No matter what definition of friction you look at, it always involves resistance. In the marketing world, friction means resistance (whether psychological or functional) that leads experience during the buyer journey, which prevents them from converting.

Friction Creators

Friction in marketing boils down to what users have to do to convert and how easy it is for them to do. The more users have to do and the harder it is for them to complete tasks the more friction there will be. Conversely, the easier it is for users to follow the sales funnel and complete actions the less friction there will be and leads will be more likely to convert. 

Less Friction = Less Work = More Conversions

It’s important to note that there are two types of friction: perceived friction and actual friction.

Perceived Friction

This is more of a mental resistance leads have that comes from looking at the page. It’s a perception of how much work is involved. There might be an overload of copy that looks daunting or the design may not flow well. Whatever the reason, it creates a mental block for users. 

Actual Friction

This refers to the actual steps that have to be taken to convert. It’s the real work that’s needed on the part of the lead for conversion to happen. For example, filling out a form with 15 fields can create friction, especially if far fewer fields are actually needed.

So what causes perceived and actual friction? The possibilities are endless. However, there are three key contributors of friction in many cases. They are:

Unclear or Confusing Messages

There’s nothing worse than hitting a landing page and the message is nothing like what you expected. It immediately causes confusion. Unclear, vague messaging is the same. It makes users have to work harder to figure out what you’re offering, what they get from it and why they would want to convert. 

In most cases, it’s easier for the user to bounce and visit a competitor’s site than figure out what’s going on with your landing page. 

Poor Design/Layout

The design of a landing page is going to have an immediate impact for better or worse. A very busy design can cause a lot of friction because the user has to search harder for information. Even reading through the copy can be difficult if there’s a lot going on. 

The flow of the layout is also important. It should direct users from one point to the next in a logical manner so they don’t get lost and can’t figure out what to do next. 

Another possible problem is a design that doesn’t fit the offer. The visuals and color scheme should reinforce the ideas that users have in mind when they visit your landing page. When the design meets lead expectations it puts the mind at ease. 

Not Enough Information

Leads need information to make decisions and take action. If they aren’t told what action needs to be taken to convert they might not be able to figure it out themselves. And if they don’t know enough about a product or service they’ll hesitate, opening the door for competitors to win their business.

Another indirect example of this is form fields with open-ended questions. Those types of fields make leads have to think and come up with information from scratch. Form fields with dropdowns that can be selected provide information that makes it easier for leads to complete the form. Easier = less friction


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Finding Points of Friction

You know friction exists, but the real question is where. Virtually any element on the page could cause friction, which means research is needed to figure out what’s causing the friction and how to fix it. 

Questions to Ask and Answer

After spending countless hours conceiving, building and testing a landing page it’s easy to think any possible friction has been ironed out. In most cases, it still exists because your users weren’t a part of the build process. Start the friction finding project by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How easy is it for users to complete conversion tasks?
  • How easy is it for users to find information? 
  • How intuitive is the buyer journey?

Keep these questions in mind as you figure out where the friction is and how much resistance exists. 

Comb Through the Copy

The words on the landing page are a common friction creator. It may seem like the message is right on track, but all it takes is a single word to turn off users. A few known “friction words” include:

  • Buy
  • Submit
  • Complete 
  • Read
  • Sign Up
  • Give

In general, verbiage that suggests work or something the user has to do rather than something they want to do is going to cause friction. It’s also important to avoid words that suggest the user has to give something up. 

Talk to the Customer Service Department

The customer service department could have great insight into what’s not working for customers. If your customer service department gets a number of complaints about a functionality issue while completing a purchase that’s an obvious friction point. Review the tickets over the last month or so and you could discover a common problem that’s creating resistance. 

Analyze User Behavior Data

Sometimes discovering the cause of friction takes delving into data. User behavior analytics will tell you exactly what visitors are doing on a landing page. Are users spending more time reading through the copy than you thought they would? Are they bypassing the call to action button? Are they dropping off as soon as they view a form that needs to be filled out? 

Data analytics will reveal where friction likely exists based on user behavior and give you the insights needed to test your assumptions. 

Ask Existing and Newly Converted Customers About Their Experience

Interviewing customers is what’s called qualitative research. You can use this method to discover friction points or to tease out details about a known friction point. It isn’t measurable (quantitative) and user feedback isn’t always 100% accurate, however, it’s invaluable in terms of gaining a better understanding behind why something is a friction point. It’s a great follow-up method for data analytics when the “why” isn’t clear.

Friction After the Sale

Friction that prevents conversions is definitely bad, but friction after the sale isn’t good either. If the customer experiences issues using the product/service or quality is subpar it reduces the lifetime value of that customer because they are less likely to buy again and recommend your business to others. 

When you are looking for friction, don’t forget to analyze user experience after the sale. You may find that there’s more friction that needs to be fixed to improve long-term revenue generation.

Reducing Friction for Improved Sales

Now that you’ve found friction points you can’t let them go unaddressed. After all, the goal is to win leads over not push them away. Here are a few easy fixes to get the process started.

Know Your Target Market

There’s no way to nail the messaging and create emotional appeal if you don’t know what the target market’s wants, needs and pain points are. If you’ve already conducted target market research go a step further with user segmentation. It will allow you to fine-tune the messaging and even create unique landing pages tailored to a specific type of user.

Keep It Simple

Going simple is almost always the better option compared to cluttered, complex pages. Keeping it simple will help you avoid confusion-induced friction and create a sense of ease in the minds of users. Keep it simple by reducing the number of form fields, shortening the landing page and eliminating any unnecessary steps in the conversion process.

Answer Questions Directly

If you know users have common questions answer them directly on the page. Provide the information in a very clear way within the copy or link to an FAQ that provides the information. 

Up the Trust Factor

Eliminate friction that’s related to trust issues by adding customer testimonials, award emblems, ratings from popular review sites and trust seals at key decision-making points.

Continue Analyzing Data and Testing

Work is never done for companies that want to optimize their landing pages. The more you analyze user behavior data over time and test pages the better they will be – period. It’s also a must anytime an offer or product changes, the landing page is redesigned or you bring in leads from other marketing channels. 

A/B testing will help you determine if what the data is telling you is accurate. If conversions increase significantly then you know you found a friction point and the solution for the problem. 

Final Takeaway

Friction is a conversion killer that can’t go unaddressed. Many times there are simple solutions for fixing friction, it’s just a matter of figuring out where it exists. Research, analysis and testing are needed to find friction points as quickly as possible, but it’s an ongoing process to ensure resistance remains low. 

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