Can Colour Promote Impulse Buying?

By Duncan Smith

Whether you’re a shopper who wishes to curtail impulse purchases or a store owner who wishes exactly the opposite, it’s time to start paying attention to colour! One 2011 study found, for instance, that blue makes people more prone to impulse buying than red does! We’ll go into the reasons why this specific hue makes items so difficult to resist but for now, take note of a few statistics regarding why colour matters so much. Around 92.6% of people value visual factors above all others when buying items. The senses of touch, hearing, and smell, are way down the list, with smell garnering a paltry 0.9%! Around 85% of shoppers feel that colour accounts for more than half of all the factors why they choose products. Clearly, different hues trigger emotions and behaviours that people can fail to consciously identify.  


Consumer Research on Colours

Marketing professionals are pros at choosing the right colours for everything from goods to logos and branded merchandise. In the Western world, the following colours are associated with specific emotions:

  • Red is linked to energy. It increases the heart rate and creates a “must have now” mentality. You may have noticed that red abounds in “Sale” and “Clearance” signs. The aim is to get rid of products… fast
  • Blue is a favourite choice for many, and it is linked to trust and reliability
  • Green is associated with richness and it tends to instil a relaxed sensation. Therefore, it is not the ideal colour for your store if you’re hoping that people develop a sense of urgency when they are in your store. Purple, like green, is usually classified as a calming hue. 
  • Yellow is linked to happiness and youth, and it is often used to call attention to retail windows. 
  • Black is associated with elegance. As such, it abounds in luxury products. 
  • Finally, orange is an “in your face” colour that online marketers frequently use to influence buyers to click on a link or buy something. For instance, if you look at any Amazon product, you will see that the “Add to Cart” button is yellow, but the “Buy” button is orange.

According to Medium, impulse shoppers are most attracted to royal blue, red, orange, and black!


It Isn’t as Simple as It Seems 

A groundbreaking study published in the journal Marketing Letters pointed out one important fact. Studies often group colour effects into a single class of effects, but they ignore “the situational facet of the way consumers respond to colour.” The study points out that some hues are more activating (i.e. they stimulate brain wave activity to a higher degree) while others are more deactivating. There is a second consumer response, however, and that is ‘affect’ (the extent to which the consumer ‘likes’ a particular tone). The researchers concluded that an activated consumer may be more likely to indulge in impulse buying than someone who is not activated. In other words, people who cannot control their purchasing impulses and who frequently make impulse purchases should be aware of the use of activating colours such as red and blue, which can make self-control harder. From a shop’s perspective, on the other hand, these are optimal choices for boosting sales. However, in stores in which customers have to wait to be attended to, moderate wavelength colours (which are less activating) should be used. 


Colour Affects Consumers’ Views on Quality 

Stores wishing to increase sales should also be aware of the effect that colour has on customers’ perception of the nature of their goods. The researchers found that goods sold in a red environment were more likely to be seen as “up-to-date.” They advised retailers selling stylish merchandise to always use red for retail environments if impulse buying was their goal.


Backing Your Colour Choices with Clever Sales Strategies 

Colour is important but if you want to boost sales, then other strategies should be used as well. These include helping customers feel like they are getting a good deal. Promotions and rewards can help achieve this aim. Another is physical stimuli. Being in a pleasant environment, listening to soft background music, and friendly salespeople can all influence a customer’s decisions. Finally, product placement is key. Window displays positively influence impulsive purchases when products are in big demand. Placing products in strategic spots in your shop (for instance, when shoppers are queuing up to pay) is an almost sure-fire way to ensure they add one or two lower-priced impulse purchases to their shopping cart.

Colour has the ability to boost sales, with studies showing that red and blue are the top choices when it comes to impulse buying. These hues have been found to “activate” buyers, in contrast to tones like green. To boost sales, retail stores should not only consider the use of red and blue in their shop design and packaging but also create added value in the form of beautiful design and top-level assistance from shop attendants.


Cultural considerations

Colours are also perceived differently in different countries / cultures. When looking into toothpaste colours, for example, in one study, Mindlab found that Chinese participants showed barely any difference in reaction to blue vs green toothpaste, while other countries saw them as light and day. The way we divide out the colour wheel intuitively into simple colour categories is shaped by our language and the cultural context we grew up in, and research needs to be mindful of that, especially when looking for global solutions.


By Bri Hilton, contributing writer



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