While I’m not one for dressing up especially, I do appreciate a fancy frock… and I appreciate a fancy website even more!

Rent the Runway, in a nutshell, offers an online clothing-hire service based in the US. The designer pieces – typically reserved for celebrities and the fashion elite – are made available to all online shoppers without them having to actually buy them. Users choose a dress, it’s sent to them, they wear it, and then send it back.

The business model’s appeal (hiring an outfit for a special occasion, rather than forking out a small fortune on clothing that’ll only see the light of day a handful of times) is clear to most, but for those that still aren’t convinced, Rent the Runway is rocking some serious persuasion methods.

1. Reciprocity

If someone does something nice for you, you want to return the favour

Rent the Runway offer visitors to their site money off immediately:

Rent The Runway - reciprocity - browser media

The principle of giving something away before you ask for anything has been proven to encourage people to commit and convert due to feeling they must return the favour. An almost free (users do need to sign up first) discount will encourage them to spend more.

2. Scarcity

We want what we can’t have

When users have chosen an item to hire, they must reserve it via an expanding calendar:

Rent The Runway - reserve item - browser media

However, after selecting the size(s) they’re looking for, the calendar blocks out the dates should the item be unavailable. The unavailable dates on garments serve to show when they can reserve the item, but it also shows when you can’t.

Available dates on the calendar

Although Rent the Runway must restrict the availability by communicating when an item’s fully booked, it does add a sense of urgency. ‘Course, if the dates don’t match, there’s not a lot that can be done… except offer similar pieces. Which they do via ‘You may also like’:

You may also like - rent the runway

3. Salience

Our attention is drawn to that which is most relevant to us

Rent the Runway does category pages really well. They’re uncluttered and simple, allowing the clothing to take centre stage and when users mouse-over an image, not only does the image fade to a model wearing it (to offer an example of how it looks on), but after 3 seconds the angle changes to show the front, back and side before returning to the original image:

example of different angles in rent the runway's category page

Having a model wearing an outfit gives the opportunity to add other items. Items that users may also wish to add to their chosen outfit:

complete the look with rent the runway

Also, there’s an option to go “PRO” by signing up and paying a membership fee of $29.95 a year. The value of this is highlighted by telling users they save at least $14.95 on every rental (therefore showing the membership effectively pays for itself after two rentals) and they get a free rental for their birthday. Way tempting, even to a frock-phobe like myself!

Rent the runway's go PRO offering

4. Social proof

We look to others for advice when we’re not sure how to act

I love me some social proof and Rent the Runway provides a great example. The alternate images on the category pages are also available on the product pages themselves for some super zoom-action, but wait, what’s that in the bottom corner there?

rent the runway's customer photos image

Why, it’s the customer photos. Clicking the image brings up a light box with photos submitted by people who’ve previously worn the garment.

rent the runway's social proof in action

Not only that, they can submit their vital statistics such as height, weight and body shape as well as the size they wore, the size they usually wear and the occasion they wore the item to.

Although the depth and detail of the review depends on the individual contributor, this type of feedback provides readers with a story to relate to. Stories are a cracking persuasive element in their own right, but with the photos and the stats, it just adds another, more helpful, dimension.

5. Framing

We respond to choices and comparisons in different ways depending on how they’re presented

Although a subtle one, Rent the Runway use framing on their product pages when communicating the rental and purchase price of an item. This actually works in two ways: Users can see what a bargain they’re getting by renting the piece for a fraction of the full cost, but they are also informed (and therefore tempted!) to buy it as well/instead:

rent the runway's rental vs purchase price

Using persuasion effectively on your own site

In order to optimise your site to increase conversions online, you’re going to need to understand – and then master – the art of persuasion as Rent the Runway has. Testing and incorporating the principles above is critical to your website’s success, and plays an integral part in an altogether outstanding user experience.

We’d love to hear your hints and tips for optimising the user experience on your own site, but for more information about how we can complement your inbound marketing by using the principles of persuasion, get in touch.