In this blog, Aaron Carpenter, Senior Editor at Huble Digital, explains how removing friction from marketing and sales can enable businesses to sell better and win more business.
The sun may have set on 2019, but the indelible words of Brian Halligan at HubSpot's INBOUND event are still ringing in our ears.
“Dollars flow where the friction is low.” – Brian Halligan, CEO, HubSpot.
Inbound 19 was an intense week of learning new things, networking with like-minded marketers and devising strategies based on what we had heard.
And yet, amongst all of this activity, it was Brian’s words on removing the friction from the customer journey that stuck with us.
When you look at someone’s daily routine, it’s telling how many of the “mainstream” products and services of the past have been replaced by new “disruptors”: Spotify has taken over iTunes, Airbnb has taken over hotels, JustEat and Deliveroo have taken over takeaways and Netflix has taken over (or more accurately, obliterated) Blockbuster, which closed its doors for good back in 2013.
These new companies aren’t taking over their respective markets by using ground-breaking technology, but by enhancing the traditional customer marketing experience.
Think about it; in the past you would have to walk to a video store to rent a film, you would be limited to a single takeout menu per website when ordering food, and you would have to browse and buy individual songs for 99p.
Was there anything as inconvenient as buying products “the old way”?
Customer experience marketing in 2020
The new customer experience is based on reducing or removing these points of friction (i.e. when a customer finds themselves in some way hampered from achieving their goal: making a purchase, finding information, reporting an issue).
In short, customers simply want their transactions to be low-effort, seamless and immediate and the modern consumer no longer has time for this friction - often abandoning ship when they encounter it.
Think to yourself: How many times have you clicked off a web-page because it took longer to load than expected?
Let's assume daily. Right there, a sale has the potential to be lost due to a single second delay. And, that's not uncommon. In fact, according to Akamai, the leading CDN service provider, today 30% of site visitors expect a page to load in one second or less, while 18% expect a page to load instantaneously. It's not surprising then, that data also suggests a one second delay could cost the likes of Amazon, $1.6bn in sales.
Nowadays, you can buy anything with at the touch of a button and have it delivered the same day. In some instances a button press isn’t even required; voice assistants Alexa can order items on Amazon for you.
Returning back to Brian’s keynote for a moment, one of the companies he mentioned that is successfully creating a friction-free experience is a car company called Carvana. It’s not well-known in the UK, but in the US it has revolutionised the industry.
Carvana takes the hassle out of buying a car by taking care of all the annoying paperwork. It even lets you return your new car (no questions asked) within a certain timeframe if you’re not happy with it.
There’s too much competition in the market today for the customer experience not to be optimised and conditioned to run as smoothly and conveniently as possible for the customer.
And while we might still be mourning the end of the traditional marketing funnel (replaced last year with the flywheel) there’s no place for it anymore. Drawing customers in, pushing them through the buyer's journey, pumping them out the other end as customers and forgetting about them is just bad business.
Today you need to keep serving them long after their initial purchase and deliver high-quality and consistent customer service.
Know your buyer-personas
The key to removing friction from the buyers journey, apart from the universal pain points (e.g. speed), is to know your buyer personas inside out.
How can you remove friction from the customer experience if you don't know your customers' typical journey?
Customers require a seamless experience and every customer is different. Thinking about your service or product from the perspective of your unique buyer persona will allow you to know where and when they may encounter friction, and remove it.
For example, if we go back to the Carvana example, a large pain point for their buyer personas may be the scare and feeling of regret after purchasing a car they're not happy with. Allowing their customers to return the car (no questions asked) after the exchange, removes this friction - a friction that would typically be non-existent for BMW, whose buyer personas have more money to burn and therefore, less regret when expensive purchases are involved.
Simple steps to removing friction from the buyer journey
One of the ways we expect to see friction removed from the customer journey is through chat bots.
Did you know that most website users would rather talk to a chatbot than a real person? If you haven’t thought about adding a chatbot to your website – then now is a good time.
If you think about the process of finding basic product information, you’ll appreciate how frustrating it can be. Regardless of how simple your question is, the information you need is often unavailable and the last thing you want to do is call a salesperson who will try to up-sell you at every point. Not to mention the fact that they’re only available during office hours.
The way people consume and want to consume content has changed. They want answers delivered to them instantly, day or night, or the friction can quickly build.
Chatbots can fulfil these needs by providing answers to basic questions like pricing, wherever, whenever (and if you’re not sure what your most frequently asked questions are, ask your sales and customer service teams).
Speaking of pricing – isn’t it annoying when you browse a website, decide you want to buy something but can’t find its price for love nor money?
Also, how likely are you to call a company to ask how much something costs? Not likely, I bet. So by using chatbots you might even encourage people who would otherwise be hesitant to speak to your sales team, to connect!
Some last advice ...
At Huble Digital, we’ve been indulging in Marcus Sheridan’s new book “They Ask, You Answer” (if you haven’t read the book you should buy it) which walks you through advice, case studies and facts on how to create a friction-less customer experience.
We were lucky enough to sit in on a talk at inbound '19 in which Sherdian outlined the need to build trust with customers, including removing friction on your website.
A major takeaway from his talk (and something we're all guilty of) was that all too often companies treat their website like a platform to shout about how great they are, when really they should be using it to be helpful and answer the questions their customers and prospects have.
Think about it, if a company’s website helped you solve a problem, gave you a solution to another problem, told you how they could help with those problems and told you how much it would cost, wouldn’t you be interested?
By using your website as a useful resource for customers and not a selling platform for yourself, you remove a lot of friction from the customer journey and can greatly increase your chances of making sales – ironically by selling less.
So, we hope you’ll keep Brian’s words of wisdom in mind when it comes to nailing your customer journey marketing and advise everyone purchases a marketing book like the above to refer back to when creating content.
As Halligan says: “How these experience disruptors sell is ultimately how they win.”