Persuasive Web Design: Convert Browsers to Buyers

How do you build on a beautiful webshop to turn browsers into buyers? Answer: persuasive design. 

Nikole Wintermeier | Apr 07, 2020


How do you build on a beautiful webshop to turn browsers into buyers? Answer: persuasive design. 


Imagine you walk into a store. Nobody greets you at the door. The door doesn’t slide open automatically and you struggle with it before it FINALLY pries open.

We’ve all been there. You enter with a little less dignity. 

To top it all off - the shopkeeper who witnessed your struggle is sitting right there, on their phone! Disaster strikes again when you look around: there are clothes everywhere. 

Items are thrown haphazardly all over the store. There are no color or gender categories. You have to go digging to find your size.  

When you finally choose something worthwhile and turn to pay, the line is massive. And after you’ve waited in line for ages? They don’t accept your credit card. 

I think we can all agree this isn’t the best customer experience. Now imagine you’re met with a similar experience on a retailer’s webshop. 

You wouldn’t even blink twice before exiting. 

Most consumers spend 15 seconds max on an online page. And 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website if they had a bad user experience. 

As a retailer, this means you have a 15-second window to prove to the customer you’re worth another look. This starts with having a beautiful webshop. But to turn browsers into buyers and keep your shoppers engaged throughout the entire funnel, it’s all about persuasive design.  

This article will show you everything you need to know about persuasive design methods, including how our own in-house consumer psychology team approaches a webshop review. 

So buckle up and let’s get going!


What is persuasive design?

persuasive design from browsers to buyersPersuasive design examples take a human approach to understanding and then optimizing a user’s experience of your site. 


“Instead of simply making something pretty, you have to take the human into account when making design decisions.” (Joris Fonteijn, Chief Behavioral Officer at Crobox)


Persuasive design often requires a sound understanding of consumer and behavioral psychology. Read this post for a better understanding of the Fogg Behavioral Model (FBM) for persuasive design to get you started. 

In order to have a better understanding of why people respond to things in a certain way, and how to drive these responses with more ease, you will need to master the FBM and understand cognitive biases. 

Think about it this way:

You want to facilitate the online experience. But you also want to delight your customers and help them make better and quicker shopping decisions. 

To do this, you should understand that there are two ways consumers think, and how they make purchase decisions: System 1 and System 2 (Kahneman, Thinking Fast & Slow).  

  • System 1 is our quick, decision-making brain (i.e., flinching, clicking, laughing = heuristics that are driven by cognitive biases). 
  • System 2 is the reflective brain (i.e., solving equations, writing, planning a vacation). 

A good persuasive design strategy understands the cognitive biases that dominate our System 1 way of thinking and thus designs the UX accordingly. 

And you know what else? 

On average, $1 invested in UX brings $100 in return. Your shoppers’ attention span is so limited, and the competition is so fierce, that these tiny changes to your UX that appeal to System 1 and trigger your shoppers in positive ways will automatically generate the highest conversion rates. 


Is persuasive design ethical?


Before we jump in, let’s take a moment to address the elephant in the room. 

Is persuasive design ethical?

There are many ways of looking at it, but answering this question is important for your persuasive design strategy. There’s a fine line between manipulation and persuasion. But the line exists, and it’s important that we draw it.

Since we’re talking about eCommerce and retail design, persuasive design is ethical because we (and you) are operating within a free market. Nobody is forced to shop. We shop for either hedonic or utilitarian purposes but in either instance, it’s our choice. 

Persuasive design can only work if you are preserving the consumer’s ability to choose. 

If your UX is peppered with dark patterns that limit or hide the shopper’s freedom you won’t be successful. 

“There is no one effective design strategy. It’s always changing. But trust and your customers are the most important things.” (Joris, Crobox CBO)

Instead, the principles of persuasive design should:

  • Help your shoppers navigate their journey easily
  • Provide shoppers with nudges and extra information that preserve their freedom 
  • Direct users through the customer journey in a delightful way
  • Ultimately provide positive experiences of your webshop and brand 

These are the main reasons why implementing persuasive design is ethical. It should be about facilitating the decision-making process for your customers, whilst providing them with the most seamless service. 

Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s now talk about the best ways to approach your persuasive design strategy. 

How do you set up a persuasive design strategy for eCommerce?


I’m glad you asked! At Crobox we have the very best persuasive design experts. With backgrounds in psychology, behavioral economics, and eCommerce, they’ve been around the block when it comes to analyzing a webshop’s persuasiveness. 

And lucky for you, they’ve graciously imparted their wisdom to you. 

According to them, there are three basic rules you should follow when setting up a persuasive design strategy for eCommerce: 


Number One: a clean website and user journey is a must


First off, as we already mentioned, you need to start with a beautiful webshop design. Only then can you start adding elements of your persuasion. 


“For eCommerce, ease is the most persuasive element of design. By this, I mean easy to navigate, easy to find, and easy to look at.” (Patrick Oberstadt, Consumer Psychologist at Crobox)

These are essential elements of a clean website and successful UX that you need to be able to design persuasively:


1. Ease of navigation:


persuasive design from browsers to buyers

Source: Nudie Jeans co, filtering options by size in a visualized, clean way


  • Make sure your categories are in line with your offering: for example, male vs. female, laptops vs. headphones, books vs. magazines, etc.
  • Filtering options (by size, category, brand, color, fit, occasion).
  • If you have exit-intent overlays or smart notifications make sure they are subtle pop-ups that the customer is able to close (or they will interrupt the UX and be seriously annoying).
  • When something is out of stock, remove or replenish rather than leaving it hanging around (this is particularly frustrating if you have spent a while looking for a product only to see it doesn’t exist on the webshop anymore and you can’t order it). 


2. Ease of information:


persuasive design from browsers to buyers

Source: Burberry, clear product description with exact product dimensions pushing the coat’s special attributes. 


  • Make your product information readable with strong, relevant copy. 
  • Make it easy to find the subscription boxes for customers to sign-up.
  • Give clear shipping costs straight from the PLP or on the PDP.
  • Make sure your product photos are high-res.


3. Ease of checkout: 


persuasive design from browsers to buyers

Source: Nordstorm checkout places emphasis on security, shows cart in the sidebar, has a PayPal option, and clear delivery options and costs.  


  • Display trusted payment options.
  • Have the option to pay with multiple platforms or cards.
  • Make sure there are no hidden costs that will surprise the user at checkout.


It’s only when you have these fundamentals in place that you can start by adding your persuasive design elements. But you need to also check out your users’ pain points. 


Number Two: check for your conversion killers


You’ve cleaned up the customer journey and organized your webshop - it’s time to look into your conversion killers. 

Why are people dropping off here and there?  

Persuasive design can only work if you have a good understanding of what is hurting your customer journeys, where shoppers are dropping off, and where they aren’t performing the desired behavior.  

Some common UX pain points to look out for are:

  • Slow load time on pages
  • Navigation doesn’t flow
  • Product information doesn’t paint the whole picture
  • Shoppers can’t find the checkout button
  • Shoppers can’t close any pop-ups 
  • Shoppers drop-off when confronted with form fields 
  • No guest checkout 
  • Shoppers can’t find similar products
  • No access to customer service options

    persuasive design from browsers to buyers

Source: Next forces customers to sign-up in order to complete their purchase which may cause friction and drop-off


As you can see, conversion killers hurt the entire customer journey. Make sure you have these things fixed before implementing a persuasive design strategy. 


Number Three: think for the user


Furthermore, for persuasive design to work, our psychologists advise you to remember one important thing: you need to be empathetic. You need to put yourself in your consumers’ shoes and go through the customer journey in the mindset of your shoppers. 

“You need to be able to think for the user and translate information in moments when your users are most engaged.” (Joris, Crobox CBO) 

As a UX designer for eCommerce, one way to think like the user is to actually go through the full funnel from the homepage to lister to detail to checkout to thank you page, as if you’re looking for a product.  

Here’s an example of this kind of “expert review” of Zalando’s PLP and PDP, where thinking like the user will help you spot UX pain points and reveal areas that could be optimized for persuasive design. 

Persuasive Design Strategy in Action 


zalando persuasive design browsers to buyers


An expert review is when a UX designer will examine a webshop through the lens of behavioral psychology. This expert review was done by our own consumer psychologist at Crobox, Patrick. His process is as follows: he puts himself in the shoes of a Zalando shopper who is looking for a product. 

From there, he moves through the customer journey and sees which places are strong in their persuasive design, and where there are gaps for improvement.

We conduct this kind of expert review for all our clients, usually taking into account all landing pages in the journey. This example will focus on the PLP and PDP.  


Persuasive Design Example: Zalando’s PLP Strengths


1. Sorting and Filtering 


Zalando gives their shoppers access to sorting and filtering options which is a fundamental first step to establishing a clean webshop design - remember your Number One rule?  

Giving access to these options will also help reduce Choice Overload: the psychology that more choice = decision stress. So sorting and filtering are both necessity and persuasive design elements that work well on Zalando’s PLP. 


2. Cognitive Fluency 


Another thing that works well is Zalando’s consistent use of backgrounds and angles. Consistency keeps the website calm, which means that it becomes easier to process the page, which feels better for the user. 

This is the psychology of Cognitive Fluency at work. Incorporate this onto your own webshop as both a UX design rule and as a persuasive design strategy to make things both easier and more enjoyable for your customers. 


3. Product Badges


Labeling your product with badges shows additional information about an item that will make it more interesting to a shopper. 

For Zalando, they have the product badge “New” and “Sustainable”. Shoppers who convert based on “New” can be further placed into a psychographic segment of people who respond to Novelty as this is a behavioral principle that will say a lot about who your costumes are. 

Other behavioral principles that you can base your product badges on are Authority, i.e., “Staff Picked”, or Scarcity, i.e., “Last One”. 


zalando persuasive design browsers to buyers


The “Sustainable” product badge will help to optimize future campaigns targeting consumers who converted on Zalando’s webshop based on this product badge. 

persuasive design browsers to buyers-1Product badges are a great persuasive design strategy - these will help highlight what is most relevant about the products according to different customer segments

So, if the segment “UK coming from email and browsing on mobile” is most attracted to “Sustainable” tags, you can deliver them with more optimized communication that highlights other sustainable attributes as shown in the graphic above.  


4. Pricing Psychology 


Drawing from psychological pricing theory and techniques, Zalando shows a small price in front of the product, which actually makes the price seem smaller too. This is often why Amazon prices are so small for expensive products. 

Don’t believe me? Check out Nick Kolenda’s review of Amazon’s persuasive design strategy. 

They do everything in line with consumer psychology - from the way they position products, to their use of white space. 

amazon persuasive design browsers to buyers


But while Amazon has a large market share, I would still suggest that aside from personalization, their webshop fails to delight individual customers. For persuasive design to really resonate, you should be looking at how to tailor the experience in a beautiful way for each person. 

Room for Improvement 


zalando persuasive design browsers to buyers

1. Social Proof 


Like with all reviews of the PLP, your persuasive design review should look for ways to optimize the page experience with psychological triggers. 

For example, showing the number of likes the products have will induce Social Proof that the product is actually very popular. 

Zalando already has the small heart icon atop their product images, but they could go one step further to make the product appealing by showing how many times the heart has been clicked. 


2. Dynamic Badging 


Since we are big believers in the power of the Dynamic Badge nudge, we think Zalando could go one step further in their persuasive design using this strategy. 

Badges are used as a passive way of showing information. But imagine you could make these more engaging! 


Zalando filter sustainability persuasive designFor now, Zalando have the option to filter by sustainability, but they could go one step further and make dynamic badges more interactive


For example, make a badge clickable and turn it into a filter. So using Zalando’s “Sustainability” badge as an example, if you clicked on it, you could have the whole PLP automatically filtered on all sustainable products form that category. 

You could also let your shoppers simply hover over a badge to get more information as to why it was shown in the first place. We created an example for IKEA that could look something like this:


IKEA powered by Crobox persuasive design

IKEA shows product badges, but what if when you hovered over them they showed you why they were there, with the option of asking the consumer if the badge was helpful or not (to see if the experiment worked, and what badges actually drive behavior for people).


3. Product Attributes 


Currently, Zalando tests product badges for persuasive messaging. But if they could test attribute messaging, then this could go a long way from the “Sustainability” tag. 

What product attributes are most interesting to the customer will give Product Intelligence back to the retailer, like testing badges such as, “Reflective”, “Waterproof”, or “Organic Materials”. 

Product intelligence is a good way to work within data protection privacy, making the UX a product-driven customer experience. If you can test which attributes drive purchase behavior for which segments, you can tailor entire campaigns around, for example, your “Waterproof” lines, products, or brand direction. 

Persuasive Design Example: Strengths of Zalando’s PDP

Zalandos PDP persuasive design review


1. Consistency 


One strength of a well designed UX is consistency. Zalando has got this one right - they show consistent badges on the PDP that we saw were shown on the lister page. This shows that the attribute is, in fact, part of the product. 


2. Catering to Your Audience


Another way they have a consistent persuasive design is that they provide detailed attention to sustainability in their overall communication. This caters to the needs of their audience who are looking for sustainable products. 


3. Shipping Transparency 


What’s more, Zalando places a transparent shipping icon that is easy to see and shows exactly the information the customer will need before checking out. 

Nudges are a good way to reveal information, preserve the shopper’s choice, and drive conversions. 

5. Descriptions


Having elaborate or detailed product descriptions is an important persuasive design element of the PDP. But the strategy here will differ if you are a brand or a marketplace. Zalando’s way of doing it is great as they are a marketplace: it’s clear, descriptive, and the customer gets exactly the information they need. 

On the other hand, a strong product description for a brand will shine with the brand’s tone-of-voice, and maybe even tell a story like this Hermes example:


Hermes persuasive design product descriptions


They preserve their branding voice, whilst giving all the necessary details of the product. Plus, they leverage the Endowment Effect with haptic imagery to make the product feel like it already belongs to the shopper, with a whole story behind the singular scarf.


Room for Improvement 

Zalandos PDP persuasive design review


1. Reviews 


Although Zalando’s persuasive PDP design does more right than wrong, there’s always room for improvement. 

For example, Zalando would benefit by placing more emphasis on reviews. Other consumers can give insights into your products that your potential shoppers would love to see before making an investment and purchasing a product. 

Often, people trust peers more than they trust organizations. Zalando would do well to leverage this psychology by adding reviews on their PDP. 


2. Give consumers a voice 


Zalando could also benefit by giving their consumers a voice about the attributes, persuasive elements, or other details that they most care about. By making them vote for specific attributes or elements that they find most important, they can show the retailer what to focus on for badging, or omnichannel campaigns.  


3. Social Proof 


Again, another persuasive design element that would reinforce Zalando’s UX would be Social Proof. 

This time, however, Zalando could show that the product is trending or popular. Consumers might like these shoes but could still be looking for confirmation that it’s a cool shoe. Here, likes would be a strong motivator for people that don’t want to stand out. 

The best example of a webshop leveraging Social Proof on their PDP with excellence is from Glossier:


Glossier PDP persuasive design browsers to buyers


With their “Top-Rated” badge, 2000+ reviews, and best reviews visible below the product description, this is a great way to see Social Proof at work. In general, you could learn a lot from Glossier’s PDP persuasive design. 



Persuasive design can optimize every page of your webshop. If you have a solid persuasive design strategy in place, you’ll engender the best customer experiences.

But don’t just take it from me. Take it from the experts.  

Your brand will be recognized, loved, and shared. Your products will provide a necessity, whilst fulfilling a need in your customers’ life. 

Having a beautiful webshop is the first step. The cherry on top is your persuasive design strategy with nudge marketing that will make your webshop relevant.

To give you more in-depth reviews, our persuasion experts have created a list of the top most persuasive webshops!


persuasion trend CTA