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The power of audio strategy for retail brands

The power of audio strategy for retail brands

The power of audio strategy for retail brands

Visual and sonic identity have become inseparable when it comes to defining a powerful brand identity and optimizing the best customer experience.

Let's take a closer look at how to design an audio strategy for retail brands, with a focus on developing an in-store music strategy.

The challenges of in-store music

Over the last few years sonic branding has been developing exponentially, in all industries but also in all regions of the world. More and more brand marketers and communicators are convinced nowadays that music is an important lever to build brand consistency, to reinforce brand values and promises, and gain attribution and recall through music's universal and emotional power.

Video Sixième Son Etihad Airlines

Brands in the retail industry are also confirming this new appetite for music strategy and are increasingly developing their tailor-made sonic identity. 

One of the major challenges for these brands is to define the music atmosphere in store. 

Some researchers have studied the real impact of music at the point of sale. A series of studies led by Prof. Philip Kotler shows that the retail atmosphere becomes more important than the attributes of the product (such as its price, its functionality, etc.). 

The power of sonic atmosphere is important, not only on the emotional perception of the product sold, but also on the customer's loyalty at the point of sale. There is also a direct link between a tailor-made in-shop music strategy and the increase of impulse purchases. 

We know today that buyers spend on average 9% more when they are happy. Almost all the population recognizes that music affects their emotions.

So today the question is no longer: should I play music in my store?! But: What music reinforces the shopping experience I offer to my customers? What music conveys the values of my brand? 

The work of developing audio merchandising strategy is in fact quite similar to the work of visual merchandising, but it surely requires the support of dedicated experts and a precise methodology.

The development of a customized in-store sonic system

It is essential to start from the principle that each store is unique because each brand is unique and gathers a clientele that has unique attributes (like age, history, values, etc.). It is easy to imagine that working with brands as varied as Berluti, Haribo or Petit Bateau results in very different artistic and technical choices, but the methodology remains the same.

Berluti Ginza 5 Photo my lifestyle news

Before talking about any music, it is therefore very important to start talking about the brand: its strategy, its assets, its message, its values, its vision. An in-shop music strategy is first developed to serve the performance of the brand and its customers’ experience. 

Understanding the brand’s previous use of sound and music is also very important before further development. It is also essential to listen to the brand’s competitors and understand their use of music and sound so we can maximize our differentiation (or conversely align with industry codes when relevant).

Then comes the time to develop the musical concept. By working with sonic moodboards and dedicated music programmers, the contours of the sonic identity are drawn, such as the "musical colors", periodicity, dosage, temporality, and possible exclusions. 

For Berluti, comfort, warm, soothing atmosphere, hedonism and elegance must be translated into a musical programming and sound design tailored to the store. 

For Petit Bateau, the sonic universe developed will be oriented towards notions of candor, purity, sweetness and impertinence.

Haribo has very different challenges because the musical selection will carry values of greed, joy of living, accessibility and optimism. 

For these three totally different strategies, we have to imagine that the challenges of in-shop ergonomics, technique, volume, and seasonality are extremely different, and this again requires custom work and dedicated expertise.

Petit Bateau 1Photo IWD Petit Bateau


The future holds more and more audio


Since the arrival of e-commerce, the retail industry has been faced with the challenge of redefining the in-store customer experience. The real customer experience in-store is definitely sensory. Smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing are exactly what makes the physical shopping experience. The sensory experience is why some consumers prefer a visit to the store rather than a purchase on the brand's digital platforms. 

It is becoming increasingly common for online platforms to invest in sound design and sonic identities in order to compensate for those sensory experiences that are lost when switching to a digital shopping experience.

Beverage or perfume brands, for example, tend to develop more and more sonic identities for their new products.  The sonic identity complements the visual aspect of buying products online and is even more important for brands that we were used to taste before purchasing.

Sound is now everywhere, in-store and on digital, and it has become one of the most important levers of brand identity. It creates the coherent bridge between all its sales channels, especially as music is universal, international, and can be adapted to an infinite number of uses.


About Florent Adam

Florent Adam is the Managing Director of Sixieme Son in Singapore. He leads the team and operations of the agency in Asia.

With 10 offices around the world, Sixieme Son is the world leader agency in sonic branding. The agency's expertise is to develop audio branding strategies and design sonic identities to help the brands to be better identified, better understood, and better loved through the emotional power of music.

Sixieme Son has created over 450 sonic identities for brands all around the world and in all industries (including Etihad, Huggies, La Roche Posay, Petronas, McKinsey, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Renault, Fc Barcelona, Axa, etc.)


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Florent Adam