Think BR: Brands and bands enhance the customer experience

Matt Stockton, head of music creative services, PlayNetwork
Matt Stockton, head of music creative services, PlayNetwork

Retailers and brands are using music more creatively to transform the role of the store, writes Matt Stockton, head of music creative services, PlayNetwork.

While brands have always built strong associations with the music industry, including embracing the growing number of music festivals, for a growing number of businesses, music is becoming a fundamental part of the store offer.

Jonny Hewlett, UK managing director at Diesel, claims: "The store is the theatre for the brand, it’s the platform to provide an experience of what the brand stands for."

He is not alone. A growing number of brands are going to market with a strategy that is moving purchasing more online, while the store is the place where customers go primarily to experience the brand in a fuller way.

This marks a fundamental change in customer engagement. Rather than a ten minute browse and buy the store is encouraging customers to linger longer and engage with it on several levels, not all of which are directly related to the products on display.

Music, and how it is deployed across the store, is seen as critical to enhancing this experience.  Increasingly, the store's music strategy is not seen as a stand-alone function, but is being integrated with other aspects of store design, to emphasise the sensory aspect of the experience.

Synchronising music and lighting has become increasingly popular and is executed well at Uniqlo’s new flagship store on Regent Street. The growth in designing soundscapes in conjunction with video wall content is also on the rise and has been done to dramatic effect at the Ray-Ban store in Covent Garden, underpinning its effortlessly cool vibe.

Delivering store music content via social media platforms is also gathering momentum, with retailers beginning to share details of playlists via social channels and with the potential for playlists to be either purchased or offered as part of a promotion.

With music playing a more central role, both brands and retailers are using it more intelligently. Just as the collections which brands showcase are new and aspirational, the music surrounding them is designed to match this experience.

Young emerging talent that has yet to reach the mainstream - but whose sound epitomises the brand - is in demand and is increasingly searched for to be added to playlists.

Memory evoking music also plays an important role in forging links to past experiences, and can be specifically targeted to particular age groups.

Some brands are even looking at featuring more than one song from an artist back to back in their playlists to create the impression of a favourite album being played over and over, before having it disappear completely from the playlist.

Music profiles are increasingly being matched to consumer demographics, incorporating details such as age, gender and income levels, to create an audio environment where customers feel comfortable, relaxed and happy to spend time and money.

With the store reinventing itself as a brand experience, it also morphs into a social centre, where customers can browse the brand and interact with it over social media and if a cappuccino is part of the mix, all the better. 

The return on investment in music is manifold as it complements the brand image, encourages customers to stay and make them feel at home - where so much of their actual shopping now takes place. Music becomes the glue between channels and locations.

If this all sounds a bit futuristic and not quite of the here and now, you only have to look at what some of the value brands are doing to improve their in-store customer experience to see that we are well past the early adopter stage and are quickly becoming more sophisticated in our social shopping habits.

Matt Stockton, head of music creative services, PlayNetwork.

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