The Psychology of Colour for Selling Online

Lauren Allen 7 years ago

As I did with my last Zazzle blog contribution, I want to again start this post by asking you one simple question; what words come to mind when you see the colour red?

Personally, for me, I associate the colour red with ‘danger’, ‘warning’ and ‘power’, however for you, it may evoke thoughts of ‘love’, ‘passion’ or ‘energy’ – there’s no wrong or right answer; different colours can make us feel very different things, in very different ways.

Why? Because colour is an incredibly powerful phenomenon that influences every single aspect of our everyday lives – from our feelings and moods, to our behaviours and decisions, without us even realising it. In fact, accordingly to CCI COLOUR (Institute for Colour Research, to you and I), “people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone”.

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul” - Wassily Kandinsky

But aside from influencing our personal everyday lives, colour is also big business in the world of business - in particular, in consumer-related business. It plays a huge part in enticing and encouraging customers to buy a product.

How? Think about colour again; why did you buy your car in that colour and not another colour? What made you buy that new outfit in blue, rather than black?

Whether it was because it made you feel happier, suited you better, or because your partner would never dare to be seen in a pink car and that’s ultimately why you ended up with a blue one, it all comes down to colour…

Colour in Traditional Marketing

Marketers love colour and they know how to use to optimum effect – they use the way we feel about colour and the associations we have towards it to tap into a customer’s brain to encourage them to buy a product.

In fact, following on from the previous statistic, colour accounts for around 80% of the decision-making process as to why someone decides to buy a particular product.

But, of course, it depends on what the product is and how you want the purchaser to feel when they see the product that will ultimately lead them to buy it.

For example, despite me personally initially associating it with warning and danger, red is, in fact, the most popular colour for manufacturers to use in food packaging design.

Think Coca-Cola. Marketing experts believe that the colour red grabs the consumer’s attention and makes adrenaline increase and the heartbeat faster.

But, if marketers want a product to come across as luxury and premium, then black is the way to go; think Apple’s iPhone packaging.

Although black holds connotations of sorrow, death and evil in the majority of cases, for the technology world it sells products as an exclusive and high quality item.

Package your product in gold, however, and marketers believe it spells cheap and inexpensive.

I could go on and on with examples of colour in traditional marketing techniques, but as a member of a digital marketing agency, I’m particularly interested in the psychology of selling in digital marketing – because, if you’re a business owner looking to crack the online market, then it’s time you considered the power of colour here, too.

Colour in Digital Marketing

In the world of digital marketing, there’s a lot we can learn from traditional marketing techniques. After all, online, your company logo, website and branding is your company’s ‘packaging’ and you’re using it in exactly the same way a consumer-marketer would; you want people to buy what you’re selling.

But before I delve further into the psychology of colour and how it influences online purchasing power, let me start by providing a full rundown on the different emotions, words and meanings colours generally portray to most:

Here, all of the examples explored earlier in my article fit exactly in line with the messages above and help to highlight exactly why marketers use them (it may also help to explain why you wanted to buy that pink car and why your partner didn’t…)

So, now we know what different colours mean, where should they be considered first when marketing your business online?

Well, let’s start with the element of your company that people are most likely to see first: your logo.

Whether you’re embarking on a new business start-up and are looking for a logo to launch your brand identity, or you’re an existing company looking for a complete re-brand, the colour of your logo is vital.

You may think the colour purple is great for the main design, but it’s important to explore how it may be perceived by others and how it may portray your business; you may have a fancy slogan or have a great image to accompany your logo, but as colour is the first thing the brain registers, do you really want to run the risk of people thinking of the brand as arrogant, childish or mysterious? I don’t think so.

To highlight how important colour is to a brand’s identity, I love this infographic from The Logo Company:

When grouped together against generalised emotions, it’s interesting to see how some of our best-loved brands have used colour to portray their company message, values and service.

Interestingly, as Nora Richardson has highlighted, many big brands have adopted colour strategies to adapt their well-known logos as their product lines have changed and developed over time.

Take Apple again as an example; after 22 years of the rainbow apple logo, Steve Jobs “correctly asserted that the rainbow apple no longer spoke to their product line, now known for simple, effective, intuitive, sleek technology”. As a result, the logo dramatically changed from the playful, colourful design to a smart, sophisticated and minimalistic design to reflect their products accordingly:

However, as well as being adopted in your logo, colour strategies are arguably even more important on your website; after all, once someone has heard about your company, the next thing they are likely to do is jump onto Google, punch your brand name into the search bar and land straight on your homepage.

But this time, it’s not just what colours you decide to feature on your homepage that is important, it’s how you use them that can make all the difference – it’s one thing getting organic visitors to your website, but it’s another to actually get them to positively convert and buy, or buy into, what you’re selling.
Yes, you still need to use the right colours to make them feel positively about what they’ve just landed on, but you also need to entice them to click on that all important “Buy”, “Add to Basket”, “Get a Quote” or “Call Us” button.

Time to introduce colour to the world of Conversion Rate Optimisation…

If you’re not familiar with the term Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), it’s the method of creating an experience for a website or landing page visitor, with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors who convert into customers.

So, “where does colour come in this CRO business?” I hear you ask? Well, there have been numerous tests that prove that even simply changing the colour of a call-to-action button, such as those described above, can increase conversion rate by as much as 200%. Wow! You therefore want this button to stand out.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to designing the perfect call-to-action button. It is just important for it to fit comfortably with the overall design, both in terms of size, design and colour, but also stand out enough to draw the visitor in to clicking it.

Therefore, if you fancy doing a little bit of A/B testing on your own site to see if you can boost conversions by adopting your own colour strategy, then do so sensibly. Use common sense when choosing brighter colours and choose ones that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

For example, if your overall website design is predominantly of blue hues, look at using a contrasting red call-to-action button to make it stand out.
A CRO study carried out by dmix looked into making small, subtle changes to their call-to-action buttons to determine which colour, red or green, resulted in higher conversions to sign-ups. The result? Changing it from green to red increased conversation rate by 21% - amazing, hey?

But before you think you’ve cracked it and you know which colours you’re going to use for your online rebrand, there’s one last thing you need to consider when you’re deciding on which colours to use to get more sales.

Colours in Different Cultures – Trading Internationally

It’s important for me to note that throughout this article, I have discussed colours against generalised emotions.

But in a world where the Internet has allowed us to reach out to people outside of the country we live in, it’s likely that the majority of you reading this post may trade and operate internationally.

And unfortunately if this is the case, then you may have to consider the colour you’ve decided on.

Why? Because different colours, mean different things, to different people, in different countries, as highlighted below:

For example, where white may imply feelings of purity, happiness and clarity in Europe, in Japan it symbolises mourning and in China, death.

As GlobalMaxer’s Joe Doveton highlighted in his MeasureFest deck back in October 2013, it is vital to consider culture in colour – after all, it affects all facets of design and all perspectives must be considered.

But when doing so, remember that you’re not going to be able to please every single human being with your colour choice, so pick a few battles you think you can win; choose colours that on the whole are most popular, and that, in general, hold positive significance.

Good Luck!

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