Assembly Line to Playground: Sound’s Role in Retail
by Maya Friedman, former Strategist at Made Music Studio
Talk of e-commerce experiences often involves a smattering of familiar words: “intuitive” this, “quickly” that. “So-seamless-my-five-year-old-son-could-redecorate-our-house-in-the-dark,” “eBay shows us Karlie Kloss can do it in 24-hours — so can you!” easy. Clean, simple and user friendly. Because of this shift, the role of the physical retail environment has been reimagined. It has slowly morphed into the fun uncle – the one that you want to visit on a road trip, that will tell you jokes, give you freebies and make you feel personally attended to. The retail store has become a product in itself where design, technology and emotions intersect.
This shift allows for brands to build flagship stores that are personal, experimental and can become seamlessly integrated into the local landscape. Let’s think of a few recent examples: Casper let you book out in-store nap appointments smack dab in the middle of your workday. Listening rooms at Sonos’ now-closed flagship store would let you meet up with friends in specially designed “listening rooms.”
The newest AT&T flagship is a living manifesto of the promise of a world made better with connected technologies and the human experience that they unlock.
One of the most impactful ways to tap into this design shift is music and sound. At Made Music Studio, we were lucky enough to get the chance to create a sonic branding experience for the newest AT&T flagship retail store in San Francisco’s Union Square. The store, housed in a historic 1921 landmark building in the heart of the city, is one of the most immersive experiences ever seen in a retail flagship store to date in the telecommunications industry. A living manifesto of the promise of a world made better with connected technologies and the human experience that they unlock. As the Sonic Branding Agency of Record for AT&T, Made Music Studio has created a full sonic identity system, but for this experience we wanted to acknowledge the opportunity to be personalized and connect with local visitors. Our team decided to create an immersive sonic experience that showed awareness and appreciation for the vibrant San Francisco community.
We used the sounds and sights of San Francisco as a cultural blueprint, celebrating a city known for its diversity and multicultural history. A large percentage (36%) of international-born residents call San Francisco home, with the largest group coming from China. The city is dotted with lively, richly-cultured neighborhoods, including Chinatown, the Mission District and North Beach, and is also known for celebrating its multicultural roots through various festivals and public events throughout the year. In order to capture the essence of the city, we created three tracks to be paired with a nanolumen display that showcased visuals inspired by the murals of the Mission District. These tracks were meant to be reminiscent of a local San Francisco gathering: an authentic and approachable vibe, a space that celebrates artistic expression with a global feel. To capture this energy, we composed pieces with Asian, Latin American and African-inspired melodies, collaborating with two world-class percussionists who recorded on traditional instruments with international roots: African congas, bongos and an Udu drum, and from Latin American timbales, compana cowbell and a guiro.
Studies show that pleasant experiences created by music can lead to longer dwell time, higher purchase rates, higher likelihood to recommend the experience to others.
As with AT&T and other spaces, music and sound provide us a unique and efficient way for stores to become emotion-driven tourist destinations, where the design can be personalized and experimental. Plus, research further helps us make this case: “Consumers today are looking at purchasing as an experimental activity, and want to enjoy the entire process of buying from the word ‘go’ to the post-purchase stage” says the International Journal of Management. A multitude of studies show that pleasant experiences created by music can lead to longer dwell time, higher purchase rates, higher likelihood to recommend the experience to others. In all — sound can inspire customers to make future visits to retail stores.
As physical retail environments continue to evolve into playgrounds rather than assembly lines, we encourage brands to use music and sound as a tool to bring local or unexpected flair to an experience that elevates and differentiates it from its e-commerce experience.