We spend a lot of time identifying and eliminating points of friction for our clients. We’ve written and spoken about it often. To catch you up, the mobile internet has trained us all that any product or service should be one tap away, or fewer. When we encounter a needlessly complex user flow, we leave and search for an easier way to accomplish our desired task. Leading this trend is the millennial segment (called the Children of Uber in a post by the smart people at Made by Many) obviously because they grew up with the internet and came of age with smartphones.
This is an extreme challenge for any brand using software to provide services directly to their customers. One bad experience and they never come back. Until the next solution fails.
Now imagine you don’t have a direct connection to your customer. They don’t rely on your interface for access to your products or services. In this case, you don’t even get the chance to drop the ball. Someone else does that for you. And in many cases, they don’t feel too bad about it.
For many brands in the consumer packaged goods space, this is the harsh reality. When someone visits a grocery store looking for a particular product, there is no one there to represent the brand. Besides the shelf dominating flagship product of companies like Frito-Lay, friction on the shelf is common and difficult to avoid.
In our recent survey of Millennial grocery shoppers across the country, 83% said they were open to changing brands of just about any product on their grocery list.
And 64% of those respondents said they weren’t sure they’d come back to their original brand once they switched.
For brands offering an interface as customer service – or as the product itself – friction related challenges are difficult. We’ve seen cases of pretty mild bumps in the customer software process causing brand erosion. But for a brand that lives and dies on the shelf, it is vastly misunderstood.
Friction at the Grocery Store
Consider a brand of beans. You plan to make a meal. You know you need the item on your list, “Beans.” In your mind that is a specific brand of beans, in a specific size. You stop at a grocery store on your way home from work, not your usual store. This is not the brand’s fault. The store layout is different, so you travel the length of the store and back to find the correct aisle. Not the brand’s fault.
After two minutes of scanning the shelves, you track down an employee to ask for help. He doesn’t know. “Just whatever’s on the shelf,” he says politely and helps you find something similar. It’s a different size and variety, but it is the right brand. Now you’re totally confused. You’re doing math. Consumers doing math while holding a product is never good for sales. You choose an alternative product. At checkout, the friendly employee tells you the brand you want is on a special display near produce if you want to run and grab them. Too late. You’ve moved on.
There are marketing, production, purchasing and distribution causes for every hiccup presented above. But from the consumer perspective, who cares? You have groceries to buy and meals to make.
On the internet, and even more so in the mobile space, we’ve created paths that are very difficult not to find for someone who is searching. The internet has essentially become a sieve for filtering people to completion of the information they seek, and in many cases a credit card form.
Spending entire days on the internet has trained us to be highly sensitive to breaks in these paths. And every few days, we get off the internet to perform a physical task like grocery shopping. We’re often shocked by the disruptions in our path to complete these tasks. And when we encounter even real-world disruptions, we’ve been trained to look for a back button.