Radio, chatter and football - the sounds that help us shop

In a world first, eBay today releases ‘Sound of Shopping’, a piece of music using sounds scientifically proven to help people make better shopping decisions. 

Radio, chatter and football – the sounds that help us shop

In a world first, eBay today releases ‘Sound of Shopping’, a piece of music using sounds scientifically proven to help people make better shopping decisions. 

Celebrating’s 15th anniversary the ‘Sound of Shopping’ uses pop music radio, football commentary and people chatting – all of which have been proven to make shoppers think more rationally about what they are buying, reduce bad purchasing choices and help shoppers spot a bargain.

With the UK set to spend an unprecedented £45 billion shopping online this year¹, the track, called ‘Sound of Shopping’, has been produced by musician and producer Mistabishi.

The sounds included in the track were identified by a ground-breaking piece of academic research which explored how sound affected nearly 2,000 online shoppers. The experiment used a specially designed simulated shopping portal that played background sounds commonly found on in everyday life, on the high street or the home. The research was conducted in partnership with Patrick Fagan, an expert in Consumer Behaviour, Goldsmiths University.

The best and worst sounds are:


Top five ‘Good’ sounds

Top five ‘Bad’ sounds

Pop music radio – makes people feel so good that they are more likely to spend without getting “suckered” into bad deals. Less than a third (30.1%) made a bad purchasing decision while listening to pop music

Classical music – makes people overate a product’s quality by 5%

Football commentary – people scored an average of four out of five for rational decision-making when listening to football commentary

Restaurant buzz – another sound associated with  ‘quality’  that encourages people to pay more than they otherwise might

TV or radio news piece about the economy or people talking – factual background noise reduces bad purchase decisions takes away emotional cues that might otherwise trick shoppers into a bad deal

Baby crying – put shoppers in a bad mood, skewing how they assess value and quality

Air conditioner – a sound NOT associated with quality or luxury, that helps people judge value better

Traffic – another sound that puts shoppers in a bad mood and makes them think less rationally

Birds singing or lawnmowers – the sounds you hear sitting outdoors while shopping online make you more likely to buy outdoor products. People hearing birds singing are 2.4% more likely to buy a barbecue than normal

Silence – but only if you’re an extrovert. Extroverts on the other hand need background noise to shop well





eBay spokesperson Laura Wilkinson-Rea says: “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 mobile and online as well as the high street.”

Patrick Fagan says: “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.”

To hear ‘Sound of shopping’ and see the accompanying video, go here [LINK TO COME].



eBay delivers one of the world’s largest online marketplaces to customers via any connected device, connecting people with the things they need and love.  Founded in 1995 and opening in the UK in 1999, eBay has more than 18 million unique visitors per a month in the UK and Ireland. Around 70% of listings are for new, fixed-price items and the UK site is home to more than 100 high street brands and retailers. 


Patrick Fagan’s experiment was a controlled, psychological study that used well-established psychometric tools to measure various elements, such as mood (BMIS; Mayer & Gaschke, 1988), personality (IPIP; Goldberg, 2001), and rational thinking (SS-REI; Novak & Hoffman, 2009).

Further, reaction times were measured to account for implicit processes. Questions about a number of potentially interfering factors (such as whether the background noise was heard, frequency of online shopping, and presence of other distracting noises) were included in the study, so that they could be controlled for in the analysis.

Participants answered some demographic questions before completing a measure of extroversion and a measure of mood. They then went through a realistic simulated online store for five products (a blender, wine, a board game, trainers and a barbecue), where they indicated purchase intent, perceptions of value, perceptions of quality, and emotional response, and reaction times were covertly measured.

Each product was randomly assigned “poor”, “average” or “good” for eight variables (price, discount, brand, description, review, stars, popularity and scarcity), in order to look at how “well” people shopped. During the “shopping”, subjects heard no background noise (as a control), or they heard one of the 18 noises. These sounds were selected based on two factors: 1) their high recurrence in everyday life when doing online shopping; and 2) their being sounds which prior psychological research suggested would have a significant effect on online shoppers. Subjects then indicated their mood again, as well as their use of reason or intuition in the task. Finally, they rated their background noise on several dimensions.


Mistabishi (aka James Pullen) is a British electronic music producer, composer, and singer-songwriter who gained recognition in the international dance music scene with his first studio album, Drop. He is known for using unconventional sounds, such as the noise of a windscreen wiper in "Wipe Your Tears", and the sound of a printer in "Printer Jam", to create an original, experimental sound to his music. He also works for musical instrument maker KORG as a researcher and developer.

¹ Centre for Retail Research, commissioned by RetailMeNot, March 2014