Why Zero Friction Matters

Building a brand for the future is simple, be friction-less.

In today’s hyper-connected world where brand belongs to the consumer, it’s imperative that customer experience is at the forefront of your brand strategy. With a reported ‘88% of customers that experience ‘high effort’ through customer service are likely to say something bad about a company’ (Rodger Dooley) it’s vital brands get this right – the crazy thing is, the variable factor in all of this being ‘effort’. In this article I take a look at the importance of identifying friction, it’s an ever-evolving landscape and also highlight some standout examples of friction-less experiences, to demonstrate how can this be used to disrupt a market, offer your company strategical advantage and how can it be used to define a purpose and ultimately your brand.

The problem with ‘effort’

The amount of effort customers are willing to put in is reducing exponentially. Think of how you bank or watch a movie compared to 5 years ago – different right? The advance in technology leads to the commoditization of services, and each time a new generation ‘comes of age’, what seemed to be completely practical 5-10 years ago can quickly become unacceptable and sometimes even become a joke.

The concept of the phone book, physical maps, keeping the menus from all the takeaways in your area, or, an absolute classic; using a phone box to actually make calls vs them being a tourist attraction when visiting London. These are all things of the past, Why? Friction.

Friction – a behavioural science

A lot of the groundwork on identifying the advantages of zero friction is down to the great work of Dr.BJ Fogg of Stanford University, with notable works within the field of behavioural science such as the ‘Fog Behavior Model’. This has a set of parameters that help us define what causes this behavioural change.

'The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. When a behaviour does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.'

Example 1 – How to disrupt a market.

It's a fair assumption that if you are over 30 - it's likely you have been in the situation where, you're in a new city, you have no idea where you are, you don’t have cash, your meeting is in 30 minutes and...yep …it's raining. Sadly, this is a very ‘first world’ problem, but yet still a valid one. In steps Uber to resolve this and disrupt the global Taxi industry. Using the Fogg Behavior Model it makes Uber seem such a simple and logical solution to a friction point people were experiencing.

Example 2 Amazon - Strategical advantage

The vast majority of companies don’t even come close to Amazon’s friction-less experience, still, the importance of zero friction sales was so imperative they patterned it, turning it into a strategical advantage. Enter the one-click payment.

Despite its controversy, Amazons one-click payment may have cost them millions to pattern and protect but since 1999 (until recently) according to some articles (link) it has managed to earn them billions in revenue! Let’s look at how this plays out using the Fogg Behaviour Model.

Example 3 - Disney – Brand & purpose

With the brand promise of 'making dreams come true', Disneyland is often celebrated as the master of customer experience. I remember going there as a child and I can confirm it’s amazing! The rides, the adventure, the special effects and the iconic characters, but what makes Disney magical in 2019 is not just their investment in outstanding attractions, but their commitment to a friction-less experience.

My partner recently spent 6 weeks in the USA, visiting the magical kingdom and one of her biggest highlights, to my utter surprise was a yellow wristband. “It’s unbelievable, it made the whole thing so easy, I can’t imagine ever going without it.” – Zara Diamond

Disney have reportedly (link) invested $1 Billion in this little piece of tech and the sole aim is to reduce friction. Whether it's paying for food, reducing queues, getting photos taken, personalised greetings, the magic yellow band does is give the customer more value, making the magical kingdom even more magical! In a world where patience and effort are simultaneously decreasing, I think its money well spent.

Do you have an opinion?

The marketing and branding industry talks like friction is old news, but the fact is even the most innovative customer centric brands still get this wrong and with the continual advancement in technology, in a world that increasingly demands speed and efficiency, my gut tells me this ‘old news’ is here to stay.

Do you employ a friction-less mindset at your company / workplace? What friction do you experience at work or as a consumer? Please let me know, join in the conversation below and have your say.