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How Color Choices in Stores Can Influence Your Shopping Decisions

by seosmarty on February 16, 2009 · 61 comments

in Shopping Online, Technology

Color shoppingIf you are a smart shopper, it is not that easy to persuade you to actually buy something. There is the science behind how the products are organized, labels are written and sections are ordered to guide you through to making a purchase. That’s a wealth of tricks based on psychological theories and practices that in the end “convert” you from a regular visitor into the buyer.

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:

GROUP COLOR HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL WHY IT INFLUENCES YOU WHERE YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE IT
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 Amazon.com wants to talk you into buying something using dark and light orange color:

Amazon.com: 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:

COLOR WHO RESPONDS BEST
Red Impulse shoppers
Orange
Black
Blure Budget shoppers
Pink
Sky blue Traditionalists
Rose

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

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

NostraDavid February 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Colors don’t do s**t for me!

When I go to a shop, I buy what I already wanted/needed and then I’ll GTFO.

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Michael Quinlan February 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

What color is Blure?

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Mattress QUeen (John warraich) February 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Nice explanation of colours… Gave me ideas on how I can market my products in a better way..

Thanks,
John

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David Sisley February 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm

RED – It activates your pituitary gland and increases your heart rate, that is why a lot of Bars and Strip joints use a lot of red. People tend to drink more etc.

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Greg P February 18, 2009 at 4:33 am

I wonder how this affects colorblind / color deficient people.

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seosmarty February 18, 2009 at 2:26 pm

@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.

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gaby david February 18, 2009 at 7:38 pm

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?

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seosmarty February 18, 2009 at 8:11 pm

@Gaby, I linked to the sources in the post – I didn’t do my own research but used others’ data to put in the tables.

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JeD Chan February 19, 2009 at 6:49 am

Wow! nice post.

Never thought that colors can influence our decisions.

Regards,

JeD Chan

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SEO Australia February 19, 2009 at 7:05 am

Really helpful, thanks!

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jiznakefoo February 19, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Great article – we’ve been using these basic theories when designing for clients for some time, and the reason is: they work!

Keep up the great work!

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Karen Dempster February 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm

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!!! “-)

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seosmarty February 19, 2009 at 9:16 pm

LOL, Karen, I am sorry but I will do my best to keep writing engaging posts :) Stay tuned!

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Justin February 20, 2009 at 4:47 am

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).

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Stephen Downes February 21, 2009 at 6:09 am

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.

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Lori Cappozzi February 25, 2009 at 6:33 am

Thanks for useful info, this help me much in the next update of my shop!

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gaby February 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

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

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UK Business Center March 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

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.

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Phil Lanzarotta March 20, 2009 at 7:57 pm

“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.
-Phil

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Proxies my Mypace March 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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Woesinger April 3, 2009 at 11:20 am

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

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seosmarty April 3, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Not quite academic reference but here’s an interesting article I came across (besides the actual references contained within the post): http://www.apple.com/pro/color/tools/pantoneguide/feelingcolor.html

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paox April 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm

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

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Luke Wold April 7, 2009 at 1:47 am

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

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Sonya September 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

That’s interesting information. You talk about US buyers. I wonder if there is any difference for European buyers?

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lisa October 14, 2009 at 11:54 pm

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!

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Kate August 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Great post. It’s an excellent help for an e-commerce business owner. Thank you.

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Ron November 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm

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!

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ralph christian December 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm

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.

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Rudy February 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I was looking for these kind of tips and found this post. I will try to implement color tips into my blog design to improve CTR. Thanks!

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amir February 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm

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

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leg avenue- fancy dress/ Costumes July 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

Stores really need to stop messing with my brain.

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jovie July 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm

i would like to ask what color fits to my retail store with eatery ?

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Salah Talhami August 7, 2011 at 6:47 am

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,
Salah

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Internet cafe galway September 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Yes i agree with orange to yellow for being a good colour for people to buy!

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Tajna starog mosta November 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

wooow, I really love this research! interesting and funny ;)

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stores May 22, 2012 at 6:12 am

Hi Ann, this makes me love you very much!
:)
Thanks for the color explanations, i will use it!

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Robert June 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

Do you have any references form the presented information?

Many thanks!

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Gail Gardner August 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm

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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