…. it’s Christmas time!
Ok well it’s not, there’s still 60 days to go until the ‘big day’, but as I’m sure most of you are aware most of the shops are already in full swing of the festive season. Truth is we started prepping for Christmas in-store back in September when the first few boxes of sparkly, joyful cards started to appear on the shop floor. Then October rolled round and suddenly you couldn’t move for festive PJ’s, perfume gift sets and glitzy party wear without tripping over the mountains of boxed salted caramels on your way to the gift-wrapping aisle that was formally a till point queue!
When I first thought about my Christmas blog I thought about writing it on “why does Christmas start before Summer has ended?” but then I thought “surly that’s obvious, the majority of customers want it to” (and believe me customers do want gift-wrap & presents before their summer tans have faded just like I know you readers want a Christmas blog the week before Halloween!). So instead I shall focus on my favourite part of the lead-up to Christmas – the music – and the final touch we are waiting for in-store. Once it is turned on it there is no doubting that the busiest period of the retail year is finally upon us and sales consultants everywhere will need to become the happiest and most helpful elves to get themselves customers, and themselves, through it.
A poll conducted in 2009 (on several hundred consumers aged 15-54) by Entertainment Media Research found that 95% of the population prefer to go shopping when there is in-store music and 40% of these individuals prefer festive music playing at Christmas time compared to general hits. But customers don’t only enjoy it, it can also affect their shopping behaviour.
Firstly most people like Christmas music. It’s a hard to find a general top 40 hit that everyone likes but did you know that ‘All I want for Christmas’ is loved by 50% of the population (based on the statistics from this research). And if the music is making you happy then you will rate products more favourably and will be happier to shop for longer and to spend more (see my previous blog for more happiness related musings).
(^who knew charts could be so much fun!)
Furthermore customers are kept happy but the emotionally charged memories festive music often evokes. This activation can also make us recall the true meaning of giving at Christmas and 1 in 4 people report that they buy more generous gifts whilst Christmas music they like is playing. Even if this isn’t the case if you believe you will be more generous than that could work as a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will go and splash more cash all because you heard Jingle Bell Rock as you wandered past the gift-wrapped dressing gowns. Additionally the emotional aspect of festive music could mean customers could start to associate a particular song with a brand (this study demonstrated that this worked for TV adverts & recall of brands).
Also who doesn’t love a good sing-a-long to Fairytale in New York?!? 53% of shoppers mentioned they often end up singing along to Christmas songs and the diaphragmatic breathing involved in singing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This stops the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system becoming active, which is often accompanied by feelings of stress and anxiety, so you can keep your cool and continue shopping and spending. Plus when the other shoppers join in at “and the bells were ringing out…….ON CHRISTMAS DAY!” (or whatever song you happen to be singing!) suddenly you are belonging! You are an individual in a social group! Humans love to conform to the social group norms and this even applies to shopping behaviour especially when choosing a product.
However Christmas music can have a negative impact on shopper behaviour. Typically the jolly, festive earworms common in the Western World have fast tempos which have also been found to increase shopper arousal. In turn this decreases the amount of time customers spend shopping in a store – though customers often report themselves as having spent more time shopping – and most retailers believe there is a correlation between time spent in store and money spent. Hence if retail stores want to play festive jingles, but slow customers down, they would be better off playing unfamiliar Christmas tunes as unfamiliar songs have shown to increase the time shoppers spend in-store.
Additionally timing is important. Start playing the tunes too early (50% said November was too early) and customers can get bogged down in the whole ‘commercialisation of Christmas’/’it starts too early’ debate and hence feel less inclined to spend. Additionally it’ll get repetitive fast (for customers and the poor consultant elves). Also pick the playlist carefully as some songs are hated by individuals and some customers say they would walk out of a shop if they heard certain music playing (whether they actually would is a different matter but if anyone does it whilst I’m on a shift I shall let you know!) And of course your choice of festive music needs to be in-keeping with the store theme.
Anyway very merry early Christmas to you all (or Nadolig Llawen as they say in Wales!)
P.S. After reading a few studies(1, 2) on classical music making items appear more expensive I have been pondering whether festive music makes items appear more Christmassy? For example would a sparkly jumper be categorised as a Christmas jumper if Band Aid was playing in the background? Could this damage sales? I mean I love a good Christmas jumper but I can only wear it for a few weeks of the year. If I think this is a Christmas jumper I may not buy it for fear of being judged once January rolls around. Anyway just a thought (and one that there is no accessible literature on yet!)