Friction. 7 Rules of Ecommerce

seven rules of eccomerce

What is friction?


We know it burns when you slide down a rope, but how does it apply to your online store - or website in general?

Sometimes there is a gap between what we expect a customer to do in comparison to what we think that they will do when designing our navigation, layouts, CTAs (Call To Actions) and so on.

The reality is that anything that is not driving a customer to a conversion (not necessarily a sale) is causing friction.

Too much friction causes distraction or even worse, frustration.

Apple Store

It’s an old hack, but offline supermarkets and the designers of Apple’s retail experience know this and make every effort to avoid it. In fact the real friction in bricks and mortar shops are the other customers and lack of free checkouts! :)

This is something about eCommerce that we don’t have to worry about as store owners.

So why cause friction for ourselves? Why do we do it?

During our day-to-day duties as marketeers (if you own a shop, you are one) we make decisions based on our own experience with our shop. You need to remember that we know every dusty corner, every product image, and our navigation, collections etc.

Your customers don’t have this working knowledge to hand, even the loyal ones and so most of the time your shop is pretty new to them.

Quite often you will be thinking that you need to adjust this, poke that, or swap out the navigation based on your opinion alone. Maybe re-working your navigation every few weeks will drive more sales! Probably not. If anything it causes more harm than good as you sail further down your own path rather than taking a step back and remembering that you have to look at your shop through the eyes of a new customer.

When you do this, it reminds you of all of the things that you want highlight to a customer seeing your shop for the first time.

Let’s focus on the obvious and work from there…

  1. You want to sell things
  2. You want to sell more things (up-sell)
  3. You want the journey to transaction to be clean and swift
  4. You want the user’s experience to be a pleasure, not a chore.
  5. You want to communicate beyond the initial contact. Aquire email addresses and entice engagement on social channels
  6. You want to reward and retain loyalty
  7. You want evangelists to share their experience and your products on social channels

Unless your model is very different from anyone else’s, or you are doing something pretty specific, these seven rules should be on your mind at all times. Anything else is clutter.

Now let’s focus on bad habits…

  1.  Never create more steps than are needed to get a conversion. Why shove something in the way that just frustrates customers? If you are going to up-sell, do it inline or at basket level. Unobtrusively let them know that if they buy this jacket, they might like this scarf to go with it. No popups dammit!
  2. Don’t write loads of copy in your product descriptions. No-one reads it and even Google gives up after a short paragraph. Use copy for SEO purposes and to point out the best thing about the product that would appeal to the customer. It’s your SEO elevator pitch.
  3. Don’t use LOADS of colours. Look out the most popular stores and recognise that they tend to work on a monochromatic colour scheme. Your product photographs and banners that draw attention to the eye should do ALL of the hard work.
  4. Consider your related products and be sure that they really are relevant to what the customer is looking at. Throwing up dumb, unrelated products just says “you really don’t know who I am do you?”

Now, thankfully Shopify addresses a few of these issues out of the box. It’s not worth over-complicating something that boffins have been refining for years. Your first step is to grab a Shopify theme that will do your products justice, then it’s down to you to keep great product images that really ‘pop’ and keep your navigation as simple as possible.

Testament Theme

Whenever you start thinking that you should move the furniture around because your sales have dropped, look at your traffic sources first before you start poking your shop around. Traffic, as always, is your priority and making sure that your traffic has a ‘safe’ landing (page) is paramount.

There are a few good tools to help you make decisions about your site. We will cover these in a future post.

Richard Bairstow is the founder and CEO of We are Underground and is recognised as a leading authority in the Shopify Theme marketplace with 5 of the best selling published themes within the Shopify theme store and over 20,000 active Shopify customers.

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