44. Low Friction Flow In, Through, And Out Again
Modern web properties do not begin and end with a home page and a conversion form. Web Reliability addresses the reality of the entire web environment, including all of the interrelated systems that draw customers into, through and out of the site.
Creating a comprehensive strategy for your website will address these systems to a degree. But at the execution level, it takes more than that to keep your paid search, email campaigns, social media, and other systems running smoothly with low friction. The backend of the web property also needs special attention to successfully maintain low friction. Especially when you consider the inherent risks in CRM integrations and marketing automation tools, both critical to ongoing successful execution of flow.
IN First and foremost, you must get customers to your website. There are many ways to build low friction entry pathways. Some of these include incoming marketing, SEO, paid search, social media, email, physical advertising, word of mouth, ratings and reviews, shareable pages, and URLs that are easy to remember and share. These systems are the tactical execution layer of the smart business strategies that guide customers from the outer circumference of the sales funnel down into your sales pipeline. The rule of avoiding friction applies throughout.
For quite a number of products and services, paid search is an excellent choice for driving customer traffic into a sales funnel. This should go without saying because…Google. But even within the context of paid search, friction cannot be entirely avoided. Paid search has the distinct advantage of reaching potential customers at the exact moment when they are declaring to the internet that they have a buying intent. They are typing in a search, which in many cases is a clear expression of their particular pain point. The search results they receive in the form of high ranking organic results as well-crafted paid search campaigns can keep the friction low as they decide what to click next. A quick and smooth transition of that customer's desire from a query on the web into the choice of your specific solution benefits greatly when friction is reduced. In this case messaging and positioning are the most likely points of friction.
The top of the sales funnel must be just as frictionless as the sales pipeline itself in order to encourage and support reliable web revenue.
THROUGH You have successfully reached a customer with a high motivation, low friction message that brought them into your web system. Now you must do a great job of shepherding them through the buying process, and provide a satisfying and seamless experience. This is the part that most web owners do well, keeping the customer engaged and on the site, providing a clear path to discovery of what the customer is looking for, then leading them through an intuitive and efficient process for selecting items and then successfully purchasing them.
OUT AGAIN After the customer has made a purchase from you, the quality of the experience must continue seamlessly as they exit the pipeline and their purchase is delivered. This means the set of tools that function at the exit end of the sales pipeline are equally important in the web system mix as those at the entrance. This is the critical time when you fulfill your promise to the customer. You must complete and track their order accurately and well. Ideally, you’ll deliver in excess of the expectation you’ve set for them.
As with paid search, customer fulfillment is a massive business unto itself. Think of UPS, FedEx, and myriad other companies specializing in logistics and shipping. However this Web Reliability System we’re working with is geared towards providing a useful overview of the entire system and its functions, not to examine the details of the multiple industries mentioned. And when we step back and look at this part of the process, in this sphere of fulfillment, friction remains the enemy.
Our company recently did some work for a university. Their website was a sales tool, and the customer being targeted was the high school student. The job of the site was to convert the prospective student's interest into action, providing contact information via form submission. Once the student successfully submitted the form, their information was sent into a CRM specifically designed for the education market.
There were a lot of built in constraints on this project. We did not have control over the shape of this CRM. Nor did we have control over the fulfillment process that system was to support. But as we focused on the overview, and examined the whole process from beginning to end, we could see that friction was creating an enormous problem within this system. The biggest issue, front and center, was that the system had not been designed to receive incoming form submission data properly. There were elements of the submissions that could not be saved in a given student record. Valuable sales information was being lost. An additional serious issue was the workflow within the system itself. Using the system was cumbersome and tedious for the admissions staff of the university. The process and the system both had a lot of friction built into them, so it was impossible to work around. It took a very long time and way too much effort to interact with a prospective student and guide them through the application process.
When it’s time to begin the college application process, prospective students typically apply to more than one school. They are repeatedly advised to do so by parents, mentors, counselors, friends, and teachers to increase their chances of acceptance at a desired school. This means that if the student is a qualified candidate, the competition between schools for that student can be intense. So if a university has a CRM system that reliably operates with low friction, and staff can successfully guide a prospective student through the selection process, that university has a competitive advantage. They can accurately gather and manage data from applications as soon as forms are submitted, enabling them to understand their prospect's needs and desires more clearly and promptly. They can then respond to the prospect and address their needs and desires thoroughly, accurately and quickly. If the system is truly low friction, it will also allow the empathy of the admissions staff for the student's desires to shine through. Such a system will simply do what it should, and stay out of the way of the all-important human connection required in such an important life decision.
Your ability to create a comprehensive strategy that addresses everything from customer engagement and conversion to successful tracking and fulfillment is of paramount importance, but if your web ecosystem can’t successfully implement it while providing a low friction experience for the customer and administrators, then your strategy is useless. Web Reliability practices will help you identify and manage friction points within all of the interconnected systems that draw your customers into, through and out of the site.