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Five Friction Forces Impacting Your Customers' Digital Experiences

Understanding how these five forces affect customers transacting on your website or mobile app is critical to creating frictionless digital experiences that drive customer trust and loyalty. 

Did you know there are five themes that influence the user experience and can drive conversion? Friction can appear in unique ways for any of these five.

Omnichannel and online businesses constantly try to improve their digital presence and attract and retain more customers. This means not only creating visually appealing websites and apps but also ensuring that they are functional and user-friendly, which should translate to more conversions.

However, five critical factors can hinder conversion rates and create friction in your customer's digital experience. We like to call these the five friction forces.

The five friction forces are:

  • Marketing
  • Seasonality
  • Usability and Functionality
  • Aesthetics
  • Speed

Failing to grasp the importance of these five forces while attempting to identify and address friction can result in your development team wasting efforts to fix problems that may have little to no impact on performance or business results.

Let's break these down and discuss how they impact your site and app performance. And more importantly, what actions to take to improve your business outcomes.

Marketing and Seasonality: Twin Forces that Impact Conversions 

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If you see a drop in conversions, start with the obvious: was there a drop in traffic as well? A decrease in traffic might result from a change or problem in your marketing efforts—for example, did your ad spend fall or a search engine change its algorithms suddenly—or it could simply be a matter of demand dropping.

Seasonality greatly influences demand and customers' needs and preferences. For example, leading up to the end of the year, there is often an eCommerce sales slump after the holidays. Consumer budgets are tapped, and holiday hype has exerted itself.

Or how about the sudden increase in volume a health insurer sees when Open Enrollment periods begin on November 1st versus Open Enrollment closes on December 15th. There are natural seasonality periods that ebb and flow throughout the year.

Drops in traffic, whether driven by marketing or seasonality, will reduce the number of conversions on your digital properties. 

Site Quality: The Silent Killer of Conversions

Website quality includes aesthetics, usability, and functionality.

Once users land on your website or app, the friction forces, Usability and Functionality, and Aesthetics come into play. A visually appealing design can draw them in and create a positive first impression. But if the site is challenging to navigate or lacks functionality, the experience can quickly turn sour.

So, what's the difference between Usability and Functionality, and Aesthetics? They might sound like different words that mean the same thing, but not when it comes to digital experiences.

However, changes to any or all of these factors will also change the shape of the conversion, average order value, bounce, and exit curves.

Let's break down each of these so you can easily see why a change could impact performance:

1. Usability and Functionality refer to how easy it is for a person to navigate and complete a transaction on your website or app.

When a person encounters a usability problem—from content failing to display on the page, inability to enter or select drop-down data while completing a form, overlapping content that blocks the ability to read or complete a form, unclear messages preventing the user from resolving errors—it creates friction that can lead to the visitor abandoning your site.

In businesses where competitors offer similar offerings, you can lose the sale in seconds to a competitor with a more usable site. If switching costs are high, you create dissatisfaction that can translate to losing customers over time.

Marketers continually look for ways to add functions that improve conversions, from image zooming to shopping guides to calculators. While those functions might improve the shopping experience, some added functions, like product recommendations and personaliztion, can slow response times or create errors that inhibit user experience and decrease conversions.

2. Aesthetics refers to the visual appearance and appeal of your site or app.

Studies have shown that people form a reliable impression of a website and the company behind it in as little as 50 milliseconds after the page displays. However, sites can often be made faster at the expense of aesthetics.

For example, some developers may overly compress images to reduce image size, thus making the page load more quickly. But if taken to the extreme, people shopping your site may not be able to clearly understand the use and value of your product, or even make subconscious associations of your products being as low quality as the images, and jump to a site with more vivid images that enhance the shopping experience. And that will cause conversions to drop.

Site Speed: The Final Frontier

Speed is one of the Five Friction Forces.

The last of the five friction forces is your site's and pages' speed. In other words, how quickly the digital property loads and responds to user actions. In today's fast-paced world, users expect websites and apps to load quickly and function seamlessly.

However, if a site is too slow it can erode all the value that marketing efforts and aesthetically pleasing, highly functional experiences have created. And yes, site greatly impacts conversions, so much so that it can be quantified and has been proven to cost companies big time.

Suppose you compare cohorts of visitors visiting your site during two periods when marketing factors such as demand or traffic are otherwise the same, and you see a drop in conversions. In that case, you can compare the user journeys and begin to understand where unexpected friction has been introduced by either aesthetics, usability, functionality, or some combination of all of these.

Evaluate All Five Factors When Determining Why Conversions Are Dropping

As technology and user behaviors continue to evolve, it is essential for companies to continuously monitor and adapt to the five friction forces. By staying on top of these forces, you can ensure a seamless and positive user experience for your customers, increasing engagement and better business outcomes.

Furthermore, understanding and conquering the five friction forces will give you a competitive edge to grow customer trust and loyalty. Plus, by isolating the different factors that impact conversion rates, you can save a lot of cycles, time, and resources addressing the wrong problem.

Don't let friction hold back your potential – keep analyzing, optimizing, and innovating to create a successful digital presence for your brand.

Five Friction Forces Impacting Your Customers' Digital Experiences

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