So, what is friction?
Friction is any activity that makes the purchasing process more mentally difficult than it needs to be. Every bit of friction gives shoppers and consumers one more reason to drop away from your brand...
Let's take a look at 3 quick examples:
- Having to get in touch to ask a simple question - “Having to make a call to get an answer to those questions is an extra step too far” - Facebook’s Head of Agency in Asia Pacific, Neil Stewart.
- Going through complicated payment processes - "Consumers are in search of better ecommerce infrastructure to save time on shopping itself" - Choi Woo Jung, Vice President, SSG E-commerce
- Experiencing poor after-sale service can all lead to consumers taking their business elsewhere - 80% of consumers consider the experience a business provides to be as crucial as its actual goods or services, according to the 2016 State of the Connected Customer report from Salesforce.
Closely tied to Processing Fluency, friction in your customer journey essentially makes processes more complex than necessary and ultimately leads potential customers to ditch your brand for another that is much easier to access.
The good news is that for every bit of frustration your customers experience there is an opportunity for you to fix it and improve your processes.
We've identified 3 major areas where brands are getting it wrong...
- Firstly, they don't truly understand their customers;
- Secondly, they're not looking at the root causes of friction and identifying opportunities;
- Thirdly, companies don't have a clear strategy on how to actually remove friction points even if they do identify them!
The impact of friction in your buying process
According to Zero Risk Future, barriers along the consumer journey are costing businesses in Asia-Pacific $325 billion a year in revenue loss. When purchase friction points are not dealt with, consumers lose trust, prospective clients divert attention and billions of dollars in potential revenue are lost.
What if, instead of turning away potential customers because of friction, businesses could improve their brand performance by removing friction?
Your company's revenue would increase as frustrated prospects became happy customers. And what if this same philosophy could be applied to the other touchpoints in your business? Would you enjoy even greater success?
For example, what if your sales team could get more leads just by making their prospecting efforts easier? What about increasing conversion rates of website visitors into buyers through frictionless processes?
By removing mental friction at every stage of the customer journey you will achieve better brand performance. And yet only a minority of businesses are currently doing this, which leaves a huge opportunity for companies to improve their brand performance and gain a competitive advantage.
So, how do we remove friction, I hear you ask! In 3 simple steps...
1. Understanding your customer
Understanding your customer is crucial to target them effectively; knowing the psychological needs and desires of your customers will allow you to target them with specific messages and processes.
You can also use this understanding to better empathise with their situation and make changes in order to improve their experience.
A good way of doing this is by conducting market and category research. This helps you identify what your customer wants which may not be something that you are aware of, but once provided, it could be invaluable for driving conversions.
Understanding the mind of your customer won't just help increase sales, but also increase brand loyalty, as customers who feel valued will stick around longer than those who don't. They're also more likely to recommend your brand to a friend, thus increasing brand advocacy.
2. Identifying the root causes of friction and opportunities for improvements
Once you have an understanding of your customer's psychological needs and desires, it is crucial to identify what potential mental barriers exist between them and fulfilling those needs/desires through your brand.
You might want to consider asking current customers for honest feedback (avoid focus groups) about your brand. When conducting this type of research, it is important to go beyond what participants say, and get to what they really mean, psychologically. Research has shown that customers are more than willing to share their heartfelt experiences with brands, especially if they are incentivised.
This feedback will give a true insight into the experience of those customers who have persevered through friction points and will give a clear understanding of what, specifically, can be improved about your processes.
By identifying these points early on, you open yourself up to opportunities where changes can be made to provide solutions that should eliminate or minimise the friction that exists within your organisation. The result will be increased productivity, efficiency and profitability for any organisation that has taken this approach.
3. Implement a strategy to remove friction
The final step to removing friction is to have a strategy in place and actually follow it!
All too often we see brands conduct a little research, claim to have found a solution but fail on its implementation because the organisation isn't aligned or there are no clear goals. To successfully remove friction, a brand needs a plan of action with a clear, concise delivery plan to show how success will be measured.
Having a target in place is key because it forces your organisation to focus on the things that matter most and removes distraction from non-core activities that only add more friction.
But creating a strategy is harder than it sounds. That's why we've created a free brand communications review that will provide you with immediate, actionable insights and a 12-month action plan, should you desire it!
We've amassed over 1500 assessment points to score a brand's effectiveness and can tailor a bespoke strategy for any brand looking to analyse, evaluate and remove friction from its processes.
The road to removing friction
Despite what you may think, reducing friction is not a one-time fix - it should be an ongoing process.
Ideally, companies should "re-evaluate their real or potential friction points every three months because of the changing nature of consumers’ latent needs, the endless opportunities to continually reduce friction and constant market competition" according to Mr Choudhury, Partner and Head of Consumer and Retail Practice in Southeast Asia at BCG.
He goes on to say: “You may have established a company three months ago, but you’re going to be challenged by one that’s been established today. Every company is being challenged on consumer experience by start-ups and agile players."
Reducing friction requires more than a set-and-forget approach, and those who invest the time and energy will be rewarded with dramatic results.
The key to reducing friction is to connect with the minds of shoppers and consumers where they are already; online and offline.
Shoppers today want a seamless journey from start to finish, and they're quick to move to another brand if a website takes too long to load, contains invalid links or displays an un-intuitive user interface.
Despite the complexities of the online world, it is also in these spaces that consumers are open to purchasing recommendations through targeted and personalised content, opening vast opportunities to perform heads and shoulders above your competition.
Ensuring that an online advertisement leads seamlessly into a dedicated landing page with a clear call-to-action and customer support chat available ensures potential customers have an answer to any question instantaneously and are quickly moved along the purchasing journey. Having this infrastructure in place increases conversion rate.
Companies must make themselves more customer-centric by providing convenience, consistency, and reliable service through the use of psychology and technology will be rewarded with loyal customers who continue to purchase their products or services because they deliver what is expected at every touchpoint in the customer journey.
The company can then experience a significant return on investment as it continually improves its brand positioning based to meet customer needs and further reduce friction. This cycle encourages higher levels of engagement among customers, which leads to greater conversions over time, leading to increased revenue opportunities.