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Market research : the combined effect of music and light in the retail sector

Sensory market research has focused mostly on the effects on consumer behavior of specific cues: light, scent, temperature, … Some of those cues are always present in a retail setting (light, temperature) and past studies have therefore investigated the effects of the variations of those cues (higher/lower temperature, more or less light)

Company industry atmospherics charcateristics purpose
abercrombie & fitch clothing loud music, dark light targets young customers
victoria secrets clothing soothing music facilitate conversation between customers and sales reps
starbucks coffee retail dark light conveys feeling of comfort
McDonald’s restaurant bright light, fast music triggers consumption, people eat faster
Bern’s Steakhouse restaurant dark light, soothing music increases high quality perception


There is however little research on the joint effect of light and music and even less in the field
At the EMAC 2018 conference the results of a field experiment were presented by 3 researchers from the University of Munster (Germany).
The field experiment ws carried out in partnership with sport action goods retailer Titus operating 36 stores throughout Germany (https://www.titus.de/shops/)
In total 363 real customers agreed to participate in the experiment.

Music and light conditions

Two music conditions were tested : slow (<73 BPM) and fast (>94 BPM)
Two light conditions were also tested in real conditions : Dim light (83 Lu) vs. bright light (374 Lux)
The study design was a 2×2 between-subjects.

Exit survey and data collected

An exit survey was conducted to collect

  • feedback on the store
  • demographics
  • additional control variables
  • It also enabled to document the consent of the participants in the experiment.

Besides the exit survey the researchers also collected objective information on behavior (time spent in store) and transactions (number of items purchased, total amount)

The results

The results of the manipulation of the individual cues are as follows :

  • fast music increaes arousal
  • slow music increases relaxation
  • bright light increases arousal
  • dim light increases relaxation

The results also show that congruent conditions can be created that lead to longer time spent in store, more money spent in store, ..

  • slow music and dim light
  • fast music and bright light

Those results may be interesting for managers willing to create in-store conditions likely to improve their performances.


Image : shutterstock

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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