The Psychology Behind In-Store Music: Q&A with storePlay

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 06 Sep 2019

In 1989, Dean Cherny combined his love of Djing with retail, by creating a musical experience for retailers, Marketing Melodies. The concept is quite simple: provide music in-store to create an atmosphere worth shopping in.

“As part of this assignment, we had to present to a real-life business, and in my case, it was Portmans. I presented the business plan, and it went well – I walked out with my first client and a lowly credit. While originally I was mixing records onto a cassette, the advent of CD’s burning at high speed meant we could grow the business, but it was really the iPhone & iOS revolution that allowed me to scale the business. In 2012, I built the first iOS app for in-store music called storePlay, and since launching has scaled the business to now supply over 5,000 stores throughout Australia & New Zealand,” explained Mr Cherny.

The Psychology Behind In-Store Music

A recent study showed that playing the right brand fit music can increase sales by 9.1 per cent. Music has a major impact on how we perceive the passing of time, said Mr Cherny. “So, playing faster music makes it seem as though more time is passing. If your customers have to spend some time waiting in line, make sure soft, slow music is playing, or if you are trying to serve as many clients as quickly as possible, then go for fast and loud music,” he explained.

“Time perception is one thing; quality perception is another crucial factor in retail. The more complex music is, the higher the quality image it exudes, which makes sense as jazz and classical are typically quite complex, and they suit more up-market businesses. A final interesting variable is music loudness. Research has shown, however, that even in high-end super fashionable stores, the effects of loud music are negative. Turning the music to a more comfortable loudness leads to a higher percentage of visitors entering the fitting rooms, to higher customer satisfaction and higher sales,” he explained.

Did you face any issues while creating storePlay? If so, how did you overcome them?

“Probably the greatest challenges I faced when building storePlay was that it was boots-trapped and a completely new business model. I was funding the $100k+ build-out of my savings, and no one had thought to use an iPod touch for in-store music, which meant I also had to educate the market. It was a risky roll of the dice that thankfully paid off,” he said.

Other companies present a similar offer to storePlay. How do you play against competitors, and how do you stay on top?

“There are a few other competitors in the marketplace, but we differentiate ourselves in a number of ways. storePlay was the first app of its kind globally, and we continue to be driven by technology and are constantly creating cutting edge add ons to the storePlay platform. storePlay has pivoted from being just a background music supplier to, a retail technology specialist. The storePlay platform is about creating a 360-degree conversation between the retailer and their customers by driving traffic into stores & creating engaging experiences when they are in there. We do this by placing technology at the centre of the consumer’s in-store experience,” Mr Cherny.

“Last year we launched our new consumer-facing app called storePlay Connect that gives shoppers the ability to select songs from a retailer in-store playlist, receive offers and pay for them via AfterPay, Zip or OpenPay & experience Augmented Reality. These will all fit together to help power the store of the future and ensure that our clients have the most vibrant and engaging retail premises.”

You’ve worked with Optus, Mimco, Kookai and many others to help create the right atmosphere for consumers. What has been the most challenging case for storePlay, and how did you achieve the results?

“While there have been quite a few difficult cases including our current roll-out across the Country Road Group, but the Optus rollout was one of the more creative. The task was to roll out a centralised in-store music system across 380 stores nationwide, utilising Optus’ existing hardware set-up. Previously, Optus retail stores were using outdated technology (in the form of USBs) to update music across the store network. This was inefficient and labour-intensive. They needed to streamline this process without needing to invest in additional hardware,” Mr Cherny explained.

“We partnered with Optus’ digital signage provider to build a bespoke version of storePlay that could run on their existing digital signage media player. As such, no outlay was required on additional hardware. Optus now has an online music management system that allows them to update their music and in-store messaging across their network instantly.

“The platform allows staff to create their own playlists from a centrally-approved music selection. This allows each store to customise the feel of their retail space for their specific footfall. This is particularly practical for franchisees, who now feel they are more in control of their own store environment,” he said.

How does storePlay and Marketing Melodies engage with up and coming musical artists? Does the service help to those in the music industry who are trying to breakthrough?

“While it’s imperative to have deals with all the major record labels, we pride ourselves on the breadth of our music catalogue with over 50 independent record label and distributor deals. We also often receive requests from an independent artist and will sign a direct deal if we deem their music suitable for our programs,” Mr Cherny said.

If you could look back at yourself when you first started Marketing Melodies and storePlay, what advice would you give yourself? Is there anything you would have done differently?

“Being a founder/entrepreneur is lonely, so make sure that you surround yourself with a support network and never stop learning. So to help with this, four years ago, I joined Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO),” he said.

“The primary purpose of EO is to help entrepreneurs grow their business through, peer-to-peer learning, connections to experts & once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Since joining EO nearly five years ago, I have grown my business by 20 per cent year on year, joined the board and became President of the Melbourne Chapter – experiences that I would never have been able to get in my home office.

“But probably the greatest gift EO has given me is a community of other entrepreneurs that I can experience share with and learn from. I only wish I had begun this journey back in 1989 as I think I would have saved myself a lot of time, effort & too many mistakes to mention.”

What exciting things do you have in the works? Is there anything you’d like to add?

“We have some really exciting technology that we are building. Based on the premise that music affects mood and mood effects buying behaviour, we have also just engaged the Science Department of RMIT to help us build & integrate AI/machine learning into storePlay to create local, optimised playlists that maximise sales,” Mr Cherny explained.

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