February 26, 2004, 12:00 AM

Whitewashing the Internet: Color does make a difference, e-retailers learn

While little research has been conducted on that so far, two presentations at eTail 2004 in Palm Springs, CA, this week offered evidence that consumers react favorably to white online.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The Internet is a visual medium, so it stands to reason that color would play a role in how consumers react to displays. While little research has been conducted on that so far, two presentations at eTail 2004 in Palm Springs, CA, this week offered evidence that consumers react favorably to white online.

Bluefly Inc. last year redesigned Bluefly.com to make the graphics and overall appearance more reflective of the fashion inventory it specializes in. Bluefly made no technology changes that would have speeded up site download. Yet customers perceived the site as faster. The explanation, said CEO Ken Seiff, was in the background color. “When we switched from a blue background to a white background, customers perceived the site as loading a lot faster,” he said. The explanation: “When we switched to white, customers weren’t looking at the background any more,” Seiff said.

White also played a role at a retail customer of analytics provider Fireclick Inc., president and CEO Ram Srinivasan told attendees. Only when the retailer, whom Srinivasan did not identify, looked at the relationship between sales and color, did the company realize that white was the best seller in a certain group of products. It then featured white in the product display and moved white to the top of color choices. Viewing aggregate sales is not good enough information on which to base merchandising decisions, he said. “Looking at sales and things like color can result in tangible insights,” he said.

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