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How a leading online retailer influences customer behaviour

Category: Blog & News

They are homegrown, award winners and, as far as I’m concerned, one of the leaders in online retail. Let’s look at how Cooma based Birdsnest engage their customers and drive conversion.

Positive and negative tension

Compelling people to take action ultimately comes down to managing two forms of tension: positive and negative.

  • Positive tension is the fear your customers feel if they don’t take action. “Fear of missing out” is an example.
  • Negative tension is what can kill conversion, and is the fear your customers feel if they do take action.  It’s when they think, “can I trust this business?”

In both cases, the behavioural principle of “loss aversion” is at play. Loss aversion means your customers will be more worried about what they might lose if they proceed than what they stand to gain, and includes money, time, effort and esteem.  Your job is to use loss aversion to both engage and relax your customer.

Using positive tension to build desire

Like any good retailer, Birdsnest are in the business of building desire so that their customers are motivated to make a purchase. We really don’t need those new shoes, but boy do we want them!

One of the strategies Birdsnest use is to not only feature items of clothing, but display these items as part of a styled outfit.  By doing so they are helping customers imagine how the clothes can be worn as well as increasing tension about not buying all the items.

Overcoming negative tension to build confidence

Reducing anxiety is where Birdsnest really hit their stride. Throughout their site they use well-placed cues and assurances to reduce any fear their customers have about committing to the purchase. Here are four things they are doing to overcome negative tension.

1.     Assurances on home page header

Birdsnest assurances

Figure 1 Some of the Birdsnest assurances

Birdsnest carry no less than six cues at the top of their website, including:



Anxiety it reduces

250 brands/1000 outfits

We have an abundance of brands and styles

Wasting time on a fruitless search

Free style guide

We care about you

They are here to take my money

Express Delivery

You get your goods fast

Not having the goods in time

365 day returns

There’s no risk

Getting stuck with clothes I don’t want

Phone number

Real people are here for you

Not being able to follow up with a real person

2.     Guarantees

Birdsnest hit anxiety head on through their generous store policies. They seem to guarantee everything – delivery, returns, security, privacy and even pricing – which means customers feel confident they can take action and not get caught out. I particularly love their “We love returns!” statement which sets the tone of the relationship between them and their customer.

Figure 2 Birdsnest guarantees

3.     New “change room” concept

Realising that customers sometimes don’t order if they are anxious about the size or cut, and also fear the cost of the return-shipping, Birdsnest have introduced an inexpensive upsell where people can order up to $1000 worth of clothes and return for free what they don’t wish to keep.

By addressing anxiety in this way Birdsnest encourage people to try more clothes and become attached to them thanks to what’s known as the “Endowment Effect”. Once we take possession we are typically loathe to give things back.

4.     Deferred payment

I recently wrote about the introduction of Afterpay, a reverse layby where you can take the goods immediately and pay them off later. Birdsnest offer a similar mechanism called zipPay which has the benefit of reducing customer anxiety about spending money on clothes they may not keep.

That’s not all

Aside from positive and negative tension, other clever things Birdsnest are doing include:

  • Limiting distraction: While they have a thriving social media community, you won’t see any of that on their home page until you scroll to the bottom. Instead they focus customers on engaging with what they are on the site for; the products.
  • Tiered delivery: Like Amazon they are encouraging people to add more to their basket to avoid shipping costs, in this case offering free delivery for orders over $200
  • Reviews: Birdsnest have built a community and let that community be heard through product reviews

Of course no site is perfect, and the Birdsnest site is hectic in places but they are doing a great job of supporting customer choice and influencing buying behaviour. What are some of your favourite examples?

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

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Wondering how your website stacks up? Why not engage me to conduct a Behavioural Audit which will detail everything you are doing right and wrong in your efforts to influence your customers. More info here