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How Color Choices in Stores Can Influence Your Shopping Decisions

One of the most powerful methods to appeal to a potential buyer is applying color theory to (e)commerce. Has it ever occurred to you why you feel safer in one store and more energetic in another one? Have you ever noticed that landing on some web page you feel like clicking some button/link and keep browsing the site? While other pages prompt you to stay and keep reading? To some extent, this might be the choice of colors for the page elements.

Color is believed to be one of the most powerful elements of design for web sites, direct mail, ads, and other marketing materials. It carries meaning through associations and/or your body physical response. Color associates can vary from country to country but in Western culture they are basically the same.

So don’t let (online) sellers affect your decision by showing you what you want to see. Let’s see how color choice may affect your shopping behavior and habits – for you to be able to buy with a cool head.

Color Prompts You to Buy

A regular shopper in North America is likely to respond to color choice the following way:

warm (exciting) Red Energetic, hungry It activates your pituitary gland and increases your heart rate Logos and calls to action
Orange Enthusiastic, cheerful It is a combination of aggressive red and cheerful yellow Calls to action (subscribe, buy, etc)
cool (calming) Blue Secure and trustworthy It is associated with sky (therefore universally liked) Money and business related websites (banks, loans, etc)
Green Stable, wealthy (deep green) It is the easiest color for the eyes Testimonials, founder’s story, etc. Finance related websites (e.g. Forex related)
Calm (light green) It is associated with spring and nature Entertainment and leisure related websites

(based on my other table on color branding)

As can seen from the above table, red and orange colors are most often used to encourage your action, i.e. to prompt you to buy something or subscribe to the newsletter (and become the customer later on).

Green and blue, on the other hand, are “supporting colors” that make you feel secure and safe thus entrust the seller with your money.

See how much wants to talk you into buying something using dark and light orange color: color shopping

Color Affects Your Shopping Habits

It is also believed that color affects shopping habits. Look how different shoppers may respond to various colors:

Red Impulse shoppers
Blure Budget shoppers
Sky blue Traditionalists

Color Depends on the Season

Another way to appeal to your eye is to choose colors on occasion. Many e-shops change design from season to season to make you feel more at home. You’ll see more red/orange designs in autumn, blue/white – in winter and green websites in spring.

Besides, it is a frequently-used trick to change colors depending on the approaching holidays: green and red combination is associated with Christmas (as they symbolize Christmas tree and Santa Clause); red is often used on St Valentine’s day (as that’s the color of heart and love), orange is associated with Halloween because pumpkins are a big part of that holiday (of course, all the aforementioned associations may vary from country to country).

So on visiting a website or store on a holiday and seeing familiar colors, you are more likely to stay as you feel comfortable.

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography

62 thoughts on “How Color Choices in Stores Can Influence Your Shopping Decisions

  1. @Greg, that’s a good point and I am pretty sure it is absolutely different with color blind people. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly tell how different – need to research this.

  2. how did you do this color categorization? i mean, do you have any real academique sources to quote or is it only your personal observation?

  3. Colour (pardon English/Aussie spelling) is a huge influencer for me. I can spend hours seeking an exact, right “shade” or combo. I wonder if any studies have been done on the impact on say, intuitives vs. sensing preferences? (Using MBTI terminology here, but you will know what I mean & the NEO also applies. Also, I am thinking of those with very clear preferences only in this concept.)

    I believe there would be distinct trends shown. My potentially useless hypothesis (totally unresearched and made up at this second) is that sensing preferences would be receptive to stronger, bolder blocks of colour, whereas intuitives may prefer blends, subtle shading, or variations that provide a unique effect and stimulate their connectivity and reframing of “stuff” tendencies.

    Ah, a totally off track, non-productive mind-meandering for me in Melbourne at 7.12 am to start my day of “strictly sticking to business”. sigh. You just must stop writing such engaging posts!!! “-)

  4. It would be nice to see the scholarly research behind this. I looked on the referenced links and they didn’t cite academic or refereed sources.

    And for the record David, bars, etc use red lighting for other reasons – mostly because you can see the most detail with the lowest level of luminance given the wave frequency (e.g. we are more optically sensitive to it).

  5. Very interesting post.

    As a consumer researcher and marketing academic, I am a wholehearted believer in the effects of colour. However, when it comes to evidence, although marketers have been citing the importance of colour for decades (see Eric Danger’s book “Using Colour To Sell” published in the UK in 1968), there is actually relatively little academic work on this, and it’s patchy.

    Probably the most comprehenive work in the marketing / consumer behaviour literature is the literature review by Garber of the effect of package colour on consumer behaviour published as a Marketing Science Institute Working Paper (sorry, don’t have the reference with me at present).

    While the world of graphic and package design and corporate identity is full of asserted wisdom about the effects of colour, little or none of it is backed by empirical evidence.

    Perhaps the real test of this has come in the trade marks system and the Courts. In Australia, numerous marketers have failed in their attempts to have colours registered as trade marks (eg. Cadbury and purple, BP and green, 3M Post-Its and yellow), at least in part because it is so difficult to establish the effects of colour on consumers – independent of other branding and marketing factors such as brand name, shape and product form – even in tightly controlled research.

    The true believers (and I’m one of them) will keep using colour – but we should all be aware that we can’t necessarily count on being protected if someone else decides to use the same colours.

  6. hi, yes i also agree it is a nice post; however as @justin says: ” It would be nice to see the scholarly research behind this. I looked on the referenced links and they didn’t cite academic or refereed sources.” that’s exactly what I meant. if you have tham/some I’d be really interested. thanks in advance, gd

  7. Well i feel it differs with the work/business you are in to.In case of restaurants use red table cloths and accessories so that people dont spent longer time. While using light shades of blue green and even white too, which makes customers sit for long, In turn reducing the sales.

    But coming to websites it goes just different.

  8. “One of the most powerful methods to appeal to a potential buyer is applying color theory to (e)commerce”. Keeping colours consistent throughout your printed advertising, web site, marketing emails and social media networks is also a great way to promote your brand.

  9. The colour red activates the pituitary gland, does it? Would you care to cite academic references for that assertion?

  10. So if color is so important in the message of the website, what purpose does the light purples and pinks of this site have?

  11. Yeah, I remember my art professors talking about how colors affect both employees and prison inmates.

    Came across this article while working on a new color scheme for my gym. Right now it is white and light blue, not exactly colors that get you fired up.

    Thinking of hightlighting the black equipment with yellow, like a “danger” symbol to activate the nervous system.

    ~ Luke

  12. This is wonderful- I am passing it along to a friend that owns a small boutique

    I whish they had colors for those of us that shop for almost impossible sizes!

  13. Just the information I was looking for! I was having trouble selecting colors for my website design, and I didn’t know how they affect people’s mood until I found this post. I should apply them ASAP. Thanks!

  14. i actually learned about this in the resteraunt bussiness years ago was looking to learn more.
    Thats why Dominos pizza and pizza hut use red and blue colors in there ads and logos.thanks for the extra help.

  15. I am going to open fashion shoe store soon in the state of Nebraska in a small town with big college and I was wondering if I do black slatwall with red Orange walls if it will be to much ?
    308-293-6830 thanks allot

  16. Hello,
    I am working on a research that i am hoping to get published at a local university about how colors and customers behave together. It would be great if you can point me in the direction of where you go your data or any information about the topic.
    Thank you for your time,

  17. There is plenty of research to support the concept that color does indeed affect mood and behavior. Choosing the right colors for a site is a LOT more challenging than one would think. That is why there are many sites that share color palettes = colors that work well together. Trying to come up with those from scratch is really difficult.

    Good to know that my GrowMap site has the right color scheme – and that is because I had a very talented logo designer. I would have never suggested those colors or that image – but it immediately grabbed me and grew on me and I believe it has greatly benefitted my blog.

    Maybe one of these days I’ll actually figure out how to get it to make money since it has the right colors for “Calls to action (subscribe, buy, etc)”. 🙂

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