How many clicks does it take someone to actually purchase your product? How many steps are between your customers’ dollars and your product? Do everything you can to make the purchasing process as frictionless as possible, because extra steps and friction are costing you sales.
While that seems obvious and intuitive, in practice companies make this mistake all the time. We have a portfolio company that sells a very expensive product to consumers (~$8,000). The purchase is often made in person over a meeting with a credit card. Recently we decided to start charging the customer for the credit card processing fee (2.5%) and while that seems like a small change, it had a large negative impact on sales. Why? The customer realized if she went home, wrote a check, and dropped it in the mail, she could save ~$200. It was worth it for the customer to do that, but what was the real impact? The customer ultimately wouldn’t make the purchase. Our sales rep was no longer in front of them, the arguments we made as to why the customer should buy our product could now be rebutted in the customer’s mind with no pushback from our sales rep, the customer had time to think about other ways to they could use the cash, the customer had to find their check book and a pen and an envelope and a stamp, the impulse purchase was gone, etc. Ultimately our sales declined dramatically and it took us a few weeks to realize this was a big mistake. We added friction and steps to our sales process inadvertently, and it cost us.
Max Levchin, who was a co-founder of Paypal, saw a similar problem in balancing user acquisition and safety in Paypal’s early days. In a great book called Founders At Work, he said “There are tools to just say, “Give me your social security number, give me your address and your mother’s maiden name, and we send you a physical piece of paper and you sign it and send it back to us.” By the time that’s all accomplished, you are a very safe user. But by then you are also not a user, because for every step you have to take, the dropoff rate is probably 30 percent. If you take the time you’re done with the fourth step.”
Finally, I want to point to an example of a fantastic, nearly frictionless sales process. Lovepop.com, which sells beautifully sculpted greeting cards, probably has the slickest checkout process on the internet. When you’re ready to checkout, you can enter your Amazon login which then takes you to the check out page automatically populated with your card, shipping address, and a big button that lets you finalize the purchase. Nothing to enter and very few pages to click makes the process seamless, removes the friction, and increases sales.
So, take a look at your purchasing process and remove any superfluous steps between your product and the customers’ dollar. Pay extra for easy checkout software or credit card fees. You’ll find sales improve as the friction is removed.
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