By Joel Beckman with Tyler Gray
The death knell for shopping malls was right there in the name. No one called them buying malls, and in the end that wasn’t the allure. And yet, the buying was the backbone of the business model. What we’ve learned from the decline of shopping malls is that experience rules retail. Physical stores have to lead with it. And retailers have to understand that experience is the gateway to buying, even if that buying happens somewhere else, somewhere digital.
Apple gets this. Burberry gets this — they sponsor artists and host performances in their London stores. AT&T gets the idea, too. I helped them design a signature anthem, an Innovation store in Chicago, and a stadium in Dallas, where sound helps guide visitors through every experience and heightens emotions they naturally feel. Sound is the most effective way to lead off any experience, especially with a brand such as AT&T, whose magic often only gets noticed when it doesn’t work (think: dropped calls or failed connections). Sound is the allure and the maker of memories with a brand. It can even remind customers when to buy and reward them for having done so.
But you don’t have to be a giant retailer to appreciate the power of sound. It can help any size brand — or person — get credit for things it gets right. It can differentiate a brand or help earn it attention and a genuine, rewarding way (a tune that calls to mind positive experiences or relevant memories at just the right moment). It can turn a provider of essential goods or services into an entertainment venue. It can help a mom-and-pop grocery grow bigger than Walmart, and thrive in the shadow of surrounding superstores. In addition to pointing out how smart brands such as Audi, AT&T, and Apple use sound to get credit for experiences, this article also tells the story of Jungle Jim’s International Market, near Cincinnati, Ohio. Started as a produce stand in a parking lot in 1971 by James O. Bonaminio in Hamilton, Ohio, Jim’s is the paragon of a family business. The original store in Fairfield, which opened in 1974, now spans six acres. Produce alone takes up an acre.
How did Jungle Jim’s use sound and music to create a real shopping experience; one that entertains his customers while they shop, which in turn keeps them in the store longer?
Jim’s also carves out a few spaces that are meant to be perceived as quiet: the wine cellar and walk-in humidor are two of the quietest spots in the store. The sound there is the calming whoosh of air keeping things cool. Fifty thousand people a week shop at Jim’s. It reportedly pulls in almost ninety million dollars in annual revenue. And no one is worried about Walmart stealing Jungle Jim’s customers, even though there are eight of them within a ten-mile radius.
Joel Beckerman is Founder and Lead Composer of Made Music Studio. Talk to him on Twitter @joelbeckerman.