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Background noise ‘can aid shoppers’

Radio pop music, football commentary and chatting are the background sounds found to help shoppers make the best buying decisions, according to a study.

All three sounds make shoppers think more rationally about what they are buying, reduce bad shopping choices and help shoppers spot a bargain, the survey to mark eBay’s 15th anniversary found.

Almost 2,000 participants went through a simulated online store for five products – a blender, wine, a board game, trainers and a barbecue – while their perceptions of value, quality and emotional responses were measured while listening to various sounds.

The study found less than a third of shoppers (30.1%) made a bad purchasing decision while listening to pop music, while overall they scored four out of five for rational decision-making while listening to football commentary.

Factual background noise such as television or radio news also reduced bad shopping decisions, while the sound of an air conditioner – a sound not associated with quality or luxury – helped shoppers judge value more accurately.

Unhelpful sounds included classical music, which made shoppers overrate a product’s quality by 5%, and restaurant buzz, a noise associated with quality that encouraged shoppers to pay more than they otherwise might.

A crying baby put shoppers in a bad mood and skewed their assessments of value and quality. The sound of traffic also put shoppers in a bad mood and made them think less rationally, the survey found.

EBay has produced a track of the positive sounds, that can be played while using the online marketplace.

Spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson-Rea said: “Our senses affect the way we shop – sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way.

“But shopping has changed so much in 15 years and it’s now about shopping wherever you are using a mobile, and online as well as the high street.”

Patrick Fagan, an expert in consumer behaviour at Goldsmiths, University of London, who carried out the study, said: “Any wine store owner will tell you that playing French music increases sales of French wine, but there is almost no research looking at this phenomenon online.

“This study has shown us some of the surprising ways that sound can help us make better purchasing decisions when we shop online, and some of the sounds we should avoid.”

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