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Proven effect: Music, scent and colour influence customers

For many years, retail and service industries have deployed atmospheric stimuli such as music, scent and colour in order to influence consumer behaviour. Until recently, the results of scientific studies investigating the effects have been inconclusive, impeding the formulation of conclusive generalisations. Now, following the meta-analytic recalculation of data from 66 distinct studies, a research team has successfully demonstrated that the presence of music, scent and colour produces significant positive effects on customers’ shopper behaviour.

The meta-analysis was performed on the basis of 66 experimental studies referring to 74 data samples spanning the period from 1982 to 2016, with over 15,600 participants (61 percent females), who were, on average, 33.2 years old. The authors of the study, Holger Roschk (Department of Service Management at the Alpen-Adria-Universität), Sandra M.C. Loureiro (Business Research Unit, Universitário de Lisboa) and Jan C. Breitsohl (School of Management & Business, Aberystwyth University) recently presented their findings in the prestigious Journal of Retailing.

Summarising the results, Holger Roschk expounds: “We were able to show that predictable patterns in consumer behaviour ensue on an aggregate level following atmospheric stimulation by music, scent and colour”. The subtlety of atmospheric effects often results in customers being unaware of their exposure to them, even though their behavior is affected.

Holger Roschk goes on to say: “The results specifically reveal, for instance, that people feel more pleasure and demonstrate higher purchase intentions in retail environments enhanced with music or scent than in settings lacking these stimuli. With regard to colour effects, warm hues of orange or red emerged as activating, while cool colours like blue or violet had a positive effect on customer satisfaction.” Based on these insights, new product aisles could be decorated in colours perceived as warm, while store areas dedicated to complaint management could feature rather cooler colours.

Overall, the results of the study serve as a reliable guide for practitioners on the judicious use of atmospheric stimuli to enhance customers’ shopping experiences. Roschk concludes: “Two aspects must be considered: First, it is vital that the stimuli are tailored to the respective distinct consumption environment. Second, retail and service executives should bear in mind that the effects are generally small to medium in size, in line with the subtle nature of the atmospheric stimuli. The use of music, scent and colour should consequently be regarded as a long-term strategy.”

Roschk, H., Loureiro, S.M.C. & Breitsohl, J. (2016). Calibrating 30 Years of Experimental Research: A Meta-Analysis of the Atmospheric Effects of Music, Scent, and Color. Journal of Retailing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2016.10.001