The Effect of Christmas Music on Shopping Behaviour

Christmas Shopping

The holidays are upon us! And it has now become impossible to go anywhere without hearing Christmas songs in the background. But why is it that so many businesses choose to play Christmas background music?

Put simply, Christmas music puts us all in that festive mood which then prompts us to spend more. It’s a constant reminder of Christmas shopping and all the things that we need to buy to prepare for Christmas. And so we walk around buying and spending more than we would usually, eyes peeled for the perfect Christmas presents for our friends, family and even our co-workers.

In a survey conducted by Entertainment Media Research Ltd back in 2009 (which asked several hundred UK consumers between the age of 15 and 54), it was revealed that a massive 95% of consumers prefer Christmas shopping with in-store music. Amongst the 95%, 4 out of 10 said that they would prefer to shop where Christmas music was playing than the music that they would usually enjoy whilst shopping. The research also showed that 85% of consumers agree that Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Christmas music. Approximately three quarters of the survey respondents said that hearing their favourite Christmas songs playing in the background when they’re shopping helps them to get into the festive spirit. 1 in 4 even admitted that they reckon they’re probably more generous when it comes to gift-buying if they like the Christmas music playing in the background.

“Festive jingles are force-fed to Christmas shoppers in a bid to change their mood, influence their sense of time and what sort of products they buy. In other words, this is an attempt to manipulate your shopping habits in a way that you might barely be aware of. Often we are told that we have the freedom to choose where we want to shop, but during Christmas the use of music in this way is so ubiquitous that our freedom to choose disappears.”

– Dr Alan Bradshaw of Royal Holloway, University of London

Though Dr Alan Bradshaw’s view on the effect of Christmas music on shopping behaviour is one from a negative standpoint (and fairly so), from a business perspective Christmas music is gold. In fact, when customers are listening to Christmas music, their brains are dedicating a fraction of its processing power to listen to the song — even more if they’re humming or singing along in their head — so they are less resistant to sales techniques. Customers get a little more careless with their spending, and don’t take the time to contemplate whether something is actually a good deal or not. Some may consider this unethical, but then so is product packaging or shop displays. The business is to encourage customers to spend more. Not less. And to expect businesses to do so is completely illogical.

Playing Christmas music in a shop? Do it right!

Christmas Shopping

Nearly half of people questioned in Entertainment Media Research Ltd’s research said that they felt November is too early to start playing Christmas music in shops. Which leaves many business owners wondering, “when is the best time to start playing Christmas music?”. The safest way is to slowly introduce the Christmas music into your shop, in between the usual tracks your shop plays. Perhaps start with the occasional Christmas song at the beginning of December. Then gradually increase the number of Christmas songs you play until mid-December when it should be safe to go full blown Christmas playlist. But it’s important to remember that too much exposure to Christmas music can have a negative effect on shopping behaviour. Customers’ enjoyment of the Christmas music reaches a peak before it crashes into boredom or even annoyance. At the beginning, we enjoy it a little. Then we enjoy it a little bit more. Until we get into the full swing of things and really enjoy it. But almost as soon as we’ve reached that peak, we quickly becoming irritated. Timing is everything.

Your shop’s Christmas music playlist needs to reflect this trend by playing just the right amount of Christmas music that will appeal to your customers. In addition to gradually playing more Christmas music, you also need to phase out the Christmas music gradually after Christmas. Instead of stopping the Christmas music immediately after Christmas, play less and less so by the beginning of the new year, not a single Christmas song is played. Customers still feel the impact of the holiday season up the point where they have to return to work after New Year’s Day, and things go back to the usual routine.  This does require some effort and thought on your behalf, more so than any other time of year.

The thing about Christmas music is that it’s only played once a year (for obvious reasons). So although we’re pretty much sick of Christmas songs by Boxing Day, come next year we would have had a sufficient enough rest period for the effects of Christmas music to enchant us all over again.

Big brands often compete this time of year for the title of most memorable Christmas campaign (people expect a lot more from John Lewis than they do the smaller brands). They strategise their Christmas campaign to the tiniest of details and analyse at what point they can get in there early enough to make a big Christmas impact without being too early that they look or feel out of place when no-one is feeling Christmas-y just yet. Small, independent shops can get away with being a little late to the Christmas party, so you don’t have to start playing Christmas music the minute that John Lewis releases their highly anticipated Christmas advert.

Half of the research respondents stated that hearing Christmas songs that they hate can actually be enough to drive them out of a shop! So, as well as timing, song selection is key to effectively playing Christmas music that encourages more shopping.

But not all customers enjoy the high levels of commercial festivity this time of year, and some may even be deterred by the Christmas music and cut their shopping trip short as a result. Feeling pressured to participate in the holiday spirit of spending can make some consumers feel like they’re being manipulated. And grumpy customers spend less. When we’re grumpy, we become sceptical of how good products actually are, becoming a little more resistant to advertising and evaluating the quality of products a little more critically.

Most Popular Christmas Songs of 2015

Popular Christmas music is one of the most influential components of the commercialisation of Christmas Christmas songs with religious undertones encourage consumers to spend more on others while they are doing their Christmas shopping, while secular Christmas songs actually encourage customers to spend more on themselves. So your shop’s holiday background music playlist will depend on your shop’s customers.

The same old classic Christmas songs that play year after year help to enforce the festive spirit as it reminds us of previous Christmases that were filled with joy and minced pies! It reminds us of family reunions, romantic Winter evenings…. going all the way back to Christmas as a child when you would get all your presents! Current popular music artists find it hard to compete against the Christmas classics due to this. We haven’t tied them to any heartfelt memories yet, so it’s harder to listen to them and reminisce about the good times.

According to The Billboard’s Holiday 100, the top 10 Christmas songs of 2015 (ranked by radio airplay audience impressions, sales data and online streaming data measured by Nielsen Music) are:

  1. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
  2. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Less
  3. “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” by Nat King Cole
  4. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms
  5. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
  6. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives
  7. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” by Dean Martin
  8. “Christmas Eve” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  9. “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano
  10. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry

Read more about How Background Music Influences Shopping Behaviour!

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