How a leading online retailer influences customer behaviour

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 engages its 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. The “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 this 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 is in the business of building desire so that its 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 uses 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 hits its stride. Throughout the site it uses well-placed cues and assurances to reduce any fear customers have about committing to the purchase.

Here are four things they are doing to overcome negative tension.

 1. Assurances on home page header



Figure 1: Birdsnest assurances

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

Cue Message 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 hits anxiety head-on through its 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 they also fear the cost of the return-shipping, Birdsnest has introduced an inexpensive up-sell 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 encourages 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.

2. Deferred payment

I recently wrote about the introduction of Afterpay, a reverse lay-by where you can take the goods immediately and pay them off later. Birdsnest offers 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 is doing include:

  • Limiting distraction. While the retailer has a thriving social media community, you won’t see any of that on its 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, Birdsnest encourages people to add more to their basket to avoid shipping costs, in this case offering free delivery for orders over $200
  • Reviews: Birdsnest has 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 the business is doing a great job of supporting customer choice and influencing buying behaviour. What are some of your favourite examples?

Bri Williams deletes all buying hesitation and maximises every dollar of your marketing spend by applying behavioural economics to the patterns of buying behaviour. More at


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4 years ago

Good post thank you