Written by Desmond Ekeh | BrandiQ
The ultimate goal of a digital marketer is to consciously lead a customer, through a, sometimes, long winding and laborious journey, to a conversion goal – which most times equates to a purchase decision. This customer journey that takes place on the website demands that the marketer understands not just the customer’s behaviour, but also the character of the website to be able to accomplish her task. Unfortunately, most marketers are not aware of the conscious and unconscious frictions that lie along the path of their websites that hinder most of their visitors from making a conversion goal decision. In this article, we explore the insights of Roger Dooley of CXL Institute to highlight the presence of these frictions and how to eliminate them from the website, to make it easy for the customer to slide smoothly through to a conversion goal decision.
In my previous article, we discussed the concept of gravity, nudge, and angle, to illustrate how a marketer feeds on a customer’s motivation to lead her excitedly to a conversion goal decision. Notice how children playing on a game of Slide glide smoothly from the top to the bottom. They glide with little effort because there are no frictions on the Slide, and the Angle is right to ensure that the glide is enjoyable. This is the case with a customer’s visit to a website. Without friction, the customer who is already on gravity – motivation – could be nudged to glide through the website to conclude a customer journey. What if the website has frictions? And yes, most do. Then, that would pose a challenge. That is why there is $4.6 million worth of goods abandoned in the shopping cart. Frictions abound on most e-commerce websites, and the abandonment of products in a shopping cart is the consequence.
Typically, there are two main kinds of frictions – conscious frictions and unconscious frictions – otherwise referred to, in ordinary language, as real and perceived difficulties in getting things done on the site. Dooley affirms that real frictions are things such as the number of fields in a form, the steps in a check-out process, instructions that visitors have to read, confusion in any aspect of the conversion process, etc. Whereas, perceived or unconscious frictions are found more in cognitive fluency
On July 22, 2020, this writer experienced real friction in trying to access the website of a UK University. Generally, I consider UK university websites very friendly and easy to navigate, especially when compared with Nigerian and Germany University websites (no insult intended). In the case of this particularly premium UK varsity, the fields were unnecessarily laborious. A concrete instance was in the entry of age. After completing the fields for name, surname, telephone, and email, the next field was age. The age draw-down was such that the visitor has to scroll from the year 2020 down to her particular day, month, and year of birth. After several tries, even though I was motivated, I had to abandon the attempt since I would be unable to continue the process until I have passed that difficult field. I just left the site and do not have any intention of going back there again. This is what we mean by real or conscious friction. I encounter such frictions over and over again on different sites. For most Germany and Nigerian university sites, I find it difficult to navigate them, with contents written in tiny prints coupled with dull look and feel. To mitigate site frictions, or eliminate them, bright colours and bold fonts could be very helpful. Moreover, you cannot go wrong with images. Show images and use bold prints. Also, avoid cluttering the site with so much information such that it becomes difficult for the visitor to locate what he needs from the site. A website is like a house, it has to be properly located, and the contents inside the house need to be properly arranged, to enable the visitor to easily and quickly locate what she wants. Remember JB Fogg’s theory of motivation. The visitor has motivation, but you need to give her the ability to trigger her decision. Unfortunately, my experiences of those sites influence my opinion of the institutions or companies involved.
Truly, frictions on a site could demoralize a motivated visitor. Dooley cited his own experiences – “I received an email that says ‘’Here’s an article you might find interesting,’’ and I looked at the title of the article and it didn’t look like something I’d want to read. So I clicked on the email link, but I did not get the article. Instead, I got this form with about a dozen form fields in it. And not only did it have a large number of fields, but they were confusing fields. They were things like, “do you currently have a solution? When will you invest in the solution?” According to him, he does not even understand what solution they were talking about. All he wanted to do was to read the interesting article as advertised on the site. Possibly, he left the site upset. This is real friction.
The danger with these frictions is that they do not only debar the marketer from converting the visitor, they also give the visitor bad experiences that cause them not to visit the site again. By not visiting the site again, the marketer loses customers and the opportunity to make sales. Now, let us take the case of Staples – known for investing in easy buttons. Dooley had a positive customer experience with them. He found a product on their site and dumped it into the shopping cart and went to the checkout process – since he knew that if he ordered it online he would have it easily delivered to him next day on free delivery. In this, he had good experience. There was no friction. He was on gravity based on his motivation, so a nudge and great angle without friction glided him to a complete purchase journey that led into conversion.
As a digital marketer, the consequences of clogging your site with friction could be detrimental to your business. Remember the story of children playing on the Slide. Surely, a Slide that is not lubricated, filled with the wrong angle occasioned by frictions will certainly lead to accidents, instead of glide to safety and excitement. According to Jeff Bezos, “When you reduce friction, when you make it easy, people will do more of it.” This logic accentuates Amazon’s business principles. Reducing friction is so important that Google had to go out of their way to make Autocomplete work in Chrome, and they have specifically said that their “objective with Autocomplete is to reduce friction.”
Passwords and Captchas
Another source of friction is security passwords. The fear of website hacks has made some marketers line their sites with security checks. Consequently, this has made some sites difficult to navigate, with all sorts of frictions. For instance, there are issues of passwords and captchas. Some sites demand that the visitor inputs her password to enable her to gain entry to the site. Sometimes the passwords are difficult to remember; moreover, they also, on many occasions, expire so soon – especially those that cannot be saved by the browser. Just like passwords, captchas on a website could also pose challenges for visitors to the site. Marketers want to prevent bots from filling forms on their sites, however, if the captchas are extremely difficult for the visitors, they will prevent the visitors from entering the sites. This becomes heavy friction that can cause the marketer huge loss in business. This writer has abandoned many sites as a result of the difficulty to pass through the captcha barricade. One study, according to Dooley, confirmed that most people give up after about 10 seconds of trying image captchas. JB Foggs, an expert in motivation says “Don’t focus on trying to increase the customer’s motivation to do things. Instead, just focus on making it easier to do.” The frictions mentioned above are some conscious and real frictions easily observable by the marketer and the visitor. These frictions are real and prevent your site from moving forward in the funnel. There are others that are unconscious and referred to as perceived difficulties. They are:
Imagining Friction/Cognitive Fluency
Imaginary or perceived frictions are not easily noticeable by both the marketer and the visitor. But the damage it inflicts on the conversion optimization process is immense. They have to do with cognitive fluency. Cognitive fluency is human tendencies to prefer things that are familiar and easy to understand. One easy example is words that are difficult to pronounce. Drugs that are difficult to pronounce are considered more dangerous with side effects compared to drugs that have names that are easy to pronounce. Adam Alter, a behavioural scientist conducted an unwitting A/B test study on a confession site where people go to confess anonymously about horrible things they did to other people. They changed the site design. They went from a hard to read the disfluent site, which had a kind of white colour type on a dark background to a much easier to read site of black on the white type. The result after data analysis was that the fluent site which was easier to read produced more revealing posts. People were more willing to give up their dark secrets when the site was easier to use.
Another experiment was on two relatively similar phones. Half of the people saw the description of the phone in an easy to read font. Under this condition, only 17 were unable to make a choice or decision. The other half saw it in a hard to read embossed italics font but still perfectly legible. Under that condition, 40% of the people could not make a choice or decision.
For the digital marketer, the website means everything and conversion optimization is a crucial eCommerce process. So much depends on the website and the process for the marketer to be successful. Much attention should be paid on the website and the conversion optimization process. One of the fundamental aspects of the website is to keep it free of frictions. All forms of frictions – conscious and unconscious – must be eliminated to ensure that the site operates on an optimum customer conversion wheel. This way the marketer will be successful in her business and the goal of the website and the conversion optimization process achieved.
Desmond Ekeh, is a PR consultant, digital marketing professional, and researcher in media and communication.