The influence of sound on dwell times and sales

Sound has a profound and potent impact on us, though most of the time we’re oblivious to it.

Time to consume: 4 min
10 March 2020

The power of music

Possibly the most powerful sound of all is music. Music can speed us up, for example fast paced music speeds up our physiology and that can cause people to leave faster and spend less. On the other hand – liked music and positive music can enhance people’s mood and increase dwell time so there can be contradictory effects.

Music is particularly powerful on 18- to 34-year olds. One study really showed how powerful music can be in changing people’s behaviour. This was in a supermarket with identical gondola ends, French wine and German wine – no difference in the displays at all. All the researchers did was to alternate music; on day one some French music, on day two some German music and so on. What happened on the French music days? French wine outsold German wine by five bottles to one. This may not be surprising – it does sell more in the world market, however on the German music days, German wine outsold French wine by two bottles to one, now that is a huge shift in behaviour. And it’s not conscious. This wasn’t our “German music therefore I shall buy German wine”, this is an unconscious response to a music condition. Music is powerful.

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Not only music

Music is not the only sound you can use  to enhance customer experience.When we installed a soundscape in Helsinki’s Kamppi mall, dwell time increased by 8%, and independent analysts estimate that is worth an additional 25 million euros a year in extra sales. Similar sound escapes in Glasgow and Vienna Duty-Free have increased sales there by between 3 and 10%.

Join world-renowned sound expert Julian Treasure in a series of five short lessons, looking at how all of our senses can influence our consumption habits and behaviours.


Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, airports — on how to design the sound in their physical spaces and communication. He asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us. How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, acquisitive?

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