The Power of Colors: How Colors Are Used in (e-)Commerce to Influence You

by Guest on February 1, 2010 · 49 comments

The color theory, invented by Sir Charles Lemieiux, is a complex science involving psychology, physics, color perception, etc. Color theory tackles perceptual and psychological effects to various color combinations and contrasts.

The theory is so complex that it actually deserves the whole encyclopedia of it own, so this post won’t definitely be able to cover it all. Instead, it lists some fundamentals that you will hopefully be excited to hear.

The post covers some ways you can be influenced by colors, i.e. how your shopping decisions may be controlled by the right choice of colors in stores (or on e-commerce websites): next time when you see the color tricks, you will recognize them!

Generally speaking…

Color-theory

How color may help influence your mood and encourage/ discourage you to act – this way your actual behavior can be controlled:

Note: this table simplifies color theory a lot: it doesn’t take national and cultural differences into account and of course color may also vary based on the personality type. This table sums up the reaction to a specific color of an avarage US buyer:

Color Makes you feel… Implementation
Blue Safe and secure Good if you need people to trust you
Green Calm and confident Good for making people spend money
Red Energetic and vigorous Good if you want people to risk
Yellow Optimistic and cheerful Good if you want people have fun
Pink Romantic and dreamy Good for (young) female customers
Orange Willing to take action Good if you want people to act
Black Powerful and wealthy Good if you want people to spend money

Most generally speaking and in an effort to somehow sum-up the table above, calm colors (like green and blue) make you feel calm while warm colors (like red, orange and yellow) excite you.

Based on the above table and this article, best colors by business can be summed up as:

Industry Colors
Beauty/ Make up Has strong association with youth Is associated with prosperity
Banking / finance Makes people feel secure Is association with US dollars and safety
Gambling Is associated with energy, encourages people to take risks Is associated with prosperity
Auto Is associated with energy and speed Is associated with luxury (black limousines)

Stats…

Color theory

To support the above theory, here are some results of the color associations study which dates back to 2003:

What Look Trustworthy:

Color: trust

What is Most Associated with Speed:

Color: speed

What Looks High-Quality:

Color: quality

What Looks Cheap:

Color: cheap

Advice…

Color theory

If you a smart shopper, you will know that:

  • Red makes you feel hungry; so if you see something red and feel like buying and eating that, this may be color, not real you;
  • Orange makes you feel like acting; so if you want to click that pretty orange button that says “BUY NOW”, this may be the button color, not your real wish;
  • Blue makes you trust the buyer; so if some website looks trustworthy enough to share your credit card information with it, this may be the design color choice, not your real feeling.
  • Green makes you want spend your money: in fact, like with blue, it makes you think the seller looks trustworthy enough to entrust him with your money.

Post images by houston web design

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Razvan Girmacea February 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

My next ecommerce website will have green and blue … sounds pretty good.

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Tim Ngwena April 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm

very interesting

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Leon May 8, 2010 at 5:03 am

This is a really nice post! I have been looking for something like this (usage of statistics to support theories) for a while. Thanks!

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Waheed Akhtar May 19, 2010 at 4:17 am

Very informative. Thanks

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darkyn May 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Colour studies such as this tend to suffer from issues such as cultural bias. Different societies react to colour in different ways. Additionally, our personal reactions to colour are much more based on personal experience rather than some formula. It is much more likely that these studies reflect how a particular society uses colour rather than how it affects that society.

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Francesco June 26, 2010 at 4:09 am

very nice post, I’m wondering if we should expect different rules for web sites, because colors look different on the screen or on the paper, or if we should expect roughly the same results.

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Molly June 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I wonder if there are any “universal” colour influences. The perception of colour is indeed sculpted by societal/regional views, but are there neurological or biological factors? Can red be calming? Is there any world-wide correlation at all? I would love to look at how different wave lengths are registered in the brain, and look at how any human brain reacts.

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Sanduuur June 30, 2010 at 4:47 am

Actually red does not make you hungry… it makes you want to move (more associated with speed and/or danger). For instance, fastfood joints (mc donalds, quick, etc.) are made up out of red colours so you eat faster and get the hell out of there so new consumers can have your place. Its a common misconception that red in fastfood joints would inprove your appatite and make you hungry. You go the the fastfood joint because you are hungry in the first place. they just want you out ;)

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alex June 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

It’d help if the person who typed this knew how to type…For Blue, “Good if you need peopeel to trust you.” I don’t know what peopeel is. Haha

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J.M. July 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

Maybe it’s what happens to your skin when you stay out in the sun too long. :P

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Chris Miller July 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Hmm… I usually design based on an overall design theme, but this brings up a good point, individual parts of a website should be colored according to purpose.

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Pool Service Software July 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I never get tired of reading about the psychology of colors. We love blue because we do, but it’s good to know it’s also associated with the qualities that depict our software, too.

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Deko Web August 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm

thank you. Nice article..

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SketchMyWorld.com August 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

This is amazing post! I got tired of reading other posts about colors because they write the same. But you article is supreme! I have learned a lot! And I will pass this link to all my friends. Very useful.

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PRATISHTHA August 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

GREAT I NEEDED IT FOR MY G.K. PROJECT ….REALLY COOOOOOOOOOL
TO KNOW ABOUT COLORS

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PRATISHTHA August 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

COOOL ISN’T IT GUYS! I LOVE TO HANG OUT WITH THIS PAGE………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….AAAAAH DUDE I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY$$$$$%%%%%%%%%%%%

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njmehta September 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

There is some great information and research here. One thing that gets me about most color research is that they don’t discuss one very important element. The context color is displayed in. For example, a red love heart versus a blue love heart. It evokes different emotions. This article doesn’t discuss this but the basic color information is very good.

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njmehta September 20, 2010 at 3:29 am

great tips on color usage for ecommerce

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Brian Charles Clark November 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Cool post but could you please change, toward the beginning, your use of “i.e.” to “e.g.”? Please? I.e. = “in other words” but what you mean here is “for example,” which is e.g. Here’s an easy way to remember which is which: the “i” in i.e. is for “in” and the “e” in e.g. is for “example.” ‘k, thanks.

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Jeanne January 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Wow, very interesting post.

I had always heard that blue was the *best* color for eCommerce and went with blue but do not like it (blue has always been one of my least favorites). However, I do like green, so maybe green would work too. I have never seen colors broken out as nicely as you presented them.

Thank you!

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Justin Wilwerding January 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Unfortunately this post is mostly speculaton, and there is little evidence to support many of these assertions. The appearance, and hence the affect of any color s strongly influenced by the colors that are adjacent to it, and the expectations of hte viewer. Above all color is radically influenced by the spectrum of light falling on the colored surface (you cannot see any color in a darkened room, and every artificail source of light has a limited specturm of light wavelengths and thus renders colors very differently. These factors as well as the personal experiences and preferences mentioned by another comentator, make it very difficult or impossible to reliably associate or predict the reactions of any individual to any singel color.

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Great Entrepreneurship January 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I’m just in the process of launching a new business oriented site and this article has certainly opened my eyes as to how websites are perceived.

I always wondered why IBM was always referred to as “Big Blue” – as often as its intitials were actually used.

Great article.

Patrick

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Stephen Buller February 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find much on this, but this article was great. I only knew that blue was popular for a reason; now I know the reason. Currently having a new website designed for my business, and will take this into account.

Perhaps it’s best to have green and red surrounding the cart/checkout pages to facilitate the purchasing process?

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ben April 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Thanks! this will see great help on my science project on color

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Mainual May 30, 2011 at 4:08 am

Thx for the article. It was really very useful.The psychology of color. Very impressive.

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Urmet July 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

My site is green, too bad I am not selling anything (yet). But overall – it is a good article – a lot of useful information.

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Cherylita August 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

All my credit cards are blue…

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ROMO August 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm

great post, I agree with the stats personally, in Ireland these color sets seem to reflect the current trend in advertising and shops

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Pat October 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Very good information. I am going to pass this on to my webmaster.

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inkev January 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Notice that mcdonalds in n out carls jr wendys and del taco have red and yellow colors to make people want to eat there

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Lorelle February 6, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Fascinating article and wow, the copyright infringements you have to chase down all the time to protect your rights with this one! I found a ton of scrapers and plagiarized versions.

I’m trying to verify Sir Charles Lemieiux as the “inventor” of color theory. I find no mention of his work anywhere, except as a reference often cited back to your article. Maybe I have the spelling wrong but could you be more specific with your source of that fact as it is confusing and I’m trying to track down more information on this. Thank you!

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poop April 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

cool!!!!

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Getpaid4blogging May 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Wow, I will be sure to keep this info in mind for future projects.

Thanks!

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Xolile"Geneious III Mlunguzi September 20, 2012 at 4:17 am

Iam a 1st year fashion student through my tribal mania project I chose to do colour influence as my academic research for my range. I will carry the knowledge with me to the future.

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Natasha November 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I automatically get attractive to red… whatever colors you gave me even the nicest.

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Pressure Washing Charleston SC December 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Nice Read. Thank you! Will use some of this in the furture.

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Scutece December 4, 2012 at 4:16 am

How about the cyan color?
I agree with the color red for the buy now comand!

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Alexius January 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

I am an instructor of Human Profiling and Behavioral Characteristics. Part of my material shared is how various people will wear particular colors for the purpose of subliminal or subconscious messaging. I tend to use U.S. Presidential Candidates, or White House Staff, which will be making a television appearance, as easy examples. After paying attention to these particular people, you will begin to think that the only dress shirts they own are all colored white, and their dress ties are either colored blue or red. When making their presentations, they always assure us with their sincerity with the use of white colored shirts, and then they will employ the appropriate colored tie dependent on their message. In one presentation they may need to seem trustworthy and honest so they wear the blue tie and when the need to come across as a strong leader, or adamant in their message, they wear their power tie … the red.

For those readers, which are interested on the subject; there are many books available on empirical studies, which had been conducted on colors and their relevant uses and misuses.

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charles March 26, 2013 at 12:25 am

Green and blue sounds pretty good yes but then it depends on the e-commerce website. if you are selling clothes you dont want to have a blue background to your pictures as people buy with their visual senses. Green neither. Text odes not show up on those backgrounds. It takes more consideration than saying – i want them to trust me with all their money by using green and blue

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