By Eric Leuenberger
Color has a powerful psychological effect on buying behavior, as it drives mood, perception, likes and dislikes. Big retailers spend millions of dollars testing the impact of colors on consumers, because merchants know they influence how their products are perceived. Use colors correctly and the rewards can be great. Use them incorrectly and it can send a message that directs website visitors to stay clear.
Studies show that shoppers who plan and stick to a specific budget respond best to pink, teal, light blue and navy. Traditionalists respond to pastels, and impulse buyers tend to respond best to red-orange, black and royal blue. It should be no surprise then that red is most often used in conjunction with sales and promotions. Red draws attention, and evokes passion and excitement. Paired with a good promotion, it typically creates a feeling of need or desire, encourages immediate action and increases sales. The following lists the colors and associated qualities or emotions they often convey in North American culture. Use this as a guide to future marketing efforts.
- Red—excitement, strength, passion, love, anger and danger. Using a spot of red in just the right location is smart in most cases, but be mindful not to overuse this color.
- Yellow—knowledge, joy, intellect, youth, happiness, energy, warmth and sunshine.
- Green—fertility, wealth, healing, success, growth, nature, fresh, relaxation and abundance.
- Blue—knowledge, trust, wisdom, dependability, reliability, tranquility, calm, peace and cool. Blue is often listed as the most popular color. Other conveyed meanings are steadfastness and loyalty.
- White—purity, healing, perfection, clean, virtue and mild.
- Black—fear, secrecy, formal, luxury, sophistication, elegant and seductive. Black is a serious color that evokes strong emotions. It is easy to overwhelm people with too much black, so be careful when using it.
- Orange—creativity, invigoration, stimulation, playfulness, warmth and vibrancy. Orange is often used to make high priced products more inviting, because psychologically it makes them seem more affordable.
- Gray—balance, sophistication, affluence, neutrality and uncommitted. A touch of gray can add a rock solid feel to any product.
Know your audience
As always, it is important to keep your target audience in mind. For example, if you are selling books for children, you should be marketing to grandparents and parents. Quite often, toys, books and children’s websites contain large blocks of bright, primary colors. Young children prefer these colors, but developing an ecommerce site based primarily on them would miss the target. Marketing materials, including the website, should be designed with grandparents and parents in mind, which means using colors like blue, which conveys trust, and yellow, which is associated with happiness.
Play it safe
Unless you are dealing with an already strong brand, stick with safe colors. Trying to develop a new brand around colors that do not traditionally work in selling is not the best idea. Never overdo it on one color, as doing so can completely reverse the impact that subtle use could have.
Color has a broad impact on the ability to sell a product. A simple change of color on an “add to cart” button, while keeping all other elements constant, can have a positive effect on conversion rates, resulting in higher sales. Remember to continually test everything, and determine if the colors of your website and marketing materials portray the image and message you intend.