December 16th, 2008 | 5 MIN READ

Reducing Friction in the Sales Process

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Trucking along in our series on landing page optimization, we're going to look at friction in the sales process.

According to Marketing Experiments, friction can be defined as psychological resistance to a given element of your sales process that causes aggravation, fatigue or confusion. While impossible to eliminate resistance, your goal is to minimize it as much as possible.

In the Marketing Experiments Landing Page Optimization Workshop, we laid transparencies over top of print-outs of our landing pages (some placed them over their laptop screens) and marked the areas of potential friction. This is a useful exercise when you're developing split tests, it gets you thinking about the elements on your page you should test first.

Examples of Friction

The following is a "Frictionary" of sorts - not an exhaustive list, but a collection of examples of friction customers may experience on your ecommerce site, with links to relevant Get Elastic posts.

Home Page Friction

1. Slow loading pages

Less of a problem today than 10 years ago, but Web users are also less tolerant of any delay:

Can't see video? Check out the original Crazy Messed Up World of Ecommerce post, #6 Bananarama…rama…rama…rama

Our friend Justin Palmer offers 25 ways to speed up your website.

2. Difficult to find search boxes

3. Showing too many products on a single page / cluttered design

Friction in Navigation

1. Navigation in sidebars

Be careful how you design your navigation, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin says "don't put anything in right hand sidebars unless you don't want them to see it."

Especially if it looks like Adsense. In fact, don't hide your calls to action in anything that resembles a banner or text ad block.

2. Tombstone navigation

Tabbed design menus are fine, until you grow to Amazon proportions. Remember the graveyard that was the 'Zon's horizontal navigation menu?

Last year's revamp is much cleaner, easier to scan and to use:

Friction in Site Search

1. Inability to handle synonyms and mispellings

There's nothing more frustrating than "0 results found"

Can't see video? Check out the original post, #4 Zero Results Found

If you can't match relevant products to typos or alternate ways of describing a product, customers often assume you don't carry it. Even couldn't handle my typo, but could.

2. Inability to locate non-product information

Can customers quickly find your shipping policies and other customer service information?

Category Page Friction

1. Too many products, not enough filter options

Filtered navigation is a girl's best friend, whether she's shopping for diamonds or pearls:

The ability to sort results by relevance, price, best selling and average customer review is also lovely:

PS: a "View All" link is a must-have.

2. Tiny Thumbnails

Sometimes the thumbnail simply doesn't show enough detail. Customers don't like to keep clicking between the category page and product pages to see larger images, prices and details. "Quick Look" and AJAX mouse-over image zoom are helpful to see more without a click:

Quick Look:

Mouseover zoom:

Friction on Product Pages

1. Can't find buy button (or can't read its text)

It's crazy but it's true - some button designs convert better than others. We never really know which ones until we test, but we can make a safe guess this:

would out-perform this:

2. Hey, did I just add to cart?

Not making it clear when an item has been added to cart causes confusion. For example, iBuyDigital updates below the product description, which is easy to miss:

Nine West's notification is one of my favorites:

3. Irrelevant cross-sells

Friction on the Cart Summary Page

1. Continue shopping means what?

Sign Up Forms / Registration Resistance

1. Too much required information

2. Form design

Like the cart button, it's proven that form design impacts conversion. Here's an example of before-and-after. The after converts 200% better:

Image credit: Web Design 4 ROI
Download a sample chapter on form design and optimization from Web Design 4 ROI book

It's not just form length but also label alignment and placement that matter:

There's a ton more registration form usability tips here.

3. Vague email sign-up calls-to-action

It's common practice to not provide any explanation of what to expect from retail emails, and to omit the privacy policy. Kudos to eToys for bucking this trend:

Checkout Process Friction

The number one cause of cart abandonment is "sticker shock" or the addition of unexpected taxes and fees in the checkout process. One way to avoid this is to show pre-checkout tax and shipping based on a zipcode lookup.

Justin Palmer contributed an article to Get Elastic called Losing Customers at The Register: 12 Checkout Blunders with 11 more causes of checkout friction.

Another recommendation is reducing the number of steps in the checkout process, and showing a progress indicator:

You can see more design examples and find tips on split-path testing from Bryan Eisenberg.

Email Marketing Friction

1. Spammy sender name

Names like (yes, an actual retailer used this as a sender name) and "nobody" (used by American Apparel AND Eatonweb) scream SPAM.

2. When scent wears off

Your landing pages should pick up where your emails, PPC ads and banner ads leave off, using consistant imagery, messaging and pricing:

404 Not Found!

404 pages without links back to the site need no explanation:

Check out more good and not-so-good 404 pages from ecommerce sites.

Again, it's not possible to eliminate friction all together, and not every visitor will experience the same degree of friction on a given site. Your goal is to reduce friction as much as possible, and sometimes gut feeling isn't enough to go on, you need to test different versions and see what converts best.

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