By Graeme Harrison, VP and General Manager, Bluesound Professional.
As we move out of the pandemic, businesses of all types are trying to work out how to bring customers back into brick-and-mortar establishments. During the last two years, we have all got used to doing things online from the safety and comfort of our own home, including ordering goods and meals. During this period, we have also adapted to working from home and we now question the need to go back into offices. These three trends: online shopping, food delivery services, and teleworking were all in existence pre-pandemic, but during this period, their growth has been accelerated.
So, the big question is just ‘how do we encourage people back into public spaces?’
There is growing evidence that the best way to entice people out is by creating surprise and delight with immersive experiences that are difficult, or impossible, to achieve at home. The key to creating such experiences is by activating as many of our senses as possible. The problem is that of our five senses, three of them – smell, taste and touch, have been seen as dangerous during the pandemic. This leaves only the sense of sight and the sense of sound that could be considered safe. The positive side of this is that our industry focuses on these two senses – we are the audio-visual industry – so we are uniquely positioned to provide experiences based on these two senses alone.
Businesses throughout time have generally focused on just one of these senses, the sense of sight. Almost all companies have a visual logo, but very few companies are known for having audio logos, only Intel and T-Mobile come to mind. After all, both architects and interior designers think with their eyes not their ears. Studies have shown combining a congruent audio stimulus with an existing visual stimulus increases its effectiveness by 12 times. Equally an incongruent audio and visual stimulus reduces effectiveness to only 14% of that of either the audio or the visual stimulus alone. As the visual side of this equation is well established, the easiest way of amplifying the experience is by focusing on the audio side of the equation. At Bluesound Professional, we call this providing a strategic atmosphere, the process of building the sound side of the experience out thoughtfully and appropriately.
We manufacture the world’s first, and so far, only range of streaming audio hardware specifically designed for use in commercial installations. The timing of this is especially pertinent as it coincides with the development of streaming business music services. It is not commonly known that the use of residential streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon, or Apple music, is illegal in commercial spaces, even if the business has the relevant performing rights organisation licences. There is no legal way to play one of these residential streaming services in a business. In addition to this they are the wrong solution regardless, as businesses need the provision of carefully curated advertising-free streams along with the ability to schedule content with the ability to insert relevant messaging. The residential streaming services don’t provide any of these capabilities and are therefore not fit for purpose.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of dedicated business streaming audio services, with SoundMachine and Tunify being two great choices for European installations. Traditional legacy download and first-generation streaming business music services will sell you music service dependent boxes for the replay of their music. There are two problems with these boxes, firstly their quality is low, and their output unbalanced at residential levels meaning they are incompatible with commercial audio systems. The second, often bigger, problem is that these boxes are tied to one music service, meaning if you wish to change provider you have to replace the replay hardware which is costly and inconvenient.
The music streaming service landscape is rapidly evolving with existing services constantly adding new functionality and new services coming on to the market, the possibility of users wanting to change music service in the future is quite high. Bluesound Professional equipment is compatible with a wide variety of music services so that changing is a simple matter of logging out of one service and logging into another. This gives the customer peace of mind that their replay hardware is future-proof. Our hardware also outputs balanced audio at commercial audio replay levels, thus being fully compatible with the equipment that it feeds into.
Finally, it is important to recognise that coming out of the pandemic, businesses have had their work cut out simply to stay afloat, and so money is at a premium when it comes to upgrading their customer experience. The installation of a streaming audio player feeding an existing audio system, allows businesses access to tens of millions of tracks rather than the few CD’s or radio stations that they previously used for their background music. This enables a really cost-effective upgrade to the strategic atmosphere that they can provide, with additional facilities such as scheduling and messaging being easy and intuitive to set up in order to further improve the atmosphere.
The opening of new and additional outdoor spaces is on trend in order to increase capacity in a feel-safe outdoor environment. The use of networked IP65 rated PoE speakers allows for quick, easy and inexpensive audio provision into these new spaces without the need for a centralised rack of equipment thus freeing up space for, for example, an extra wine chiller or more display space in a retail environment.
In conclusion, we, as an audio-visual industry have a unique opportunity to help customers position themselves for success in the future by helping them to provide delightful, immersive experiences in order to differentiate themselves from their competition and to pull customers in through the door. It is our responsibility to talk to customers in a language that they can understand and relate to about how the services and equipment that we provide can help them to build their businesses for the future.