Are Your Customers Encountering Friction?

I must admit — I almost switched back to paying cash. It started with a couple gas stations and it spread to the grocery store. Next was fast food, but the worst was the chain pharmacy. I would insert my card (with the chip) into the reader and begin answering more questions than appeared on my recent passport renewal. PIN? ZIP Code? Cash back? Rewards member? Confirm amount? Use rewards points? Do you wish to donate? It was so frustrating that I quit stopping at that pharmacy despite being conveniently located.

The purchase process was negatively influencing my shopping. It was generating friction.


Friction has multiple definitions. In physics, it’s the force that works against an object as it slides along the surface of another object or moves through a liquid or gas. In short, resistance. Friction can also describe a disagreement or dislike caused by people having differing opinions. Oddly enough, both of these definitions apply to the third.

Friction in marketing refers to the interference or slowing-down of the user (customer) experience from the desired goal. It results in rapidly escalating frustration to the point where the user or customer abandons their purchase or experience.

User experience friction can occur during an e-commerce checkout transaction, requesting a quote, or even seeking technical support. However, friction is often a bigger topic. Friction can occur with your customer service process as well. What is inhibiting your customer from their mission?

When was the last time you reviewed your own brand experience for excessive friction?


One of the first steps towards reducing your customer’s friction is better understanding what your customer is trying to do. Here are some common examples of customer friction points:

  • You’d like to order take-out from the local restaurant
    The website isn’t mobile responsive resulting in the online ordering process taking longer than calling it in. Orders decline.
  • Your roof leaks and you need to get an estimate for repair
    The online quote request has technical questions you can’t answer and over 20 “required” fields to fill out. Frustrated, you call someone else.
  • Your office party is coming up, and you’ve found the perfect ugly seater
    The website doesn’t inform you that shipping costs more than the sweater. Off to Wal-Mart.
  • A friend recommended a home distillery equipment site
    You cannot remember the type of condenser, but there is no site search feature. You return to a search engine to find it… from another supplier.
Why Do Customers Shop Online

Reviewing your customer experience and understanding the barriers that create friction is key. Have you posed these questions to your customer experience?

  • How are most of my customers engaging?
    Calling, desktop web, mobile web, or in-person?
  • How is the perceived speed of our service?
    Is the call flow smooth with easily understandable prompts? Does the website load quickly from a desktop or mobile device?
  • Is pricing clearly detailed?
    Are there “hidden charges” or “shipping fees” that pop up late in the checkout process?
  • Is the order process or point-of-purchase experience well designed?
    Does the user’s eye flow smoothly through the product page or ordering process? Are there appropriate calls to action? Are forms too long?
  • Are forms of payment clearly described before the checkout process?
    In addition to credit cards, do you accept PayPal, Amazon, Apple, or other platforms?
Why Do Customers Shop Online


Breaking down barriers to your customer experience could be as simple as starting to accept a few more forms of payment, or it might involve rebuilding your website. In either case, the result will be happier customers and more orders.

While we talk a lot about online friction, friction can also occur in-person. From friendliness on a phone call to testing your brick-and-mortar check out process, friction impacts your business in many ways. Don’t be afraid to enlist friends or family to test your team. Survey customers after their experience to see how they would rate you? Did your experience leave them smooth and happy or hot under the collar?

If you’d like to help smooth out some friction points, contact Signalfire. Our team of marketing guides and outfitters will help you plan a solution as well as equip your business with the tools needed for success. Whether we help develop a new website or give a creative refresh to your POP graphics, we’re here to help. Call us at (262) 725-4500 or visit our website to get started.