Directional Speakers in Retail
Directional speakers focus sound in a straight beam, similar to a laser or strong flashlight. This means that anyone walking through or standing in its way will hear what it's broadcasting, but other people nearby won't.
The technology makes for some unique retail designs that customers find delightful and interesting.
Using directional sound equipment in your store creates a targeted source for music or other audio which draws customers' attention at specific times during their shopping journey.
You don't need to rip out shop fittings and spend huge amounts on fancy installations. In fact, directional speakers are affordable and simple to install.
So below, we'll discuss how directional sound in retail stores can be used to increase sales, help customers find what they want, and promote brands in ways they'll remember.
The power of directional sound in shop floor marketing
Sound plays a much bigger part in customer purchase decisions than you might realize.
It's been observed in multiple studies that background music can significantly increase sales in retail when it's adapted properly to the store and the type of customer that visits. But it's not just music that guides and enhances the customer journey: it's all types of sound.
The shop floor has changed dramatically over the past decade. Interactive touchscreens are the norm now, with customers reaching out a finger naturally instead of raising an eyebrow at the novelty. There's also a host of other interactive displays to be found: digital signage, product demonstration kiosks, projections, and so on.
These innovations are clear to see when visiting any modern store, but it's not always noticeable that hearing plays a huge part in their effectiveness too. Failing to realize this means retailers miss out on potentially massive improvements to the customer experience – and thus, fewer sales.
Traditional loudspeaker setups can play a big part in improving shop floor marketing. But directional audio takes these results to the next level.
Here are some of the ways you can enhance your showroom or store with directional sound.
How you can use directional speakers in retail
There are four main ways to make use of directional sound in a retail context.
1) Ambient sound
You can play ambient sounds in a particular section of a store to enhance the customer experience.
Playing relevant directed audio to a certain section of your shop will give a nice sense of immersion. If you've invested in decorating and branding this section, why not entertain the other senses?
With directional speakers, only the customers in your desired area will hear the music, so it doesn't distract other shoppers by leaking over into their surroundings. It can bring a pleasant sense of focus and concentration for your customer, increasing the likelihood that they'll make a purchase.
For example, if you're an outdoor clothing retailer, you might play calming ocean sounds in the watersports section, or natural ambiance and birdsong in the hiking boots section. There are plenty of opportunities to be creative here.
2) Guidance and information
You can also use directional audio technology to play location-specific information to your customers.
For example, the speaker may play a message with instructions, or an up-sell with additional recommendations, while people are waiting in line for the fitting room to try on clothes. This can streamline the queue in a busy store, and make life easier for your fitting room attendants. It's also a great opportunity to remind customers how the return policy works, or where they can pick up some nice accessories to go with their purchase.
If there's a place where customers are frequently confused about where things are, directional audio can help them.
"Looking for a pair of gloves? You'll find them in our winter collection - it's up the escalator to the second floor."
This is a great way to avoid having your shop floor staff be asked the same questions over and over about specific products or services.
3) Interactive shopping experiences
Directional audio speakers act as the output for a wide range of broadcasting devices. This means you can customize output when certain actions are taken – like picking up a certain item from the shelf – opening up a wide range of possibilities.
One well-known example of this is Amazon's Go system, where customers log into the Amazon app when entering the store, and simply walk out with their purchases. The system identifies the items in their basket with a mix of image recognition and physical sensors then charges their account.
This is a complex system, of course, but there are much simpler ways of approaching this. You could use a small proximity sensor, or a motion detector, to identify when a customer puts their hand near the item, which could then trigger relevant directional sound.
You could also integrate the speakers with RFID chips, identifying particular items the customer is interacting with. These are tiny chips that can be embedded in the labels of items (helping with inventory management) so they're barely noticeable when being handled.
You could even create setups that interact with mobile devices (using bluetooth or NFC) and play a beam of sound to the listening area, offering incentives to sign up for your brand's app, for example. There are many creative possibilities that could really delight your customers; the only limit is your imagination.
4 ) Attract attention
When a customer walks into the 'beam' of sound coming from a directional speaker, it isn't always obvious where the sound is coming from. This usually means they'll be curious about its source and look around to find out. And so their gaze will eventually fall on whatever you're displaying and you'll have their full attention.
This is especially effective for installations that are above eye level, where the beam of sound is pointing downwards. It's also great for attracting attention at longer distances too, where you might prompt the customer to walk over to a certain area to learn more. In larger department stores or tradeshows this can be really useful for directing the flow of customers with a bespoke audio experience.
For more inspiration on increasing sales on your shop floor, check out our guide to the latest retail technology. From AR to robotics, there's plenty of ways to maximize showroom performance with integrated tech systems.
The benefits of directional audio in retail
The features and case studies above show the variety of ways you can use directional sound in your retail store. Put together, these make for some clear benefits to any organization running a brick-and-mortar operation:
- Increased brand recall – directional sound can improve customers' memory of your brand messaging and marketing campaigns, compared to when they only see your displays; this can increase the likelihood of a future purchase or other brand engagements.
- Increased dwell time – customers stay longer in retail establishments when hearing sound that's relevant to them. Displays become more interesting, and environments become more welcoming.
- Lower ambient noise – your staff won't have to hear the same distracting sounds over and over, which means they'll be in a better mindset to serve customers. And your customers will feel more at peace in your store without being distracted by sounds that are irrelevant to them.
- Satisfied customers – customers won't get lost in your store, and won't ask employees questions like "where is the checkout?" after picking up an item – they can easily get this information directed to them.
- Increased sales – one study found that 41% of shoppers have made a purchase they weren't planning on making after hearing a retail audio commercial or promotional announcement. This is ultimately the best result to aim for: maximizing the sales per square meter of your store.
Is it difficult to install directional speakers in a store?
It's not difficult to install directional speakers in your shop. It just takes a little bit of consideration about the space you're going to install them in to enable the best functionality and sound quality.
First, you'll need to think about your in-store acoustics: are there any other sources of sound nearby that might interfere? What materials are the floor and surrounding furniture made of? Is it a high-traffic area, or is it a space customers usually spend a bit more time in?
Then, you'd consider the infrastructure: do you have a wall or supporting structure that the speakers can be mounted on? Mounting directional sound speakers is not really different to mounting traditional speaker systems.
This should make sure that you get the most high-quality sound from your directional audio device.
Finally, when installing a directional sound system in your retail space you'll need to take into account that it'll be powered with a standard electrical connection. This means making sure there's nearby access to a power supply, or the capability for an electrician to make the necessary adjustments.
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