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Does Music Change How Consumers Shop?

Do you enjoy listening to piped-in pop music while you shop at your local mall?

According to a recent experiment conducted by Hammerson, a company that owns a number of shopping malls in the U.K., you may be in the minority.

Late last month, the BBC dispatched media correspondent David Sillito to the Bullring shopping center in Birmingham to monitor the effects of the experiment that Hammerson was running there — one that was being carried out at a number of its retail properties.

At one end of the mall (“Zone 1”), the company had set up large speakers blaring pop music — a common practice in shopping malls worldwide. At the other end of the property (“Zone 2”), identical speakers were set up to pipe in what Sillito refers to as an “ambient soundscape,” arguably more soothing tunes than its pop counterparts.

The question Hammerson (along with the BBC) was looking to answer was: Does the latter, less traditional (in a mall setting, anyway) music change consumer behavior, perhaps even encouraging them to shop more and stay longer at the mall?

Of the shoppers Sillito is shown interviewing in an edited video segment, perhaps unsurprisingly, (what appears to be) a middle-aged consumer favors the ambient music over the pop tunes, while a younger-looking shopper has the reverse stance, arguing that the ambient music might put him to sleep.

A third consumer shown interviewed, who appears to be somewhere in between the previous two interviewees in age, has positive things to say about both types of music.

Sillito is also shown interviewing the creator of the experiment, “business sound expert” Julian Treasure, who states that the point of the experiment is to show that “sound actually matters” in a shopping experience.

Towards the conclusion of the segment, Sillito reviews some of the video-recorded results of the experiment with Treasure and Hammerson’s Peter Cooper.

The trio observes that a majority of shoppers passing through “Zone 1” — the pop music soundscape — are tracking away from it.

“If you were to have a whole mall full of that sound,” concludes Treasure, “people would simply be leaving it.”

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