I love to ski. Maybe it is the feeling of freedom, the speed, or the cold. Or maybe it is the ability to mimic the feeling of flying—even getting some “air” at times. What I don’t love is when the snow is thick and wet—during the spring, typically—when my skis suddenly slow or even stop as they hit a slushy spot.
That is, I don’t like friction.
In general, friction isn’t popular. Think of all the innovations that inventors have developed to reduce friction—lubricants, sanders, pavers, ball bearings—the list goes on. Think about how the shapes of everyday items have changed over time—the ‘boxiness’ of cars in the 1970s has evolved to today’s streamlined, rounded, sporty crossover.
So, it is no surprise that when customers are in the market for an item—whether online or offline—that they also don’t want to encounter friction.
Where can friction occur?
The first place that customers encounter friction is in their initial search. They type some key words into Google or Amazon and get…nothin’, nada, nyet. The receive pages and pages of results that are not of interest.
Suppose they do receive some relevant results. The next place they can encounter friction is in the product information they are viewing. If it is incomplete, inaccurate, or basically not helpful, their quest to purchase has once again been thwarted.
Another area of friction can be in the shopping cart/purchase process itself. If shipping and return information is inaccurate or hard to find, or if it is difficult to modify the shopping cart, customers may become frustrated and abandon the site altogether.
If your objective is to provide a frictionless, streamlined purchase process for your customers, you must first ensure that you and your products can be found. Do your research so that you are correctly categorizing and describing your products the way your customers do. Don’t assume that the way you organize your customers in your warehouse is the way that your customers think about your products. Make sure you are using the key words and taxonomy from the customer’s point of view.
Next, get your product information in order. That means ensuring that every product tells a compelling story with accurate and concise descriptions, imagery, and supporting data. This requires what we call a “content creation factory,” a process—with supporting tools—that ensures that the product content you are serving up is relevant, timely, and complete.
Last, don’t make it so hard for people to buy from you! There are now so many ways to pay and so many channels where your products can appear. Strategically select the methods and channels which are valued by your customers. Then, streamline the process and make sure that shopping cart and other buying processes are clear and well-documented.
Join the innovators who have worked so hard to alleviate friction in our world. In the meantime, let it snow!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Marketing Manager, inRiver