Colours in e-commerce: when emotions lead to sales

Grafik: Johann Dréo
Graphic: Johann Dréo

Shop operators don’t just have to take care of usability, a functional internal search or the perfect check-out when it comes to raising conversion rates. In e-commerce, as in every other area of life as well, emotions play a decisive role. Spontaneous purchases are initiated by a certain feeling. For instance, you can create feeling about the price: joy at finding such a good offer. Feelings are also triggered by colour. Red creates a different emotion to blue or green.

Colours are one of the few stimuli in e-commerce which speak directly to the senses. Apart from the basic colour, the colour scheme of the navigation bar and other controls is important for emotional customer address. White or light grey for instance, stands for seriousness, while the colour red draws attention. But can colour really raise conversion rates?

Every colour triggers a feeling

Even Goethe was interested in the influence of colours on the human psyche. It is general knowledge that colours, such as red, orange, or yellow are perceived to be warm and so accepted as pleasant. Colours with blue tones on the other hand, are perceived to be cold. These perceptions are also dependent on culture. In Asian cultures for example, white rather than black is the colour of mourning.

Red is a signal colour with which you can gain the attention of customers. The best examples are sale buttons which combine a red background with white writing.

Yellow stands for the sun, warmth, and a good mood. The combination with black however, is associated with danger signs, which is why yellow should be used with care.

Green has a calming effect, but also stands for freshness, which is especially well received in online grocery trade.

In colour symbolism, blue stands for loyalty and constancy. Blue can also have a calming effect which makes the colour particularly popular.

White and grey stand for seriousness. White is often used as a background for products

Black creates the impression of elegance and is especially beloved in the area of fashion. However, black also stands for mourning in colour symbolism.

A full list of the colours and the emotions with which they are associated can be found here

Is there such as things as the perfect colour combination?

The design of an online shop should not just consist of one colour. The trick is in the combination! The background colour, the colour of control elements and one further colour, at best derived from the logo, fill the shop with colour.

The background

Idealo tested the colour schemes of its largest European partner shops and have to the conclusion that in the grey tones at least, there are hardly any differences: white and grey dominate. A white background distracts customers less from what is actually important – the products. After white and grey comes blue, at least in Germany, and finally orange as the basic tone. Great Britain has the largest variety, where some shops surprise with a yellow background.

Weiße und graue Hintergrundfarben setzen bei Lensbest den Fokus auf das Produkt.
White and grey background colours pull the focus towards the product atLensbest.

Control Elements

Menus don’t just help usability, but with the right colours, they can also trigger feelings. Grey, black and blue are in most of the shops. While grey creates credibility, optically, black control elements can make the shop appear more elegant. In contrast, blue creates trust and objectivity.

Veritas setzt auf zwei Farben: Sowohl Weiß, als auch Blau werden für die Menü-Elemente verwendet.
Veritas focuses on two colours: both white and blue are used for menu elements.

The Highlights

In terms of colour, a shop is completed by highlights. These include, for instance, buttons. Here you can let yourself go creatively, although the overall shop concept should be taken in to account. Red is a recommendable signal colour for instance. Orange however, is slightly less aggressive. Colours from your own logo can and should be deployed here, as this individualises the shop colourfully.

Das Logo von Chamilia besteht aus unterschiedlichen Farben, die alle passend in das Onlineshop-Design verwendet wurden.
The logo of Chamilia consists of different colours, which are all integrated fittingly into the design of the online shop.

Test to see what works

The extent to which a certain colour scheme works or does not work is dependent on many factors. At the end of the day only A/B tests can help to find the perfect combination. In an experiment, Hubspot shows what such a test can look like. One red and one green button are used on a homepage over a period of several days. The result: visitors clicked on the red button 21 precent more often than on the green. The paradox is that red, especially in traffic, stands for “stop” and green for “go”. Even if this example has been overused, it still shows that a change in colours can certainly have an effect, as long as it is harmoniously integrated into the design of the shop.

In e-commerce, the selection of colours should not be left to chance. Apart from the unique selling point (USP), the right colour selection for registration or payment in the shop also be a powerful conversion booster, which leads to emotional purchases. By the way, colours also play an important role in gender commerce. It is not just the structure of a shop that is received differently by men or women, but the colour scheme of the whole design.

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