AAA: A next-generation retail experience designed as much for the ears as the eyes

AAA utilizes brand-vetted music programs and custom sound masking solutions in its next-generation retail branches to optimize both members’ and employees’ aural experience.

Making a trusted brand more three-dimensional

Aiming to strengthen its 100-year-old brand and serve its members better with a more engaging and interactive retail experience, AAA of Northern California, Utah and Nevada began a comprehensive redesign of its 95 retail branches in 2014. Working with Gensler, the global architecture, design, and planning firm, AAA sought to create an environment “more like a retail or hospitality experience,” which would deliver on AAA’s reputation of outstanding customer care while streamlining customer service and enabling visitors to easily locate the information and services they needed.

Setting the right tone with music

What AAA members heard while visiting the new branches was a key consideration, and Gensler recommended that AAA consult with Brand Timbre to optimize visitors’ aural experience. After identifying two distinct “audio-experience” zones to address—open working/consultation areas, and member reception/discovery areas—Brand Timbre worked with AAA’s brand and retail-experience teams to determine what types of overhead music would best evoke AAA’s promise of worry-free travel and discovery.

AAA’s overhead music programming also had to allow store managers some flexibility and account for regional differences in AAA members’ musical tastes. Brand Timbre met these needs with a range of brand-appropriate programs that store managers could select from and change at will, depending on their insights into their branch’s particular sensibilities.

Extending customer care to members’ ears

Open workspaces and consultation nooks are a key feature of the redesigned branches, and they presented a challenge as AAA sought to protect private conversations and optimize members’ aural comfort. Brand Timbre addressed these requirements with Lencore’s Spectra sound-masking system, which Brand Timbre installed above the ceiling grid so as not to interfere with Gensler’s interior architecture. Tuned to the specific acoustic profile of each AAA branch, the Spectra system delivers a subtle masking sound over open work areas and meeting spaces so that both employees and members are confident that the private information they are discussing cannot be overheard.