Shop Smarter: Use Influential Music to Control What & How Much You Purchase

Use Influential Music to Control What & How Much You Purchase

For some, there's nothing more thrilling than carrying an armful of bags while wandering the mall; for others, there's nothing more annoying. No matter what category of shopper you fit into, the truth is that you aren't always in control of what you buy.

One reason you spend so much time browsing aisles of shiny shoes or filling your cart with bacon is because you're simply reacting to what you hear.

Music Has a Hold on Your Brain

Our brains are constantly influenced by our surroundings. Yet when it comes to our shopping habits, music seems to have a large but imperceptible affect on how we behave.

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The pleasure-arousal-dominance (PAD) model, created by UCLA psychologist and professor Albert Mehrabian (who we've learned a little bit about trust from before in a previous mind hack), explains why music holds so much power over our subconscious choices.

Environment shapes our mood, and as a result, our behavior. The different factors that create a room or store's environment affect how we feel, raising or lowering our feelings of pleasure, arousal, and dominance.

So, when a song you love plays, you'll feel greater pleasure than normal—and you'll most likely behave a little differently. When slow jams play, the leisurely tempo reduces your arousal level, causing you to react in a similar manner, according to Madeline Ford, writer for Tip Tap Lab.

Speed Up the Tempo if You're Shopping on a Budget

Sticking to a shopping list can be a challenge, especially when there are so many tempting buys right at our fingertips online. If you have to stick to a strict budget when shopping, then you should pick upbeat, peppy songs that feature a fast tempo.

Fast songs lead you to mimic their pace. As you hear the music's speedy tempo, you move faster. Shopping becomes more of a sprint rather than a window-browsing marathon. Create a shopping playlist that features quick-moving tunes, like CeeLo Green's "Forget You" or "Cherry, Cherry" by Neil Diamond, to get yourself through the purchasing process faster.

If slow jams are your usual online shopping soundtrack, consider swapping them out for faster-paced songs. The slower the music's tempo, the more time you'll spend shopping. People who shop with slow-tempo music playing in the background purchase about 32 percent more items, according to a study conducted by Ronald E. Milliman, a professor of marketing at Western Kentucky University.

No Time to Browse? Choose Loud Music

Ever been within 50 feet of an Abercrombie and Fitch store? The preppy teen chain loves to blast dance music at incredibly loud decibels, scaring away anyone who fears for the future of their hearing. Their loud music, as it turns out, is driving shoppers away.

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Psychologists Patricia C. Smith and Ross Curnow published a study that revealed music's volume directly affects how much time we spend browsing. Their research found that when stores turn up the volume on their soundtracks, shoppers spend considerably less time shopping.

Loud music blasting at our eardrums causes us to speed through the entire process. After all, who wants to hear an endless loop of any song playing at almost 90 decibels? So, if you only have 15 minutes to spend shopping online, turn up the volume of whatever you're listening—as long as it's ear-splittingly loud, you'll get the job done faster.

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If you're worried that speedier shopping might lead to increased costs—Smith and Curnow's research found that loud music doesn't appear to affect what you buy.

Switch on Holiday-Themed Tunes When Shopping for Decorations

Christmas music does more than drive you crazy during the holidays; it also gives you an undeniable urge to purchase holiday-related items.

Hearing Mariah Carey's Christmas album on repeat will lead you to buy more tree- and snowman-themed products than if you shopped to other songs. The familiar tunes send your brain a signal, cueing you to buy holiday goods whenever you hear those notes.

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According to Eric Spangenberg, dean of Washington State University's business college, while we might equate listening to Christmas songs with auditory torture, we all fall for its tricks.

We expect to hear those old "favorites," and if our expectations aren't met, we simply won't buy as many ornaments. So, if you're looking to get in the spirit and snap up some new holiday decor, spend a little time listening to Pandora's Christmas station.

Stop Yourself from Splurging with Top 40 Songs

Classical music might be calming, but it's the worst music to listen to while shopping—unless, of course, your budget is unlimited.

In a study conducted by Texas Tech researchers Charles S. Areni and David Kim, shoppers listened to two types of music while shopping: Top 40 tunes and classical. Upon checkout, the shoppers who heard Top 40 songs purchased average-priced items. Those who heard the smooth sounds of Mozart and Beethoven, on the other hand, selected more expensive things, their taste suddenly growing fancier due to the music playing.

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This effect isn't limited to in-store shopping. Hearing classical music makes people buy more expensive items, as it evokes a feeling of poshness, so limit your exposure to Bach while browsing your favorite online shops. Try a few of your favorite pop songs to help you save a few bucks.

Let the Music Guide Your Purchases

Now that you know how music plays your brain, use it to your advantage. While your computer might not feel like a brick-and-mortar store, what you hear while scrolling through Nordstrom's newest arrivals can make you spend more, or even fall under the spell of pricey items.

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