How reducing friction can increase sales

Oct 2, 2019

Barriers are hard to spot in the digital world, this article shows how to improve sales by making communication easier.



Human beings are inherently lazy. We don’t mean this in a negative sense, but as a simple observation that, given the choice between two ways of achieving something, most of us will logically choose the easiest one. For marketers and salespeople, this has an interesting implication: the easier something is to buy, the more likely consumers will be to buy it and prefer it to an alternative.

The barriers or steps that a person needs to take to purchase something or get in touch with a company add up and are collectively referred to as “friction”. In the physical world, the idea of removing obstacles is well understood by shop designers. It is the reason why in safe environments like airports, stores have completely open fronts, without doors or barriers of any kind.

Understanding friction in the digital world

In the physical world, friction is easy to spot. Doors are an obvious example, but so are long drives to reach a store, opening hours, the location of items inside the store, etc. In the digital world, things are sometimes less obvious, and businesses that can spot and eliminate them will often have a leg up.

To use an extreme example, the ultimate frictionless experience would be an instance where a person decides they want something, like a pizza, and it immediately appears in front of them. Although this is, sadly, an impossible scenario, it can serve as a useful basis to identify friction.

Any step like ordering, paying, opening the box, etc. that is added to this ideal experience increases friction. Companies that have lower friction than their competitors will have a leg up and will be more likely to gain business.

Reducing friction

In our pizza example, one of the best low-friction experiences is provided by Domino’s Pizza, which allows its customers to order by just sending a pizza emoji. This is achieved thanks to a chatbot that uses messaging apps to talk to customers and is connected to the company’s CRM. The CRM stores data on users’ preferences and payment details, and the bot does the rest.

It is a clever system that contains two important lessons. First, the use of messaging apps. A recent study indicated that 89% of the world’s connected population uses them and some of them, like WhatsApp, is opened on average 23 times a day by each user. They are the ultimate low-friction channel since users already have them on their phones and are used to open them constantly.

The second important lesson is the use of chatbots to automate the process. Unlike humans, chatbots can provide a scalable 24/7 service and can be linked directly to a company’s systems. Other companies can mimic these low friction interactions by working with partners like Sanuker that can create customized chatbots designed specifically for the type of company-client interactions that each company needs.

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