Clearing the Path: 3 Conversion Friction Points You May Be Overlooking

By Helen King
April 7, 2023

There are many factors that could be preventing customers from converting on your site. But is the problem a crack in the road, pothole, or structural issue blocking their way? 

Depending on the severity of the problem, you have different options to ensure your customers move quickly through your site and increase the likelihood they purchase or subscribe. 

To be sure you’re spending your resources in the right place, you need to know what to look for in your site’s path to conversion – whether it requires a rethink or a repair. Rethinks are complex and can take more time to unpack. For repair issues, the good news is that there are a few places you can hone in on that could be tripping up users within your conversion funnel. 

Don’t know where to start? Let’s dig in.

Rethink – or Repair Your Digital Product?

The first step in assessing conversion on your site is a general triage to determine the type of challenges you’re dealing with and what kinds of resources you’ll need to spend addressing them. Does your site need a rethink, or a repair?

Determining a rethink
Low conversion could be due to a significant disconnect between your site, your offering, and your customers, or any combination therein. 

Major disconnects are complicated to diagnose the sources of the problem and require deep exploration of design solutions to resolve them – what we call a “rethink” of the site or core aspects of it. The solution is not simply patching up discrete areas but instead stepping back and reworking the approach.

A rethink could be required if:

  • You have a new product offering that changes how customers shop on your site
  • A shopping flow has been reworked in small parts over time, but the pieces no longer fit together 
  • You introduced personalization into your offering
  • You launched a subscription model or packaged your purchase options in a different way

A UX assessment – a holistic and in-depth look into your entire site – is best suited to determine which aspects of your site require a rethink and the directions to explore in resolving them. 

Determining a repair
Low conversion could be a build-up of more minor friction points that create resistance in your customers’ path.

Smaller friction points are tricky in their own right – they can be easy to overlook, but their impact on your customers is not trivial. They erode customers’ understanding of the product, their effort and interest to spend time on the site, and their confidence in your offering. 

Repairs of friction points could be necessary if: 

  • Your site has the core elements in place, but conversion is not where you want it to be 
  • Your team is so close to the product and cannot see what is working or not working for your customers

Not worthy of a rethink, these repairs can be more focused, requiring less design and engineering resources while still being effective. They are more like filling in potholes, removing debris, and updating the signage rather than repaving the entire road.

3 UX Repairs in Your Conversion Funnel Worth Examining

While the list of possible UX improvements is long, you can start by examining three factors often overlooked in the conversion funnel and can have a meaningful impact on your customers.

Not limited to one area of your site, these factors can occur on your homepage, product listing page, product detail pages, purchase flow, or checkout.

1. An unclear value proposition
You may feel that the benefit of your product or service is clear, but it’s easy to lose perspective of how new customers experience your site. Most likely, your target customers have little knowledge of your brand or offering and need easy ways to contextualize your product quickly. 

Connecting the dots between what you offer and the differentiated value is necessary for helping your customers understand what it is you offer and how it will fit into their lives.

Having an unclear value proposition on your website can happen due to different factors: 

  • A use of insider language that is unfamiliar to new customers
  • A positioning that may not communicate the value to customers 
  • A focus more on what the product is, instead of it’s use, value, and why it’s different than alternatives 

When you think the message of your offering’s value is not coming through, here are a few tactics to consider:

  • Competitive analysis: explore how competitors describe their products to differentiate your product and clarify its value
  • Interviews with loyal customers: talk with your current customers about what they value about your product and brand, then compare your findings with the positioning on your website 
  • Concept testing: test wireframes with different visual and written content to communicate the product and have users describe their understanding of the product and its value
  • A/B testing: isolate and test one specific element of your site at a time – visuals, supporting copy & CTAs – to see which has better success rates with customers

2. Choice overload
An abundance of options can be overwhelming in any circumstance. Add in scanning and comparing products on a digital screen – a mobile screen at that – and customers understandably can quickly experience cognitive overload. 

Simplifying how you present your product catalog or service options  helps customers find what they are looking for without needless effort on their part. 

Factors that can lead to choice overload include:

  • A complex product system, resulting in giving customers too many options at one time
  • Too much information about a product for them to comprehend/compute
  • Missing information at a high level that makes it difficult to know what they’re comparing
  • Purchase options that require mental math to compare or break down 

If you believe your customers are expending too much mental energy in their path to purchase, consider one or more of the following strategies: 

  • Easy comparisons: help them compare your products against each other, or compare your product against your competitor’s in a visual way 
  • Reduce the number of choices: if your subscription has quantity and frequency options, consider making one consistent (e.g., X products monthly, OR 1 product on an X basis)
  • Focus on one decision at a time: if customers build a box of products, step the process so that they only make one decision on each screen (e.g., product type, then size, then items, …)
  • Use visuals where possible: use icons, illustrations, graphs, etc., to make scanning easy and reduce long copy on product listing and detail pages 

3. No purchase reassurances
Perhaps customers understand the value of your product, and their intent to purchase is high, but they wonder, “what if it doesn’t work out?”

Reassuring customers have options after purchase if the product or service doesn’t work out de-risks the purchase and helps build confidence in their decision.  

At-purchase hesitations can happen due to several factors:

  • Customers’ fear of making a mistake, particularly for high-price purchases
  • Past “burn” moments with other services/products that didn’t work out
  • They are new to the brand and skeptical to purchase

To help de-risk customers’ purchasing from the site, you can try different strategies:

  • Simplify & clarify terms: being upfront with what they are signing up for, e.g., if membership requires a fee, and what they will be getting in exchange
  • Reinforce flexibility: putting them in control of any level of commitment – the ability to pause/cancel anytime or change products in a subscription
  • Highlight benefits/value: exclusive access to products or features or always free shipping for subscribers
  • Usability test: If you’re not sure, run usability tests to narrow in on customers’ hesitations – what stops them in their tracks? What questions do they have before they can move forward?

Removing friction for improved conversion

Whether it’s a rethink or a repair on your hands, doing maintenance or conducting regular assessments on your conversion funnel is a valuable exercise to keep your site’s UX in good condition. By narrowing in on the possible issue and trying different strategies, you can remove unnecessary bumps and clear the path for your customers to have the smoothest possible experience.