The last time you bought a new phone, chances are your final decision was based on the color. Sure, you considered the functional features such as battery power, camera quality, screen size, and so on. But when that was out of the way, the color most likely determined the specific phone you chose.

Color plays a significant role in the way we make purchase decisions. Both children and adults tend to gravitate toward certain colors. Most people believe that there isn’t conclusive evidence about the persuasive power of color—that it’s based on hunches and anecdotal evidence, but there is comprehensive research that proves otherwise.

In this post, we will be addressing how you can integrate the power of color psychology to your branding activities and drive your ROI, especially in ecommerce websites.

The importance of color in branding

It is almost impossible to discuss consumer behavior without branding. There have been many attempts to categorize consumer responses (feelings or character traits) according to various individual colors—like associating yellow with happiness or red with boldness. The truth, however, is that color is too dependent on personal experience to be completely attributed to specific emotions.

In a study aptly titled the “Impact of Color in Marketing,” researchers discovered that about 90 percent of impulsive buys can be linked to color alone.

In another study titled “The Interactive Effects of Colors,” the role of color in branding revealed that the relationship between brands and colors hinges on consumer’s perception of which color they believe is appropriate for that particular brand. This means “color fit” is a big piece of what brands use to sell their identity.

Consider McDonald’s use of red and Starbucks use of green. In both situations, these brands use a main color to represent their brand. Red is often associated with appetite, and is perfect as the dominant color for an eatery, while Starbucks is strongly involved in the preservation of the environment and touts its environmentally-friendly activities with green.

In another study, “Exciting Red and Competent Blue,” it was confirmed that purchasing intent is strongly affected by colors because of the influence they have on consumer’s brand perception. In other words, color impacts the way consumers view a brand’s “personality.” For a brand like Nike which is perceived as sporty and cool, using colors that emphasize these traits will connect strongly with consumers.

Finally, scientists have proven that our brains prefer shortcuts—recognizable patterns that help us make quick decisions regarding a purchase. Color is incredibly important in developing a brand identity—so much so that it has been named the key attribute new brands should consider when creating their logos. A color associated with positive emotions (especially around a product) will ultimately guide customers in decision making.

Evidence that color matters

When people understand how a brand is trying to position itself, people consider colors that are a fit with those positions to be more appropriate.

According to Kissmetrics, the following statistics reveal how colors affect purchases:

  • When marketing new products, brand managers should consider the visual appearance and color of their products above other factors because 93 percent of shoppers use it to make their decisions.
  • In a recent survey, it was revealed that 85 percent of shoppers place color as the main deciding factor when buying a product.
  • Color increases brand recognition by 80 percent, and brand recognition is directly linked to consumer confidence.
  • Certain colors attract certain types of shoppers. Red, orange, and black attract impulse shoppers, while teal and navy blue attract budget shoppers. Pink, rose, and sky blue attracts traditional buyers.
  • In one study, some 42 percent of online shoppers based their opinion of a website on its design alone, and 52 percent didn’t return because they were unhappy with the overall aesthetics.

For more on these statistics, please see the full infographics from Kissmetrics.

The psychology of online color marketing

The impact of color is just as influential online as it is in brick and mortar stores. The overall design of your website can win or lose you customers. If a website doesn’t use the right aesthetics and design, it could lose its appeal to the majority of visitors who consider this an important factor in engagement.

How certain colors affect customers:

  • Yellow: Youthful and optimistic; usually for grabbing the attention of window shoppers.
    • Businesses that use yellow in their branding: Denny’s and McDonald’s.
  • Red: Energetic; generates urgency, increases heart-rate, common in clearance sales.
    • Businesses that use red in their branding: Coca-Cola, Netflix, and Youtube.
  • Blue: Creates the feeling of security and trust.
    • Businesses that use green in their branding: This is popular among financial institutions, such as Visa and Citi. Nonfinancial brands like Facebook, Wal-Mart, and AT&T also tap into the effects of blue.
  • Green: Related to wealth, health, and freshness. It is the easiest color the eyes can process.
    • Businesses that use green in their branding: Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Landrover.
  • Orange: Assertive, useful in call-to-action; sign up, buy and sell, subscribe.
    • Businesses that use orange in their branding: Home Depot.
  • Pink: Romantic and feminine; valuable for marketing products targeted and girls and young women.
    • Businesses that use pink in their branding: Mattel (think Barbie) and T-Mobile.
  • White: Focus and attention; whitespace is used to contrast and emphasize important information on a website.
    • Businesses that use white in their branding: Domains4Less uses it in combination with cyan. Apple has also mastered the use of white in branding.
  • Black: Sleek and powerful; valuable for marketing luxury products or services.
    • Businesses that use black in their branding: Uber and the American Centurion Card.
  • Purple: Calm and soothing; also associated with wealth and luxury but also represents, fantasy, mystery, wealth, and wisdom.
    • Businesses that use purple in their branding: Wonka, Curves, FedEx.

Enhancing your website and online marketing with the right colors

Now that you have an idea of how color psychology impacts consumer behavior, you can apply the following best practices to improve engagement and ROI (return on investment) on your site.

Color is tricky, but if you use it appropriately, the results can be rewarding.

There are four major principles to consider when planning color usage on your website:

  • The right way
  • The right time
  • The right audience
  • The right purpose

Tips that will improve your conversions

Use blue to build user trust

This principle is mainly used by financial institutions. Your bank probably uses it for its website.

Yellow is for caution

This is the color of warnings; common in wet floor signs and traffic signals. It is also applicable online.

Orange creates a sense of haste or impulse

While primary colors are good for call-to-action signs because they create contrast, orange inspires a sense of urgency to make your visitors act quickly.

There is no universal law when it comes to colors, though there’s plenty of evidence that it matters to your bottom line. Test your hypotheses about which colors will resonate with your audience using A/B testing until you discover what works best for your site.

AvatarJames Cummings

James is a business psychologist and serial entrepreneur, with over a decade working in finance, IT, marketing, and recruitment sectors. He has authored numerous books in the management space and is founder and CEO of Dailyposts UK.