In the modern world, the customer experience has to be as smooth and easy as possible.
People today have come to expect immediacy. The internet has spoiled us — we’re used to getting what we want in a splinter of a second, and we simply won’t tolerate any delay or difficulty.
If customers encounter any kind of resistance on their path to purchase, there’s a good chance they’ll leave the process and never return.
For businesses, this is a challenge. To make sales, they need to eliminate anything that might get in the way of a customer and their purchase.
In this article, we’ll look at the idea of friction and how it’s every business’s worst nightmare. Then we’ll show you overcome it and ensure nothing stands between your customers and a sale.
What is Friction?
Friction is anything that gets in the way of a potential customer and their purchase. Your customers should have the smoothest possible path to buying, from the first time visiting your website to putting their autograph under the contract. Anything that makes that journey more difficult is friction.
Several things can cause friction. Here are some common factors:
- Slow websites and long loading times;
- Clunky design, making it challenging to navigate your website and take action;
- Canceled meetings;
- Inconsistent messaging, creating confusion about your brand’s identity and failing to build a clear relationship with the customer.
- Irrelevant information.
Why You Should Strive for Frictionfree
Friction is every business’s worst enemy. One of your top priorities should be to eliminate friction as much as possible when it comes to sales and marketing.
Frictionless buying experiences are crucial because:
- They build a better relationship with your customers and show your business in a more positive light.
- They save money. The opportunity cost of e-commerce friction in the UK alone is 36 billion GBP. If you can eliminate that friction, you’ll make a serious saving.
- They’re the best way to achieve revenue growth by maximizing the number of prospects who become paying customers.
So how do you do it? There are several ways you can minimize friction and create a seamless buying journey for your customers.
1. Match Experience to Expectation
Customers enter the buying journey with an expectation about what will happen.
This expectation can come from a variety of places. It might be based on your content that they’ve previously read, their experience with your brand in the past, a specific offer they’ve seen, or a particular ad they’ve clicked.
Your job is to match the next part of the buying experience with this expectation as closely as possible. For example, if someone found your company through a blog post, their buying experience should follow on from that post in some way.
To achieve this, your content, marketing, sales, and onboarding should align and be consistent. Link all your content and advertising to your business’s central themes, so your customers can move seamlessly from one stage to the next. (PS: This is also why we create personas and value propositions in a single exercise, rather than seeing it as a separate tool. More on that in a future article.)
2. Be Accessible
Slow, clunky websites cost money. A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7%. That’s a massive hit for just a fraction of a second.
If your site, emails, and content are loading slowly, this is an enormous source of friction.
Likewise, if your site is confusingly designed, difficult to move around, and full of errors, it will also create friction and drive visitors away long before they can become customers.
In the age of the internet, people have come to expect immediate, perfectly seamless experiences. If they don’t immediately get that, they’ll simply leave.
How can you avoid that?
- Make your website as fast as possible. Pay a web design professional to ensure everything is optimally smooth.
- Invest in good UX design to make sure your site is as user-friendly as it can be. Test your designs rigorously with real users.
- Make the site consistent. If a button says ‘pay now,’ it should take users to a payment interface.
- Don’t have people wait a few minutes before you reply in your live chat.
- If you have a ‘request a callback’ call-to-action on your website, make sure you call back quickly. Calling back the next day is too late.
3. Understand your Customers
Understanding your customers is a fundamental part of marketing and sales. It’s essential if you want to eliminate friction.
You need to get to know your customers and what they want so you can deliver on those desires, solve their problems, and build a relationship with them.
It is the only way to create a customer experience with minimal friction. So how can you get to know your customers better?
- Use surveys and questionnaires. You can share these on all your channels.
- Spend time on forums related to your industry. Read and join discussions and ask questions.
- Use social media to share polls and questions. Join relevant groups and take part in discussions. Observe the common problems and pain points people have.
- Don’t just focus on demographics, firmographics, or behaviors. Look for psychographic data as well.
- Email your audience and ask questions directly.
- Talk to your customers in person, via phone calls or at conferences and other industry events.
- And, last but not least: analyze your data. Pro-tip: Use a k-means clustering algorithm to discover segments in your CRM.
Understanding your customers more intimately will allow you to create frictionless experiences for them — boosting sales and strengthening your relationships.
4. Understand the Customer Journey
It’s essential to do this before you begin your marketing & sales efforts. Think about what kind of channels you want to use in the customer journey (emails, social media, blog posts, demos) and how each will nudge the customer toward a purchase.
At each stage, think about friction. Anticipate your customer’s every move and remove any obstacles that might get in their way.
Eliminate Unnecessary Steps
The buying process should always be as straightforward and streamlined as possible. Any extra unnecessary steps are an obstacle to this and must be removed.
If your customer wants to purchase at any point, this option should be available, and it should be as easy as possible. As an example, we didn’t use eSignatures from the beginning. Our customers had to print the proposal, sign it, scan it, and send it back. It was a horrible process. It’s a small task for us to get this unnecessary work fixed with eSignatures, but it makes life a lot easier for our buyer.
By eliminating friction and building a smoother customer experience, you’ll drive up revenue growth, and everyone wins.
In a future article, we’ll focus on how eliminating friction lets you retain revenue and prevent churn.
Bonus: Friction & the HubSpot flywheel
At INBOUND18, HubSpot’s founders introduced the ‘flywheel’ as a replacement for the funnel.
Now, I’m not a big fan of that model because I find it not very practical. However, illustration and conversation guider. One other thing that HubSpot did well in choosing this model is the way a flywheel works. The amount of energy it stores depends on how fast it spins, its size, and the amount of friction it encounters.
In this video, HubSpot executives give some more context on the friction element.