Buying Friction

‘e-commerce checkout friction’ – a phrase that will be familiar to an online seller. On a website there are lots of places where friction can occur. A poor navigation menu or site structure will stop customers being able to find their way around. Unclear prices or delivery costs will stop customers proceeding. Incomprehensible, jargon-filled text will stop them too. And of course, a slow website will tire visitors and make them leave out of frustration.

Today I am going to talk about checkout friction. In a bricks and mortar supermarket, an example of checkout friction would be seeing a long line at the checkout and deciding not to go into the store.

The first question to answer is whether you need to improve your checkout at all. If the conversion rate is good, tweaking it might do more harm than good.

You can find out your conversion rate from your Google or other analytics if you set goals. And you can see the steps in the funnel towards the goal. Also, you will see the number of pages visited in a given period and the progress towards the goal. And you will see how many drop off, and where, on their way to the finish line.

Some visitors will be there just to look, perhaps at a blog post, and not thinking of buying a product at all. That might not be true if the subject of the blog post itself is about the products.

In any event, you are more likely to see someone progress along the path to the checkout if the reason they came to the site was to look for products. You can gauge intent by seeing what page they land on when they visit your site.

Checkout Friction

In your analytics you can see how many people started to look at a product and then stopped before they completed the purchase. You can see by what route they put the products in the basket, and where they stopped.

Unless the product is a ‘must have’, then first thing that happens is that the emotional brain says that you want the product. It’s pure emotion. And if you go ahead and buy it, then afterwards your logic brain will tell you why it was a good idea that you bought the product. This is just how the human brain works.

During the process of buying, however, your logic brain will be screaming that you don’t really want that thing. It’s not that the product is bad. It’s just that the logic brain knows only logic. And logic tells it that you don’t really need that product. That’s where price comes into the equation.

Greeting Cards, Posters, and Framed Prints

Thinking about the products we sell – greeting cards, posters, and framed prints – the bulk of them are not ‘necessary’ items. A greeting card for a friend is not a necessary item, unlike say a Mother’s Day card. Millions of people ‘have to’ get their mother a card for Mother’s Day.

There’s a strong cultural push to say that one must buy a card for Mother’s Day. But if it’s a card to cheer up a friend, then it’s more of a desire than a need. And with desires, your logic brain will be madly coming up with reasons why you don’t need to send a card. Logic isn’t always your friend.

Owl Be Loving You, Always

Take this romantic greeting card featuring a Scops Owl and text ‘Owl Be Loving You Always’. There will always be an excuse for someone not to allow their thoughts to turn to romance and love. Others will fall head over heels with the idea of love and will experience a tremendous push to go along with that feeling. For most of us, there is a balance in our minds, with emotion pushing us one way and logic fighting its corner and pushing back.

A Romantic greeting card featuring a Scops Owl and text 'Owl Be Loving You Always'

Now imagine that you have put a romantic card like this in your basket. Or it could be a poster or a framed print. You don’t particularly want anything else, but your emotional brain doesn’t want to let go of the purchase experience. So it will guide you to take a look around, just in case something catches your eye. Your will want to do that even if you think you have no intention of buying anything besides what is in your basket.

Of course, a savvy seller will tell you reasons to shop for more. For example, here on Flying Twigs we tell you that the postage on greeting cards is 76p per order, but it’s free when you buy four cards. And we tell you that framed prints are delivered to you postage free. Plus we tell you that they come with a hidden hanger so that putting it on the wall is a breeze.

How To Reduce Buying Friction At Checkout

Now imagine that you are a customer at the checkout. What is going to improve your e-commerce checkout experience and what is going to make it a poor experience?

The longer and more difficult the process is between you telling yourself you want the thing and being able to complete the purchase, the less chance of completing the e-commerce checkout.

It’s called checkout friction. It is the demands the website makes of the customer in order for them to complete the purchase. There are several ways to reduce friction. One is to already have the customer’s details, or rather, to have the checkout know the customer. Apple Pay and Google Pay know who you are when you are logged into your computer or phone. So they can speed you through the checkout. Then all you as the store owner have to know is what’s needed for the implementation of one-click checkout to reduce buying friction. Or turn it the other way around and think about the checkout when you are planning a store. Ask yourself what is the best platform for conversions?

The bottom line is that in choosing e-commerce store, high on the list of what makes a good platform is one that keeps buying friction to a minimum. That means that you as a customer can speed through the checkout process. That also means answering any questions a customer might have, before they put a product in their basket and before they get to the e-commerce checkout.

Final word, you might want to take a look at our article on how to restrict shipping destinations when it is for some products only. You really have to watch that, or run the risk of some very strange (and costly) results whereby customers get cheaper shipping that you bargained for.

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