Friction; Friend or Foe?
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Friction; Friend or Foe?

With so many consumers choosing to shop online, just the right amount of friction has become the next ecommerce frontier. How can businesses deliver a seamless customer experience without leaving transactions open to fraud? It’s a common question without an easy answer.

What’s the problem?

For customers, who for example are signing up for a new bank account, friction can be the number one reason for abandonment. We’ve all been there, trying to register for services to be rejected for a minor discrepancy in our address.

For businesses, it’s trying to strike the balance between providing enough friction to keep customers safe, without pushing them too far and resulting in an abandoning transaction.

In this case, what’s needed is friendly friction. But what is that? And at what point does friction cross over from friend, to foe?

It’s tempting to think that consumers value speed of access over everything else, but the facts tell a different story. Our research shows that when it comes to customer experience, less than a fifth (15%) of customers think it’s important for account opening processes to be quick, and less than a quarter (23%) think simplicity is important. Instead, more than half (52%) believe security should be the main priority.

Some friction is a good thing and is expected by shoppers in some contexts, banking being a good example. However, there’s no doubt that what little patience there is will wear thin if consumers think more barriers are being added unnecessarily.

What’s needed is balance.

There is no model where businesses can deliver a perfect, frictionless online experience without asking consumers to share any personal information. Equally, an experience can’t be completely frictionless without compromising data privacy and security.

When it comes to the online experience, it has to be a process of give and take.

For example, we wouldn’t expect the same amount of friction when sending money to a friend that we would when applying for a mortgage. Businesses need to find the perfect balance that's right for their consumers, so they understand why and where that friction is coming from.

Consumers will need to part with some of their data to access any services online. But businesses need to ensure it’s only a necessary amount of friction customers are dealing with. It is down to businesses and the government to communicate this compromise truthfully and openly. If everyone understands the benefits and challenges of sharing information and buying online we can make faster progress towards a more accessible and inclusive online experience for everyone.

So is friction friend or foe? The short answer is: It can be both. The good news is that, for businesses that strike the right balance, the right amount of friction can actually help build trusted relationships with customers. By getting that balance right buying online becomes a safer, more secure experience for everyone. 

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