When most people think of the music that tends to accompany shopping, their first association is probably Muzak -- and it probably isn't wholly positive.
"Muzak - bringing bad music to an elevator near you," Feed.FM CEO Jeff Yasuda noted of Muzak's long and illustrious reputation.
And while it is easy to write Muzak off as the place one hears all of todays best pop songs - as interpreted by Kenny G - it is also easy to forget two things, Yasuda said. Muzak, as we tend to associate it, is more or less a relic, it was bought out by Mood Media in 2011 for $345 million. Also, Muzak garnered a $345 million price tag for a reason - which is that Muzak got very good at matching the background music to the commerce experience.
"This concept has been around for decades in brick-and-mortar retail - powering music in restaurants and stores. What music makes a customer move an experience faster, what encourages people to stay around and browse, what types of music make people buy more - there is a lot of neurological science behind it."
And while the concept has been well-established in real-world shopping, Yasuda noted, Feed.FM is focused on bringing the same background music experience to the digital consumer.
"CMOs are spending 300 billion a year - text and blogs, spend on video, spend on video and picture. We think they should be spending on music because the largest age group in the U.S right now are young adults, and they are way over-indexed on music consumption."
And - he noted, given the share price performance of many of retails bigger players of late - and the increasing atmosphere that its time to do something different or risk not being around to do anything at all - Feed.FM offers brands and merchants an opportunity to try something old - in a new, and more effective way.
Keeping Users Engaged
While all brands are not created equal and all face different challenges, at the end of they day, the common challenge they all face is keeping users engaged. And the online merchant that's an extension of a brick-and-mortar player has something of an advantage in that arena, in that it can make its engagement much more customized to the individual user.
"In the digital world, we know what songs people like, what they dislike, what they skip, what is playing when conversions are made, and what is playing when people leave the pap. We can use data to create a better consumer experience - and one that the consumer can enjoy simultaneous to a commerce experience because music is the only medium that you can enjoy while you do something else."
And that, Yasuda notes, allows Feed.FM to helps it partner brands move from curated models of music presentation - where the brand selects the 100 or so songs that represent the customer group - to a personalized model where what the consumer has on in the background reflects the preferences they have actively and passively shown in the past.
"If we feed you a song by a band you don't like - the user is going to have a lousy experience. My job isn't to be the purveyor of cool, it is to create an experience for each customer that works for them."
And what works for one customer won't work for every customer - there is no one music genre that universally makes customers shop. There are, trends - some bands are what Yasuda called "barbells," meaning they attract no neutral feelings, consumers either love them or hate them. Then there are artists that don't quite have the extra-ordinary highs or lows - but manage to generate general enthusiasm.
And, mostly, he notes, it depends on the brand and the shopper. Some brands like edgier music because they market to younger consumers - others, like Toys R Us, aren't really looking for a lot of edge for any part of their consumer base.
There is, he noted, one exception to the rule of everyone's individual taste being different.
"Oh my God, Drake. When we put Drake in the playlist, everybody loves Drake. It's at the point that it is a joke in the industry."
For Feed.FM, Yasuda noted, the goal is to delight consumers - and make it a lot easier for merchants to delight consumers, too. Music is both a good avenue for that, because of the type of medium it is, and how much data it generates.
It is also good for them, because it allows for a big value-add on the merchant's end, using copyrighted material on their site without having to directly deal with the copyright holder.
"Music is something we know well. We handle all the licensing complexity and believe me there is a lot. Most marketers and product folks have been smart enough to say that they can't use music without a license unless they want to have a very painful conversation with a copyright holder."
And that service - and the access to musical content it provides, Yasuda noted, is useful across a variety of verticals, which is why Feed.FM works with sporting teams like the Golden State Warriors, or fitness clients.
"Which has a commerce element to it because these companies are selling essentially their version for a great workout. And 95 percent of the people that exercise are listening to some form of music."
The goal is always to keep the user or customer engaged - and music, Yasuda noted, is a very powerful engagement tool. Retail reinvention, he noted, doesn't always have to be about inventing something new. Sometimes, the goal is to take something that has worked very well in the past - even something as simple as background music - and making it worker better in a different and more digital retail landscape.