Why eCommerce Friction is (Sometimes) a Good Thing

By David DeCorte

The holidays are right around the corner, which means it’s prime-time for shopping, both in-store and online.

So, when you see more traffic coming your way, what’s the instinctive response? If you’re like most retailers, the number one answer is to reduce friction in the customer experience. However, it may not really be that simple.

Let’s take a closer look at eCommerce friction and see if there is a better answer to the question.

What is Friction?

In the most general sense, the customer journey begins with awareness of a product, and ends with a purchase.

“Friction” describes any point during that journey at which customers experience resistance. It can be a complicated checkout process, requiring customers to create an account before making a purchase, or broken features on your website or app. In any case, friction is a barrier to your customer completing a purchase.

Here’s the rub: you can never completely get rid of transactional friction. Every business has certain friction points that are innate and unavoidable. For example, you must collect a customer’s shipping and billing information before you can call an online purchase complete. It’s friction, yes, but it’s impossible—at least for now—to do business without these crucial steps.

Obviously, we tend to think of friction as a bad thing. After all, you don’t want to make your customers work harder than necessary to give you money. Instead, you want to remove as many barriers as possible between your customers and your products.

Thousands of retailers have introduced practices like recalling shopping history, saving payment information, and one-click checkout as means to reduce friction and drive conversion. These techniques can help oil the wheels and make your processes more customer-friendly. But that said, I want to throw out an idea that might seem a little counterintuitive at first: not all friction is necessarily bad.

When Friction is Actually a Positive

A shopping environment with a lot of friction can deter buyers. At the same time, an environment with too much focus on reducing friction can create unanticipated vulnerabilities for you and your customers.

First, reducing some barriers to complete a purchase opens the possibility for fraudsters to attack you. Lower standards for front-end verification, for example, will obviously correlate to more fraud exposure. You could end up with a wave of cardholders filing chargebacks because you accepted transactions from a fraudulent user.

That one’s pretty obvious, but there are other points in the customer experience where some friction isn’t a bad thing. For example, a verification page during the checkout process is friction, but it serves a valuable purpose (asking customers to verify that all product, shipping, and billing information is correct). The amount of friction that step generates is less detrimental than the potential consequences of doing without.

Making your customer experience genuinely “frictionless” can both incentivize bad customer behavior and create unreasonable customer expectations. Buyers get used to the idea that they can dictate the terms of the customer experience. They start to feel they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. The result: …read more

Read more here:: B2CMarketingInsider

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