Reducing Friction in the Sales Process

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.

Related Articles

26 Responses to “Reducing Friction in the Sales Process”

  1. What a great list!

    Speaking of friction, one of my pet peeves is sites that force me to register (including creating passwords, etc.) before I can buy.

    Please… let me make my purchase, then ask me if I want to register AFTER I’m done.

  2. I need some work on my sorting, right now I do not have any on my category pages and my forms could use some help. Other than that I think I am in pretty fair shape.

    I also know, I likely have issues with my site that I do not even know about.

  3. This is a great checklist for retailers to run through their own site to see how much friction exists in their sales process. One quick addition that comes to mind is product availability – especially around the holidays. Even in my online shopping this year I couldn’t count how many times I found a product that’s been particularly hard to find, and had no idea if it was in stock or not on a particular site. If people have to think about it, you’re giving them one additional reason to not shop with you, give them enough, and they’re gone.

  4. Invaluable post, Linda! Clear, eloquent, with excellent illustrations of each point mentioned. I’ve just sent an e-mail with a link to it to all of my clients.

  5. David Seifert says:

    A compendium of best practices worth everyone’s time spent to check their site “one more time” for customer usability.

  6. [...] we talked about friction in the buying process — elements on your website that cause frustration, confusion or resistance in the mind of [...]

  7. Tingu says:

    nice video

    nice posting

  8. Bags says:

    This post is golden. Thanks! (Just tweeted it.)

  9. I can think of a bunch of retailers that would benefit from reading this post and fixing the friction points of their online sales process… especially the ones that find “creative” places to put or name the “buy now” button!

    Thanks for this list!

  10. kathy says:

    Hi read the article and felt good about my new website..I was very clear with website to design based on what I liked when shopping online. I think this article is alot of what I found as well. I wish others would read it as well.

  11. Linda, what is the site with the pink coat under “Tiny Thumbnails”?

  12. @Ecommerce Blog That was either Gap or Banana Republic, but the “Quick Look” feature (I think with Scene7 from Adobe) is quite common across many sites.

  13. I have the Web Design for ROI book and it is awesome. The biggest help for me was the checkout process forms.

  14. Linda – I have seen the quick view on many sites and programmed it on a couple, but I really really like the layout of the popup window. Thanks for the pointer; I’ll go look at those sites now.

  15. Toy Store says:

    Great link to Justin’s article!

  16. [...] couple weeks ago I posted a Frictionary — a collection of design elements that cause resistance with customers on ecommerce sites [...]

  17. These are some great tips (and useful photo examples). I covered a similar topic recently, if you are looking for more examples of best practices on your e-commerce site:

  18. [...] Reducing Friction in the Sales Process Where Will MAP Pricing Lead Online Retail? Are Cash Discounts the Worst Incentives? [...]

  19. A great article on reducing stress during the buying process on your website.

  20. I like the way it has been explained with elaborate pictures and examples. I has made me think how we can improve our own website. Thanks for the tips.

  21. Varun says:

    These points are very well explained and significantly help sales people for reducing the time required in sales cycle. I have written similar article in

  22. MartinHN says:

    Great list! Could earn you a million if you get those things right!

    I wrote a similar blog post about site search on my blog here:

  23. i wil take your suggestions.

  24. diego says:

    We are trying to optimize our web site for women since they make up 80% of our customers and this post was awesome.

  25. [...] of others, it is likely that potential customers gave up trying to reach you due to the fact they were left wandering around your Web site trying to figure out how to contact [...]

  26. [...] Bustos of GetElastic has a great post from last December about Reducing Friction in the Sales Process. It includes a section on common causes of friction during the checkout, including too much [...]

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