Retail Sound Environments

Innovations in the future of store audio.

At the studio we are always thinking expansively about sound.  We love figuring out novel ways that audio can improve experiences, especially in unique spaces like retail.  In this article we’ll cover some of the sound strategies that we have developed for brick and mortar locations.  Our concepts here go far beyond the standard innovations of curated playlists - we are serious about re-working store audio from the ground up.

Spatialized Soundtracks

Imagine that you enter a store where the sounds you hear change depending on where you are in the space.  As you move around, you hear relevant layers of audio dynamically unfolding around you.  Each sound you hear connects with what you are seeing and feeling at that particular location.

Sound can now be integrated into the space in a meaningful way. Technically this is accomplished by playing custom audio through speakers that are positioned at different locations in the floor plan. The final result is an immersive audio experience that connects visual and sound design elements throughout the space. 

Algorithmic Audio

Ever been in a space with a looping video that that plays on repeat with the same voices making the same statements over and over?  Even short term exposure is exhausting, and the magic of the experiential environment is lost.  The solution?  Custom algorithmic software that creates endless sonic variation.

We have developed a software specifically for this purpose called Evolve - blog post coming soon

Using algorithms for audio allows musical parts to be randomly layered, voices to be triggered over longer time intervals, and sound FX to be assembled from overlapping files. From the outside this may seem like a fairly technical process, but the outcome is noticeable to any listener: less repetitious soundscapes creating a sense of never-ending variation.

Synchronized Media

Let’s take a brief moment to talk about the history of movies.  Synchronizing sound to image came late to film, but when it arrived the art form blossomed into what we now know as contemporary cinema. As George Lucas famously said:

“Sound is 50 percent of the movie going experience.”

In the same way that sound has become essential to filmmaking, it holds equal importance for experiential environments. Just like in a movie, what you hear in a space deepens what you see and feel. 

Within a retail environment audio can sync to practically anything: images, lights, robotics, fog, even scent and touch.  Sound can also be connected to real world inputs via a variety of sensors or data streams to create unique user interactions.  Synchronizing sounds to other media amplifies storytelling by immersing audiences in multi-level experiences. 

Sound and the Future of Retail Design

Retail locations provide a unique venue to engage with customers at a personal level, and little connects to emotions and amplifies meaning better than sound.  We are proud of all that we have accomplished with our forward-thinking partners and collaborators in this space. Innovating audio for retail reflects our studio mission to creatively advance environmental sound design into the future.