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VWO BLOG

on Conversion Rate Optimization

This is Part 2 of a 2-part blog post written by David Rosenfeld on how colors can help increase your website’s conversions and revenue. Check out Part 1 here.

David Rosenfeld is a director at Infinite Conversions, a conversion rate optimization agency. David spent five years working as a lawyer in Australia and London and three years as an associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions department of a global Investment Bank focusing on technology startups. David’s experience has included significant work on campaign specific conversion optimisation. David holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Software Engineering from the University of Sydney and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

In Part 1, we talked about the rudiments of color psychology and how companies choose colors to convey their brand personality. We also talked about the color pattern of a page being instrumental in directing visitors’ attention to the areas you want them to focus on. In this part, we discuss on matching color to cultural norms to avoid marketing disasters and making CTAs more effective by choosing the right colors. Lastly, we also focus briefly on the importance of colors to the food industry.

Customizing Colors to Culture

The University of Sydney’s Professor Wilkinson states that the meaning of specific colors changes depending on the specific culture. Making the assumption that the understanding of color is fixed across the globe can be a disastrous mistake. For example, let’s say your personal loans company decides to broaden its horizons from its base in Seattle, and opens a sub-branch in Kyoto. At the same time, you choose to re-design your branding, and replace your familiar logo and brand palette with one based mainly on blue, as blue reflects integrity and trustworthiness.

Six months later your new Japanese branch is on the verge of closure, as so few people have chosen to engage with your new expansion.

What went wrong? What went wrong was that you ignored the cultural context. Your company is US-based, where blue is a color frequently embraced by companies who deal with finances, as blue is associated with trust. But that doesn’t extend to the Far East, where blue is often equated with wrong-doing, and consumers in Japan are not likely to deal with a company they perceive as being potentially dubious.

In most Asian cultures, red is the color most often associated with good fortune and prosperity, which are two aspects you’d want your finance-based brand to be associated with.

Logos of prominent Chinese companies
Logos of the most recognized Chinese companies. Note the use of red.

Colors and Food: Why Making the Right Choices is Paramount

Color choices have an enormous impact on the decisions we as consumers make when it comes to food. Making the wrong choice will see your potential consumers turn their noses up at your product even if it smells and tastes delicious. Think about the last time you bought a bottle or can of lemonade. Almost definitely, the packaging would have been clear, white, yellow or green or any combination thereof – all colors associated with lemonade (which is usually clear or green) or lemons.

How would you have felt if the packaging had been orange, red or even purple? It’s unlikely you’ve ever opened up a purple-colored bottle and found it contained lemonade. Even if you had, your lack of association between lemonade and purple is so strong it would make it hard for you to identify the flavor at all.

Researchers have found that our associations between color and taste are incredibly resilient. If we see something and feel it looks unappetizing, we will automatically think it will taste that way. Such associations have a massive impact on brand perceptions and revenue.

As an illustration of this, take the example of “Crystal Pepsi”, which was a variation of Pepsi that tasted exactly the same as regular Pepsi, yet was clear. Pepsi hoped that their new version would create the impression of a Pepsi with a cleaner, crisper taste. This impression of “clarity” suggested by both the name and the packaging altered consumer perceptions about the actual taste of the product. A percentage of Pepsi fans even claimed they didn’t like the taste of the new product, even though in reality it tasted just the same as normal Pepsi.

Crystal Pepsi turned out to be something of an embarrassing failure, mainly as its taste failed to match the characteristics of beverages that were usually clear and presented in clear packaging.

Creating CTAs that constantly crush your competitors

When you seek help with increasing conversion rates, conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialists trot out jargon like “conversion-centered design principles”. This phrase simply means designing a webpage so that your visitor’s eyes are drawn to the place where you want them to click.

You can use contrasting colors to achieve this. The color palette chosen for a page should blend naturally together to direct a visitor’s point of interest to the call-to-action (CTA) button.

Lots of marketing experts champion the effectiveness of red CTA buttons against green ones, and indeed a great deal of research has been undertaken in determining which colors help to create the most conversions, and why. (for starters, see these couple of articles by Smashing Magazine and Hubspot)

Color also plays an important role in helping visitors identify where to click. The CTA button is the most important element on any landing page, so it needs to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. That said, it still needs to blend effectively with the rest of the page elements while remaining noticeable.

For example, if your retail site sells a range of colorful products, such as art supplies, then you may think that a very colorful site would be the best way of conveying your company’s diversity. Unfortunately, doing so simply means your CTAs get lost among all the colorful clutter. You can use a background image to convey your site’s message while retaining the contrast needed for effective CTAs.

Pam's Club Guests

Passive colors bless your site with a visually-appealing personality, and they don’t interfere with the important business of achieving clicks. If you remain obsessed with the idea of having a colorful site, then use a palette consisting of various shades of the same color.

Once you’ve decided upon your background, your next step is to choose the contrasting color you’re going to use for your CTAs. Red or orange are accepted as excellent colors to use for CTAs, and have been championed by many research studies. Red seems to grab people’s attention, and is associated with passion, vitality and enthusiasm. It’s also associated with aggression, provocation and energy, which means red can provide an effective contrast to blue, as long as it is only used for CTAs and items which draw attention to CTAs.

GSM.nl VWO case study

The above image pertains to an A/B test that was done by GSM.nl using Visual Website Optimizer. They tested the effectiveness of three CTA options: white button/green text, green button/white text and dark orange button/white text.

The dark orange button was the winner, but only by 5 percent. Here’s the entire case study.

A/B Testing always provides valuable information regarding how optimization based on color can increase conversions. Let’s look at an example of a split test which was conducted by a real estate agency on a registration page for a conference call session.

The Control with a color scheme of red, blue and yellow
The Control with a color scheme of red, blue and yellow
Variation 1 with a color scheme of light blue and yellow
Variation 1 with a color scheme of light blue and yellow
Variation 2 with a color scheme of red and yellow
Variation 2 with a color scheme of red and yellow

Involved in the test were three color schemes: one variation light blue with a yellow CTA, and the other red also with a yellow CTA, which were tested against the initial design of red, blue and yellow.

The best performing version was the light blue with yellow CTA. Despite the fact that the copy was exactly the same on all three pages, the winning variaition increased conversions by an amazing 141 percent. Here’s the full case study.

Conclusion

A/B testing is important in ascertaining the effect that color changes to your website will have. From changing the color of a single CTA button to a complete site redesign, the information you’ll glean from testing will allow you to work out if the necessary expenditure is worth it. Never make assumptions, and never adopt an approach that works for one of your competitors without testing it first. Correct color choices are extremely effective at upping conversion rates and generating increased levels of revenue.

Author

Anand Kansal is a Marketer at PushCrew, a tool that enables websites to send push notifications. He has a keen interest in behavioral psychology and decision making. He tweets about online marketing at @PushCrewHQ.

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