It’s no secret that providing the optimal retail experience involves playing the right background music that matches your brand. Music can create an inviting environment for customers and energize employees. But simply playing the right music isn’t enough. The way you implement music within your commercial space is equally as important. Before selecting a sound system for your retail business, there are eight key points you should consider.
#1. Home and Commercial Sound Systems Are Not Equivalent
It is rarely appropriate to use a home sound system in a retail space. Even if you have a small storefront that could accommodate a home system's focused sound, there are many reasons to opt for professional equipment. Connecting several speakers to a home sound system in an effort to save money can not only cost you more in the long run but it can be challenging. You’ll likely need additional amplifiers which can become expensive and the wiring itself can be non-trivial. Elect for the safe route with equipment designed specifically for commercial space.
Another consideration is that personal audio products are designed for intermittent use, whereas sound in a retail establishment may run continuously for long periods, occasionally even 24 hours, depending on the setting. Commercial grade audio systems are built to be resilient with robust power supplies; meaning they can withstand continuous use. Furthermore, the longevity of the two classes of products is vastly different. Home sound merchandise typically offers warranties of one to five years. Professional commercial products, on the other hand, can last for dozens of years with proper maintenance.
#2. Invest in a Sound System Appropriate for the Size of Your Space
The size and shape of your commercial area contribute greatly to your optimal sound system choice. The number and location of speakers are critical elements to consider in order to best make use of your music investment. In general, install at least two speakers per 500 square feet of commercial space. Be sure to distribute the speakers evenly throughout while focusing on areas where customers spend the most time, including the front door.
Sometimes, it would be beneficial to have separate listening areas within your property that cater to different moods and musical tastes. This is valuable in scenarios like a medical group or dental practice where there is a waiting room and exam rooms. Or in a hotel where you want different music to play in the lobby, cantina, and workout room. A professional streaming music service can enable the playing of different music in each of these areas, called zones, to accommodate unique business needs. Consider where your zones might be and ensure that speakers are placed in the locations accordingly.
#3. Your Industry Matters
Rather than selecting a system based solely on your space's size, consider what type of business you run. If you seek audio for a hip retail store, you may elect to play music at a higher volume than an upscale restaurant of the same size. Bear in mind exactly who your target audience is and what volume of music they would appreciate. Background noise within the business space, such as an espresso machine in a coffee shop, significantly impacts sound magnitude and must be taken into account. Particularly for situations where increased volumes may be indicated, an amplifier can be extremely beneficial. An amplifier will allow you to increase your sound volume while maintaining its quality—it amplifies the original sound without distortion.
In addition to volume, sound quality is pertinent to your business type. Should you offer live performances within your commercial space (for example, a coffee shop with live bands or open mic night), you will want to select a system with an independent PA system among additional equipment. A typical 70-volt system designed solely for background music will not suffice.In the case your staff will be making announcements over the loudspeaker, a PA system would also be required.
You ultimately must select music that aligns with your brand, then choose a sound system accordingly. Music has a significant impact on a business' brand identity when used appropriately. The right music will create an inviting atmosphere for your target client and enhance the overall experience, building brand loyalty.
#4. Location, Location, Location
Even more imposing than indoor background sounds, environmental noise requires special attention. These elements include nearby traffic, wind, overheard aircraft, or passerby conversations. If you have an outdoor establishment or an outside component to your retail space, you must consider sound volume, quality, and environmental elements. Moisture and excessively cold or hot climates can be detrimental to electronic equipment. Selecting durable, waterproof products is vital to the lifespan of the components.
Alternatively, when choosing a sound system for indoor spaces, aesthetics is often a priority. Fortunately, slim, space-saving speakers are available to accommodate smaller spaces in addition to seamless ceiling hardware. These stylistic options require a more complex installation. Be aware that you'll also likely spend more for these attractive systems.
#5. Your Mobile Device Can Double as a Music Source
Today, many businesses already use a tablet or mobile device to track inventory or process client payments. Utilizing the same device as a music source can save you money. This convenient option enables staff or management to have everything at their fingertips.
When using a mobile device to control your background music, it's essential to select an app that offers legal music streaming. Simply playing songs from your iPhone in a business setting-- regardless of whether you purchased the music-- is prohibited by law and can result in costly lawsuits or felony charges. Streaming services like Cloud Cover Music take care of the proper licensing , so businesses don't have to do it on their own. Most of these services have a broad music selection, are very functional, and less expensive than trying to license music directly from performance rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI.
#6. It’s Possible to Go Wireless
With most of the world operating on Bluetooth and Wifi connections, it's no wonder businesses have started to utilize wireless audio systems. Bluetooth speakers and wireless music sources may allow you more freedom regarding placement. Unless mounted permanently, you can quickly move wireless speakers to various locations based on the space.
Voice technology is also making its way into stores via smart speakers. Nearly a quarter of adults have access to the new smart speakers, and many utilize them daily. Users can play music, ask questions, get directions, or even order pizza using only their voice. Some retail establishments have implemented voice-powered technology for customers to use while shopping. The Mars Agency put an experimental voice-activated shopping assistant to the test in BevMo! stores. An Amazon Echo, referred to as SmartAisle in the study, was stationed in a store aisle to aid in whisky selection. Browers engaged with the assistant, answered a series of questions, and then directed toward a recommended whiskey. Stores have seen an increase in sales with this new application. The interactions with smart speakers can promote customer engagement while also giving insight into what customers want.
Even if not made available to customers, voice-powered speakers can benefit store workers. The ability to dictate inventory or control music volume without contact is a valuable concept.
#7. Consider Hazards in the Retail Space
Risky hazards within your commercial space can influence system selection. If children or pets frequent your store, ensure that you take safety precautions to protect vulnerable audio equipment. You may wish to keep speakers and amplifiers mounted on walls and out of reach. Water, rain, or kitchen elements such as steam or food particles could affect any audio components in the vicinity. Consider housing your audio in another room and choosing durable speakers for those areas with hazards.
#8. A Quality Sound System Will Give You Greater ROI
Without question, the addition of background music will elevate any commercial space. The ambient sounds positively impact both customers and staff. Background music can aid in elevated mood and improved production. While listening to music at work, 90% of employees noted an improvement in their work performance. This enhanced quality of work translates to revenue—40% of business owners feel that playing music for employees boosted sales.
The use of quality audio while shopping can influence consumers. With the appropriate genre and volume of music in a retail setting, sales can prominently increase. However, a subpar, distorted sound quality could deter potential customers from spending time in the store and ultimately cost your business money. Consider a quality sound system an investment in your brand loyalty and future sales.
The Best Sound System Choice for Your Business
With numerous options available, you have the opportunity to customize your sound system to the needs of your business. You also have the ability to create an appealing retail environment guaranteed to build brand trust. A combination of the right music and quality audio products will allow you to achieve this goal. Should you have any questions regarding the sound system equipment, Cloud Cover Music's guide to equipment options can help.
Mitch Bishop is the CMO at Cloud Cover Music, a fast-growing Los Angeles-based streaming music service for business. Cloud Cover Music is the #1-rated digital music service used at tens of thousands of locations every day to delight customers, soothe frayed nerves during the COVID-19 epidemic, and energize employees. Mitch has held executive marketing and sales roles at CloudPassage, Moovweb, iRise, Sybase, and other fast-growing start-ups and is a published book author (IMSA 1969-1989)