Friction, your old school physics textbook will tell you, is the force created between two surfaces that slows a moving object down. According to Internet Retailing, in a retail sense, that moving object is the consumer, and the friction that slows them down (and sometimes stops them altogether) is the unwelcome combination of processes and technology that gets in the way of the simple, seamless shopping experience.
1. Map the journey
Mapping your customer journeys helps you look at the experiences you offer from the customer perspective. Where are the friction points – the points that stall or derail the buying process? From being unable to try on a garment browsed online to complicated check-out processes, only when you understand where the pain points are can you begin to address them.
2. Spot the friction
There is rarely a single source of friction in any retail business; no single ‘smoking gun’ of customer frustration. Rather, friction in the retail sense is typically a cumulative thing.
3. Online to offline, seamlessly
Buying decisions don’t happen on one channel so enabling a seamless shift from online to offline (or vice versa) is a core part of the frictionless journey. Bonobos, the online retailer, has created a showroom that’s primarily a place for customers to try things on and get expert fashion advice. Items bought at store are then shipped to the customer creating a rare combination of a digital and physical shopping experience.
4. Stay human
The role of technology in creating the frictionless customer journey is to reduce the burden – in terms of time, effort, thought or cost – of buying. Arguably, there has never been a more vital time for retailers to understand customers in a rich and meaningful way. Building an emotional connection is what will give retailers a passport to continue engaging with customers once the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a reality, which may go some way to explaining why many companies are exploring combinations of facial recognition and bio-analytic technologies to understand customer moods and how they can respond to them.
5. Finding friction
To remove one level of friction simply reveals another. As with any other area of human advancement, the more you do, the more we expect. Which makes pursuing the frictionless journey now all the more important.
→ Read the report Amaze Generation: Digital Me (PDF file)