Client: eBay and Launch PR

Objective: To position eBay as thought leaders through studying the perfect online shopping environment

Outcome: The project produced fascinating results and received a great deal of press attention in publications from The Mirror to The Guardian

In order to meet this objective, brainchimp proposed a looking at the effect of background noises on online shopping behaviours. This was achieved by first designing, and then coding and analysing, a controlled experiment in which participants were exposed to a background noises while browsing and shopping on a mocked-up e-commerce site (which can be viewed here).

In procedural terms, participants were procured by brainchimp and directed to a landing page, where they began by answering demographics and showing they had audio accessibility. They then completed some established psychological measures, including extroversion (as extroverts perform better with background noises) and mood (to see how it changed after the experiment).

Next, a sound was played in the background while participants browsed a mock e-commerce site created by brainchimp for the purposes of this project. A list of sounds was created to capture a range of expected psychological effects, such as a baby crying, pop radio, classical radio, football commentary, a thunderstorm, children playing, and many other things. As a controlled experiment, some participants heard no noise.

Participants browsed the mock site for five products (plus one practice trial), to capture a broad range. The site was realistic, and controlled for features like price, quality and recommendations. When they were ready, participants indicated how likely they would be to buy the product, as well as their perceptions of value and quality, and their emotional reaction to the product.

The data produced a number of interesting results. For example:

  • Extroverted consumers will make better shopping decisions when there is some level of background noise (but not too much).
  • Some background noises prime people to prefer particular products. For example, sitting outdoors (and, say, hearing a lawnmower or birds singing) while shopping online may make customers more likely to buy, say, a barbecue.
  • Background noises which evoke positive emotions (such as pop music on the radio) can be beneficial for shoppers: they relax the mind and get both conscious and non-conscious minds engaged, which means customers can get their shopping done more efficiently.
  • Sounds which put online shoppers in mind of luxury (e.g. classical music, or shopping while sat in a restaurant) can prime these ideas and result in product quality being rated more favourably and consumers being more likely to buy.

The press release was a success, being picked up by several major news outlets.

The mock e-commerce site


Mirror article (link)

David Mitchell comment (link)