Why Reducing Friction Doesn’t Increase Conversions and What You Can Do Instead

In Uncategorized by Justin Aronstein

This article will explain what reducing friction is and why it is not the highest impact change you can make to improve revenue.

What is reducing friction in the buying process?

When most people think of conversion rate optimization, they think it involves making it easier for users to buy or convert. People think you will increase conversions if you reduce the number of steps in the buying process or make it easier for users to find the buy button. In fact, Baynard states, “Make the Primary “Add to Cart” Button Prominent and Unique“ to reduce friction and increase conversion.

Reducing friction comes in many flavors, including reducing fields from a form or checkout process, making it easier to find the buy and checkout button, or making product images on product listing pages clickable.

Why Reducing Friction Isn’t The Highest Impact Change

While reducing friction sometimes improves revenue per visitor (conversion rate and average order value), other strategies are more impactful and are more likely to increase revenue per visitor (RPV). Common sense would tell us if you decrease friction, you will increase orders, but that’s often not the case.

For Mobile1st, experiments that reduced friction won 39% of the time, while all other experiments had a winning percentage of 68%

The main reason why reducing friction doesn’t increase orders is that users know how to buy your product. Amazon was launched in 1994, Ebay in 1995, and Buy.com in 1998, almost 30 years ago. So people have been figuring out how to find the right product, press the buy button and enter their credit card information online for a generation. Over 80% of Americans regularly shop online, and 57% prefer to shop online. If an e-commerce store visitor wants to buy your product and is having trouble finding the buy button, they have used the internet enough to figure out how to buy your product.

Also, your website looks like most other websites in your industry. Most e-commerce platforms (i.e., Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Salesforce) employ templates. Designers design these templates to make it easy for users to find and buy your products. While these templates may not have all the best practices implemented, the templates minimize friction.

What Can You Do Instead of Reducing Friction?

So if reducing friction doesn’t increase orders and average order value, what does? 

While every business is different, you must communicate your brand’s unique value and products throughout the buying process. So if you invested in an easy returns process, let your customers know, or if you have free shipping above a certain threshold, make it easy for customers to understand how much more a user needs to spend to reach that threshold. Also, let your customers help you determine what they value about your products and brand. Start by asking your customers what they love about your brand and products. 

For example, when we asked customers of one of our favorite clients (a specialty sports big box retailer) about what they love about shopping at the e-commerce store through a survey, the customers often mentioned the 90-Day Guarantee; this is even though the 90-Day Guarantee wasn’t on the product page or cart, and existed on a page only found through the footer. When we added the “90-Day Guarantee” to the product pages, cart, and checkout, we increased the weighted revenue per visitor by over 22% through three experiments. These experiments alone provided an 18X ROI on our annual service fees.

Another strategy that works for many businesses is building real urgency. The two easiest ways to communicate urgency are low stock warnings and communicating shipping expectations and cutoff times. Only use low-stock notifications if the message is real, though. Your store visitors will start to wise up to fake urgency and will be less likely to order because they have lost trust in your brand.

On a client that sells high-end athletic fit shirts, when we employed this strategy and added low-stock and trending products, we saw an 11% increase in total weighted RPV. 

To know the highest opportunities to increase RPV, you need to employ user research and business intelligence to understand what user experiences need to be improved. Once you identify the most significant opportunities, you must run experiments (A/B tests) to ensure the new user experience you designed is better than the current experience and to help you measure your impact on revenue. 

Contact Mobile1st if you need help growing revenue through improved user experiences.

Mobile1st is a leader in marketing technology and site optimization solutions. More than prioritizing and executing industry leading CRO practices, we do what makes the money; optimizing our Client’s digital commerce product toward consistent financial growth and ROI. All achieved through excellence in Lean UX, Analytics, Research, Experimentation and Development.
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