forms of background music. In the subway, in the supermarket, in a café, or in a wellness centre, etc., music can be heard almost everywhere and in every environment, this background music influences the atmosphere and people’s behaviour,” says Stijn from the B2B music service Tunify. “By consciously using this, you can really make a difference, even in your shop. What’s more, if you use background music thoughtlessly, the effect is often the opposite of what you want to achieve.”


Why does music have such an impact?


Stijn: “In order to properly control the effect of music, it is important to understand how music affects people. Sound is one of the sensory perceptions processed in the most central part of the brain. Simply put, you could say that the subconscious or human instinct also lives in this part of the brain. It is therefore not surprising that every form of sound has an influence on people in a number of specific ways: cognitive, psychological, physiological, and behavioural. Each of these effects happens unconsciously. So we are unconsciously reassured when we hear birds singing, we push down on the accelerator more when we hear aggressive music, and we get a shot of the stress hormone cortisol when we hear a loud siren.”


What does this mean for retailers?


Stijn: “Also, our behaviour in the shop is controlled by a combination of our subconscious, on the one hand, and our emotions, on the other. The most effective way to influence these two factors is by stimulating the senses. The best senses to appeal to are those of sound and smell. These stimuli are mainly processed unconsciously and therefore have the greatest effect. Research even shows that the turnover in certain cases can increase by as much as 38% due to a good use of background music (Milliman, 1982). Research also shows that music and scent have a significant impact on customers’ emotions and satisfaction. For example, there is an influence on the customer’s level of excitement, resulting in increased pleasure, which in turn has a positive influence on buying behaviour (Morrisonetal, 2011). These and many other studies show that it is worthwhile to pay attention to the right music in your shop!”


But, what’s the right music?


Stijn: “The music that works is different for each retailer and depends on the brand identity and target group. That’s why we invariably first map out the retailer’s music profile and then put together the ideal playlist.”

“On the one hand, we base ourselves on scientific insights about the way music affects humans. It turns out that a tranquil song has a completely different effect on our emotions than an up-tempo song. Moreover, this effect also differs per age category. These insights allow a number of requirements to be imposed on the music to be played within a certain framework.”

“On the other hand, it is necessary to know which music meets these imposed requirements. In other words, what music will create the right effect within your retail concept and with your target group?”


To make this possible, we have our own database of music metadata: a collection of objective and subjective data that describe a song in detail, such as desired atmosphere, rhythm and dance style, party level, hardness, popularity, voice, instruments, target region, etc. Every song in our database is assigned matching metadata. We then look at the client’s music profile and assign relevant metadata to it in order to create the ideal playlist. 


What tip would you like to give retailers?


Stijn: “However, it’s not your customers, but your employees who are most exposed to the music in the shop. For your employees, music is a piece of distraction that helps them get through the day. They evaluate the music choices subjectively, which means that they may not always agree with the song choices that result from the music profile of your brand.”


“It is therefore extremely important to inform your employees in-depth as to why certain music is playing in your shop. Tell your employees that the chosen music is part of the shop concept and an additional marketing tool. You can compare this to a work uniform, which does not aim to satisfy the employees’ personal taste, but to strengthen the brand identity. To prevent the music from being turned off, my tip is to inform your employees about the way in which music is used to achieve a certain goal. Communicate your music strategy as soon as it’s implemented!”


Thank you, Stijn!

Stijn Remels, Senior UX & Service Design at Tunify, has been studying the effect of background music for over a decade. Tunify is a unique music platform that puts together the ideal playlist based on your target group and objective. Because music is an essential part of the total experience in the shop, we have been working with Tunify for several years to guide our customers towards an optimal music experience.


Do you still have questions or are you curious about how music can make a difference in your shop?  Read everything about our TunIT audio solution here or contact us at


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Jolien Teuwen
Jolien is a bit curious and, as Marketing and Communication Specialist, is the first to know about everything that goes on within DOBIT. She enjoys diving behind her computer to share the experiences and knowledge of her colleagues with others. Her goal: to inspire, inform and engage retailers and companies.