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Study Finds How You Describe Colors Can Impact Your Sales

Color theory holds a long-term place in marketing strategies, as people tend to associate certain meanings to particular shades. These habits extend to consumers and online purchasing, where some color choices may be better, and more profitable, than others.

This “study in scarlet,” and other colors, by inventory management firm Stitch Labsspanned the 2013 year based on orders synced to the company’s technology. The company said this study drew from data on over a million orders worth $50 million, generated by tens of thousands of companies.

According to the company, some colors performed better when product descriptions hewed to their “classic” names. They listed cherry, strawberry, and raspberry as examples from the red color family. Yet going with a simple “red” generated as much as 28 percent more revenue compared to more “creative” names.

At the other end of the rainbow, the color purple appears to beg for a little creativity in the naming department. The study found 31 percent better revenue generation when marketers opted for more creative names from the purple family.

“You may think that choosing “midnight” over “black” is a fun way to express your brand, but if you knew it would tank sales, would you risk it?” said Stitch Labs’ CEO and founder, Brandon Levey. “We’re not advising businesses on what they should do necessarily, we just want to shed light on the importance of data and how businesses can use it to make more informed decisions.”

Note that it may not only be the terms sellers use to describe products that make a difference: believe it or not, a study showed that images that featured a red background encouraged eBay shoppers to bid higher prices.

And color can even influence the effectiveness of the buy button, according to another study.

For those whose colors run in the pink, yellow, and brown ranges, Stitch Labs found minimal differences in naming. In our conversation with Brandon Levey, he reiterated that shades of these colors “only showed minimal increase in revenue generation when named their creative counterpart, specifically between 2-5 percent.”

“We only pulled colors from the data with unit price rather than specific products, the results we found are across all retail items within Stitch Labs’ databases,” he also said. “One of the reasons we didn’t measure size or product is because our main goal was to find if color made a difference across the board, rather than for a particular industry or product type. Also, the findings from various retail products make testing color names in all types of businesses more advantageous than if we were to say “This only works for t-shirts.””

Perhaps sellers might wish to try testing variations like salmon or sunrise or chocolate and see how customers respond – hopefully with the color of money.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.