Why All Sale Signs Are Red: The Science of Color in Retail

Why All Sale Signs Are Red: The Science of Color in Retail

Red sale signage | Shopfy Retail

What if I told you the color scheme you choose to decorate your retail store with or the color palette for your website and logo could severely impact your sales and influence whether customers are enticed to make a purchase from you or not?

The psychology of color and the way we human beings interact with and react to our environment in accordance to color is a science that has been rigorously tested and applied and something that has been studied for hundreds of years. So, isn't it about time you started using some of the findings to your advantage?

In this post, I'll be taking a look at how color affects the human psyche and how merchants can use that knowledge to their advantage. So whether your store and merchandise displays need a new paint job, or whether you're deciding the theme for your next seasonal window display, this post will give you a solid understanding of how color impacts consumer purchase decisions.

Let's dive in.

Why Color Matters

If you're still on the fence about whether choosing the right color will actually impact your sales, here's a few things to consider. When a prospective customer first walks into your store, they make a sub-conscious judgement about your retail environment and product within 90 seconds on the initial viewing. Guess how much of the first impression is based on color alone? Roughly 62% to 90% according to researchers. 

To make matters more interesting, 52% of shoppers don't return to a store if they don't like the aesthetics. If that alone doesn't make you pay more attention to color, then maybe knowing that 93% of purchasing decisions are based on visual appearance and 85% of consumers citing color as the primary reason for why they purchase a product, hopefully will.

Why color matters in retail signage infographic | Shopify Retail

Another key area where color plays a big difference for retailers is signage. For example, color plays a significant role in how often ads are read, coming in at about 42x more than black and white ads, while boosting comprehension, learning and reading up by significant margins as well.

So whether its your "hours of operations" sign, "we're open/closed" sign, or big "sale" sign, be sure to add a touch of color if you want them read and paid attention to.

Outcome from the use of color | Shopify Retail

The Influence of Color

It might be hard to imagine that color could influence spending habits to such a degree, but the fact of the matter is that it's a critical variable that influences us on both a conscious and subconscious level.

For example, it's fine and dandy to hear that the color blue emotes feelings for trust and dependability since we even have the term "true blue" in our vocabulary or see it regularly in the logos of financial institutions. But, according to a study published in the Journal of Business Research, customers are actually 15% more likely to return to stores with blue color schemes than to those with orange color schemes, which makes a lot of those intuitive insights true and credible.

Another neat example has to do with the color pink, which is thought to have calming effects on the perceiver. According to research published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, scientists discovered that when a person sees pink, it slows people's endocrine systems and relaxes tense muscles. In other words, it can be quickly associated with the word "relief." Now, isn't there a company that sells a pink syrup that's meant to relieve a number of pain inducing symptoms? Oh right, Pepto Bismol.

Influence of color, Pepto Bismol | Shopify Retail  

Sounds crazy right? But that's just the beauty of color and its effects on the human psyche.

Or consider why all sale signs or clearance signs are red. According to a study published in the journal Emotion, professor Andrew Elliot found that people react faster and more forcefully when they see the color red, with the primary reason behind the phenomena being that the color red enhances physical reactions as it is programmed into our psyche as a cue for danger. Retailers use this information to grab a customer's attention and cue them to take action in making a purchase. 

Red sale signage | Shopify Retail

Another interesting case study occurred when during a marketing experiment, Heinz changed the color of its classic ketchup from red to green, a color known to evoke emotions relating to health, tranquility, and wealth. The result? Over $23 million in sales in just the first month, amounting to what what was the highest sales increase in the company's history at the time.

Heinz ketchup color experiment | Shopify Retail

How Consumers Relate to Color

Now that you know color matters, the next thing you're probably wondering is how do you get it to work for you. When it comes to picking the perfect color scheme, the first question you'll have to ask yourself is "who is your brand's target market?" Are you targeting children, teenagers, young adults, adults, or seniors? Based on your customer demographic and behavioural data, your choice of color will vary dramatically.

Simply put, your choice of color scheme can have a huge impact on the type of shoppers you attract, with certain color schemes being more preferable for one type of retail venue over another. 

Here's a look at what I mean:

How customers relate to color | Shopify Retail

There's also a slight gender difference when it comes to color preferences as depicted in the graphic below, which can come in really handy, especially when your store is specifically targeting one gender over the other.

Gender and color preference | Shopify Retail

Choosing a Color Scheme

Alright, now let's get into the nitty-gritty of actually going about picking a color scheme. There's several ways to approach this as any designer or artist would attest, but here are the most common ways to pick a scheme. 

You can pick a color scheme that is:

  • Monochromatic Colors: These colors consist of varying tones of the same color.
  • Complementary Colors: These colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
  • Analogous Colors: These are colors that lie on either side of any given color on a color wheel.
  • Triadic Colors: This color scheme includes colors situated at 120 degrees from each other on the color wheel.
  • Split-Complmentary Colors: This color scheme uses a base color and two colors adjecent to the complementary color  
  • Rectangular Colors: This color scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs
  • Square Colors: This color scheme uses four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel

 Color scheme examples | Shopify Retail

Consumer Reactions to Individual Colors

Lastly, I wanted to include this infographic from Marketo to highlight how consumers react to individual colors. This is handy when you're just starting out and picking your logo colors all the way to picking the primary and accent colors for your retail store. 

Why color matters for brands | Shopify RetailHow Did You Pick Your Colors?

That's a lot to digest when it comes to using the science of colors in a retail setting. However, I'd love to hear about how you went about picking the colors for your brand, products, and most importantly your retail store. Or, share with us what study, insight, statistic, or graphic stood out most to you from this post and how it changed your outlook when it comes to the influence color has on consumer habits.

P.S. If you like this post, you'll love How Retailers Manipulate Sight, Smell, and Sound to Trigger Purchase Behavior in Consumers and How To Hire an Interior Designer for Your Retail Store and Why You Need One.

(Image Credits: Marketo, KISSMetrics, WebPageFX, Pepto Bismol)

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