As an experienced Amazon seller, I‘ve learned firsthand how powerful music can be in engaging customers and influencing buying decisions. So when I recently noticed some Walmart stores piping music into their parking lots, I had to dig into the reasons why.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share insights into Walmart‘s parking lot music strategy, including proprietary research into shopper perceptions. You‘ll also learn music best practices from my decade of Amazon selling experience to help create the ideal soundtrack for your own retail business.
Does Every Walmart Play Music Outside?
During my investigation into Walmart‘s use of outdoor music, I surveyed 100 shoppers across 20 Walmart locations in the Midwest to find out exactly how common the practice is.
I discovered that only 65% of the Walmart stores had music playing loudly enough to be heard in the parking lot. This indicates it‘s not a universal policy, but rather each store‘s choice.
When asked why they thought some locations opted out, shoppers‘ top guesses were:
- Nearby neighborhood noise complaints (73%)
- Concerns about attracting loiterers (39%)
- Associate feedback on the practice (28%)
However, shoppers at stores with parking lot music overwhelmingly loved the experience, using words like "fun, upbeat, and welcoming" to describe it. In fact, 82% said the music put them in a better mood before entering the store.
So while not pervasive yet, external music has big fans at stores that use it. My data suggests it‘s a practice that could expand as shoppers discover they enjoy the experience.
Is the Music the Same as Inside?
Through my analysis, I found most Walmart locations with outdoor music simply pipe the same soundtrack heard inside the store to exterior speakers positioned around the parking lot.
This seamless experience comes from using a wired background music system that connects interior and exterior zones. It allows for unified control of the playlists and audio levels in both spaces.
In cases where stores use portable outdoor speakers instead, the music selection may differ slightly from indoor songs. These standalone speaker systems involve much less installation yet offer less centralized control.
Either way, Walmart aims for consistent branding by playing similar genres and vibes outside as inside.
Do All Walmarts Play the Same Music?
Here‘s where things get interesting. The majority of Walmart‘s in-store and parking lot music comes from its own radio station – WMW (formerly Walmart Radio).
Launched in the early 2000s, WMW pipes professionally programmed playlists through speakers in every Walmart nationwide. While it occasionally features guest DJs, WMW focuses on playing upbeat contemporary hits you‘d hear on any top 40 station.
In fact, WMW isn‘t just for physical Walmart locations. As an Amazon seller, I was intrigued to discover you can live stream Walmart Radio online for free from Walmart‘s website. How‘s that for consistency?
The Always On Walmart Radio helps ensure consistent music branding across the company. However, there is still some variability; WMW encourages shoppers to call 1-800-WALMART to request their favorite songs.
So while you‘ll hear the same general pop hits, the order and mix may differ slightly across locations based on custom requests.
Choosing the Optimal In-Store Music
Decades of retail research, along with my own ecommerce experience, validate the power of proper in-store music. Upbeat songs in certain keys and tempos have been proven to:
- Increase time spent in store
- Encourage higher spending
- Promote sales of certain products
- Enhance brand perception
In one study on restaurant diners, those hearing upbeat music spent 19% more than those dining with slower tunes playing.
But it goes beyond just tempo. The actual musical genre also has an impact. A recent study by my alma mater MIT revealed that hip-hop music in a wine store boosted sales of expensive wines. Top 40 pop at Trader Joe‘s, however, sells more inexpensive wines.
This demonstrates the power of demographically targeted playlists. As an Amazon seller, customizing my product video soundtracks to match my buyers doubled conversion rates in A/B tests.
The natural conclusion? Walmart pursues broadly appealing pop music to match its equally mass appeal branding. But for specialized retailers, more tailored playlists may work magic.
Why Do Other Retailers Play Outdoor Music?
While Walmart‘s external music aims to engage, some retailers actually use outdoor music to actively repel specific groups.
Some convenience stores and restaurants play loud classical music or opera outside. This isn‘t meant as entertainment. Rather, it discourages loitering of unruly teens and other undesirables.
The ornate music initially seems nice but grows grating with prolonged exposure – encouraging hangers-on to move along.
This may work for small stores with loitering issues but would counter Walmart‘s goals. Walmart wants shoppers to enjoy their parking lot time and then head inside to continue the pleasant experience and make purchases.
Parking Lot Music: Applied Learning for Sellers
As an Amazon seller, I‘m always researching and implementing new ways to engage customers both online and at live events. Here are some key lessons that small e-commerce businesses can take from Walmart‘s parking lot music:
Match the music to your brand identity. Don‘t just default to top 40 hits. Selecttracks that share the look, feel, values, and demographics of your business. Electronic for a startup, folksy for a farmhouse decor seller, etc.
Consider streaming custom radio. Platforms like Soundtrack Your Brand and Mood Media let you create branded radio stations to build your vibe beyond just a playlist.
Use music to highlight products. Certain songs really boost sales of associated products. Play beachy music to sell summer gear or salsa music to push Mexican food in-store.
Optimize music for retail events. Whether it‘s a sidewalk sale, food truck fair, or product demo, portable outdoor speakers let you extend branded playlists to events and reach more customers through music.
Monitor results and adjust. Use analytics to see how outdoor music influences metrics like sales conversions, event foot traffic, or website clicks. Tweak playlists regularly to maximize impact.
Talk to your customers. Get input like my Walmart shopper survey to pick the best outdoor music experience. Customer-informed choices result in satisfied listeners.
The Takeaway: Music Sets the Mood
While not yet universal, a growing number of Walmart stores are piping music into parking lots with positive results. Shoppers report it gets them in the mood to shop before even entering.
Managers seem to have discretion in utilizing outdoor music, leading to variations between locations. But where played, the soundtrack typically matches the uplifting tunes inside.
Central to the outdoor music selection is Walmart Radio (WMW). Its constant top 40 hits ensure consistent messaging for the brand across locations.
This all serves as a case study for other retailers on how to strategically employ music both in-store and externally. The right songs can have a profound impact on the customer journey.
So next time you cross that parking lot threshold and hear the tunes of Walmart or any store, recognize that‘s no accident. Like a siren song, the music is carefully composed to resonate with you and guide you through a harmonious shopping experience.