Make us your home page
Instagram

Sound business: listen up retailers

Julian Treasure challenges retailers to discover what their business sounds like.

"Walk in, close your eyes and just listen," says the one-time British rock drummer turned audio evangelist. "Does it sound like your brand?"

More often they hear mindless music piped through a cheesy sound system, crashing shopping carts, loud beeps, clanging dishes, a constant whoosh barreling from refrigeration exhaust and the roar of voices reverberating as loud as a crowd shouting in their face.

Surprisingly, retailers lavish millions in how their businesses look, smell and even taste to shoppers, but overlook sound. Shoppers cannot close their ears, so the human brain has learned to tune out annoying sounds. The audio assaults, however, subconsciously make heart rates and stress levels jump and jangled shoppers cut a trip short.

"Supermarkets are usually a disaster," said Treasure, chief executive of the Sound Agency and a three-time TED conference presenter. "No wonder people find food shopping a chore. There's so much noise a lot of them just want to get out."

Treasure, 54, won converts addressing 60 top-tier retail executives from 55 companies at a Global Retail Marketing Association conference last week at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel.

"Sound design has become a big deal," said Tom Lamb, senior vice president of marketing at Lowe's, the home-improvement chain.

It's not just that Treasure can claim his tactics triggered sales increases up to 38 percent. Simple sound management fixes can recover sales lost by people walking out the door.

His tools are a decibel meter and a digital recording studio in his laptop. Depending on the circumstances, he prescribes a laundry list of baffles, mufflers, sound-absorbing fabric and sophisticated sound systems that can project sound to a tightly defined area of an open room. The right music may include several original composers of "generative" New Age music proven to refresh moods because it avoids using repetitive strains.

It's not all music. People find birds chirping reassuring because thousands of years ago humans learned that was a signal there was no danger lurking. Surf sounds are relaxing because at 12 cycles a minute they are about the same as human breathing while asleep.

Don't get him started on automated call centers. Often businesses whose only contact with customers is delivered over the phone subject them to recordings like, "We truly value your call as very important."

"So why no human and the press one, press two nonsense?" asked Treasure. "They start customer interaction with a lie."

Treasure, who estimates he lost 13 percent of his hearing as a rock drummer in his 20s, tried magazine publishing before venturing into the science of sound. The training has left him concerned that he's the only one shielding his ears from permanent damage when a train with squealing wheels screeches past.

"I realized my passion for music really was a passion for all sounds," he said.

Off-hours lounging at the Don CeSar's poolside pub gave him little peace. So, armed with decibel readings as high as a nerve-jangling 77, he gave a breakfast presentation to hotel manager Steven Cummings.

Cummings took it to heart. He ordered the loud rock music turned down, toured the hotel with Treasure, closing his eyes to listen for annoying sounds and promised to consider changes.

"This hotel should sound like the grand old dame of the gulf," Treasure said. "The beach lounge need not sound like a night club all day."

Staff Writer Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

Sound business: listen up retailers 05/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 4:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]