Once upon a time, humans were (largely) much more primitive than they were now. Our ancestors had to use visual cues. These visual cues, mostly in the form of colors, kept them alive.
Blue skies meant clear days that were good for travel. Black meant shadows and the unknown. Red meant blood for fighting and hunting animals.
It can be argued that our eyes see more greens than any other color to determine whether or not predators are lurking nearby.
Research from QuickSprout indicates that 90% of all product assessments have to do with color. “Color,” writes Neil Patel, is “85% of the reason you purchased a specific product.”
Needless to say, color has, does, and will probably always play a part in the life of humans.
But what exactly is color psychology and why is it important in e-commerce?
Color psychology is the study of how color affects the mind and human behavior. It’s not exactly a simple science. Hell, a good portion of the psychological academic body is largely dismissive of color psychology altogether.
“But Bradley, If there’s no scientific evidence…then isn’t this just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo?!“
I would agree with you if there were consumer studies. Because sometimes what science can tell us and what marketers can tell us are two different things to our understanding and our bank accounts.
KissMetrics states, “In a peer reviewed journal article, Satyendra Singh determined that it takes a mere 90-seconds for a customer to form an opinion about a product. And, 62-90% of that interaction is determined by the color of the product alone.”
So whether you’re designing your add to cart button, picking a business logo color, figuring out which tie to wear, or selecting the best color options for your products, it comes down to this: color matters.
Where exactly should you use color?
Color is everywhere.
Especially on the internet.
It’s harder NOT to use it on your website.
When we talk about ‘color on your website’, we really mean the color scheme. Those things include the header colors, the graphics on your pages, the headline font colors, the menu bar, the phone number, borders, etc.
You get the idea.
So how do we know what is best for our store? You may be asking some questions like…
- How do I know what “looks good together?”
- What difference do certain colors make?
- How do I know what colors I should be using for my store?
These are all good questions. Let’s first dive into some of the explanation behind certain colors. As that was my first humble beginnings into color psychology, learning what each color “should stand for”.
Blue installs trust in your prospect
Blue is clear skies. It’s the ocean. It’s easy to see why we imitate that color all around us in our marketing and advertising.
Here’s what the research tells us:
- “Blue is typically a calming and serene color, said to decrease respiration and lower blood pressure.” source
- “Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently, it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication.” source
- “In 1999, researchers at Creighton University found that colors significantly influence employees’ emotions and efficiency. Workers in blue offices felt the most centered, calm and hopeful towards their work.” source
It’s fair to say that the consensus for blue is agreed upon. It’s trusting and calming. So how can you use this to your advantage?
Let’s take a look at some big brand examples:
The biggest company in the world uses blue for a good reason. Being a monolith of a retailer, people want to be assured they’re buying products they can trust.
And one of the largest financial institutions. When you are in the business of getting people to trust you with their money, it’s a pretty big reason to use blue anywhere you can. It’s why most banks are themed with blue.
Disney uses blue for their CTA buttons on their product pages
Interestingly enough, it’s been said to never use blue if your product is associated with food or impulse. Even though blue is the most favored color of literally everyone in the world (YouGov.com).
Dieters have used blue plates to keep from eating as much. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense. Not many foods in the wild (other than blueberries) are blue, so our brains weren’t made to get hungry at the sight of blue (HuffingtonPost.com).
As anti-impulse as blue is made out to be, it doesn’t stop almost every event and ticket company from using blue.
Is blue right for your store?
- Do you want your product to install safety, security, and/or serenity?
- Are people buying your product to eliminate a risk? (security cameras, locks, etc)
- Remember: Blue for CTA buttons tends not to convert as well, if your branding is blue, try a contrasting color
Green is for creativity, the environment, and CTA
Similarly to blue, green is everywhere. Our earth is green and blue. Green is associated with nature and obviously plant life.
The word ‘green’ has even turned itself into a buzzword. Going ‘green’. Your store can borrow credibility to this fact. What’s a way you are environmentally conscious in your business? Talk about it, and use green.
The company who started a movement with being environmentally conscious with their importing of coffee, Starbucks makes good use of their green branding.
John Deere, making tractors for over a hundred years, proudly incorporates green even into their product.
Aside from being connected to mother earth, green is useful for indicating success.
- We have green lights at traffic stops
- American dollars are green
- We have green battery icon indicators for our phones
- We have green checkmarks for a job well done
Green makes for a good call to action. If your brand colors are already green, you may want to steer clear. Green works if it’s the only element on the page of that color.
Crutchfield does a great example using green at their CTA for adding an item to the cart.
Is green right for your store?
- Is your product related to nature or the environment?
- Is your product related to growing…whether it be financially or personally?
- Remember: If you use green branding, try not to use lots of red. There is a form of colorblindness that blends the two colors.
Black gives off luxury and sophistication
Black is very common in products and brands involving luxury. It speaks to the mysterious unknown parts of our perceptions.
- “Black is professional and credible, but it can be edgy as well.” source
- “Black can make it easier to convey a sense of sophistication and mystery in a design.” source
Although black is typically the color for most text on a website, it can easily be used in branding materials.
If you’re dealing with anything high-ticket or luxury, black is a great choice.
Lush prides themselves on high-quality bath bombs and does not mention “inexpensive” anywhere in their marketing.
MAC Cosmetics is a makeup retailer that carries a wide range of luxury makeup products. MAC makes full use of the mysterious and bold factor that comes with using the color black.
Is black right for your store?
- Is your product a social status purchase?
- Does your product command a higher than usual price for the average market value?
Orange is fun and impulsive
Orange can be associated with many things. The fruit, the fall season, and nostalgia (Nickelodeon, anyone?).
- “Orange is also known to be a color of motivation, lends a positive attitude, and general enthusiasm for life. Overall, orange is great for bringing comfort in tough times, and creating a sense of fun or freedom in your visuals.” source
- “Orange is a very vibrant and energetic color.” source
- “…companies using orange are seen as ‘fun, playful and enjoying social interaction.’” source
Orange is also used in a lot of sports team branding. It shows a sense of energy.
It’s a loud color, which makes for a great call to action.
Take a look at how Amazon uses orange to draw attention to their Add to Cart button and their reviews. Their product pages are primarily neutral except for these items. Amazon also has the foresight to suggest items that the buyer may want instead within the product line.
Is orange right for your store?
- Do you sell something ‘fun’?
- Do your products help people have fun?
- Remember: Orange CTA buttons are fairly common for good reason. If it contrasts well with your branding, it would be wise to consider using orange for your CTA buttons.
Yellow can serve as a warning
Yellow is the color of warmth. Fun. Smiles. And happy thoughts…right?
There’s much speculation of what seeing the color yellow does to the brain.
“Did you know that in addition to being cheerful and warm, the color yellow is the most likely to cause eye fatigue?” source
There are many different ways companies use yellow. McDonald’s uses yellow because they want their famous “M” arches to stand out against a blue sky. Whereas a company like CAT utilizes yellow in all of their equipment to symbolize caution.
Almost always, you will see yellow branding complemented with blue. Like with Best Buy or Ikea.
I would say Best Buy could improve their conversions with splashing a bit more yellow on the points of interest in their menu bar, but they do make it a point to use it within their slider text.
Sprint uses yellow to call attention to their deals and for their main slider buttons to view new phone options
Meineke shows the value of their car maintenance services by drawing your eyes to the price on the homepage slider image text.
It’s safe to say you don’t see many brands using a massive amount of yellow. Ones that do use it in a really smart way: Using it for their CTAs.
Is yellow right for your store?
- Does your product help maintain or build something?
- Does your product serve as a warning or
- Remember: Yellow can be a good CTA color. Do your branding colors already have blue? Even better.
Red is thrilling and sometimes scary
Red makes you stop in your tracks. Whether out of fright or love.
It’s literally the same exhilarating emotion but on the opposite ends of the spectrum. It can be used to show affection or to show fear.
It can energize to show spirit or it can show aggression and violence.
The Hollywood red carpet. The color of love.
Red is the color of blood. Stop signs. Code red alert.
- “Red can actually have a physical effect on people, raising blood pressure and respiration rates. It’s been shown to enhance human metabolism, too.” source
- “Just remember to use it sparingly to avoid the extreme negative reactions it can so easily awaken.” source
- “In a survey, people were asked to choose the color they associated with particular words. Speed: Red was overwhelmingly the favorite (76%)”source
It’s a way to show a powerful presence. Which is why it’s used for CTA buttons a lot.
It’s a staple in any fast food restaurant logo, to have a splash of it at least.
Target makes use of red as the majority of their branding. Which is an interesting color choice given their main competitor, Walmart, uses blue. Target, I would argue, has more stylish yet expensive products. Therefore, they want to elicit more of an emotionally based purchase.
Puma does an excellent job of using red for their CTAs to highlight the cart, the search, and to browse their newest collections.
Macy’s has great examples red CTAs on their homepage directing you to their hottest deals
Is red right for your store?
- Is your product a purchase that you want your customer to act quickly?
- Is your product used to put someone in motion? (Remember the word association with red: 76% related it to speed – think Ferrari)
White is the most important
I’m not sure if white is technically a color, but I know it gets left out a lot when discussing color psychology. It makes sense why it doesn’t get talked about, but it’s one of the most important elements in design and conversion.
If you look at any page that is crammed with elements and color, it makes you feel cramped and claustrophobic. Always remember to have a clean amount of space so that your CTAs actually stand out instead of being swamped in a sea of text and other colors.
It’s just like in music. The silence, or rests, in between notes are just as important as the notes themselves.
Take Google for example, using white for the clean and easy approach since 1997.
Using color the right way
What determines what colors look good together? Is it an art or a science? Well, it’s kinda both.
The easiest way to explain without giving you art or graphic design degree is to show you this color scheme calculator.
If you’re still balking at the idea of colors being important to big brands, let’s take a look at one easily recognizable logo that uses the Tetrad color scheme.
Which is basically just a fancy name for when four colors are distributed evenly around the color wheel, causing there is no clear dominance of one color.
The point being, you can take advantage of designing your Shopify store colors to make your design more attractive and incentivize people to want to click, buy, share, and love your marketing.
Favorites and least favorites
If you lookup different favorite color surveys, you can find significant information on favorite and least favorite colors.
Some of these vary by certain degrees. But here are some of the highlights:
- It’s universally found however, that blue is the favored color by everyone in the world. So, you find it used in almost everything.
- The top least favored colors are gray, brown, and yellow.
Gender plays a role in favorites, too
Society gives us gender-specific treatment from the day we are born.
You get blue balloons if you’re a boy. You get pink balloons if you’re a girl. It’s no wonder why we tend to like (and dislike) colors based on our gender.
Here are some highlights:
- Women tend to dislike earthy tones.
- They do go for tints like blue, green, and purple.
- Men tend to like blue, green, and black.
- Men don’t like purple, orange, or brown.
Dealing with your designer
Maybe you (or your designer) refuses the idea of breaking your color scheme.
While I agree that having a sharp design is important, it comes down to testing. Yes, you should create your logo and colors based on what looks good and what conveys the best meaning.
However, when it comes to your CTA buttons and your conversions on your website.
You must test.
If you need a great logo design, DesignContest is a really cost-effective way to crowd source a winning logo.
Be honest about how bad it is
Do the colors really suck that bad? Sure, if you are selling high-end watches and have a 90s clipart looking logo, it may be time to reconsider a sleeker look. Just do your research and share your findings with those involved.
Be flexible with your color scheme
Just because you use blue for everything on your site, doesn’t mean you can splash some opposite colors for dramatic flair. It gives the CTA buttons more power and just looks great on the eyes.
If you need help picking out different colors, this is a great visual color calculator you can play around with.
So, you have just read an entire article on color psychology. You might think this is the best time to go and change every element on your page.
The common phrase in the marketing world is to “test screams, not whispers”. So while this is true, still make it look good and legible.
Despite what anyone tells you. There’s no magic bullet for your CTA button colors.
Just test it. Let the numbers make the final call. Find what combination works best for your audience.
Now, that might sound a little overwhelming. And it can be hard work putting a good converting Shopify store together.
That’s why we have been working hard on Shoptimized, the best Shopify theme out there that focuses on other psychological principles to help convert more of your customers.