Feel the Music! Exploring the Cross-modal Correspondence between Music and Haptic Perceptions of Softness

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Haptic softness is a central product attribute for many fabric-related retailers. Can those retailers use music—an easy to implement in-store atmospheric cue—to influence consumers’ perception of this central product attribute? Across four studies, this research shows that high (vs. low) music softness enhances consumers’ haptic softness perceptions. We argue that this cross-modal effect occurs owing to a transfer of softness-related associations from the auditory to the haptic modality. To better inform retail practice, we examine three managerially relevant boundary conditions at the product and store levels. Specifically, high music softness increases haptic softness perceptions when (a) the product's haptic quality allows for the sufficient detection of softness, (b) hard flooring is present in the retail environment, and (c) consumers are unaware of music's influence. In terms of practically relevant consequences, we find that enhanced haptic softness perceptions ultimately result in more positive product evaluations like willingness to pay.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)158-169
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This research was partly conducted at the Chair of Business-to-Business Marketing, Sales & Pricing of the University of Mannheim, where both authors worked before they assumed their current positions. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Alexander Kinzel, Thomas Reimann and the team of student assistants for their help in the data collection process. They also thank Christian Homburg, University of Mannheim, for his helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript and the entire review team for their constructive suggestions and contributions.

    Research areas

  • Background music, Cross-modal correspondences, Haptic perception, Retail atmospherics, Sensory marketing
  • Management studies