The Key to E-commerce Success? Friction Reduction


Let’s take a moment to talk about convenience stores. The first corner stores launched in the early 20th century, offering must-have products like bread and milk, but with three key distinctions: they were located close to populated areas, they were open after larger grocery stores closed, and the products cost more. Regardless of inflated prices, customers lined right up — and convenience became king.

To some extent, we all value a frictionless transaction. Imagine you live on the second story of an apartment complex, and you’re in the market for a new TV. It’s large, difficult to carry up the stairs, and takes at least two people (and some elbow grease) to mount on the wall. Now imagine you can press a button and get that TV installed in your apartment instantaneously, for the same price as buying it in-store. Would you do it? Would you still do it if it cost a little bit more?

Amazon, an e-commerce leader in the US and beyond, has been perfecting the art of friction reduction since their launch in 1994. The motivation for shopping on Amazon has slowly shifted from “it’s the cheapest option” to “it’s the easiest option — and still a good deal.” Let’s take a look at some of the ways Amazon is able to reduce friction for their customers, particularly Prime subscribers, in 2018.

  • Customers can get free 2-day shipping on a ton of products.
  • Customers can get free same-day or 1-hour shipping on select products.
  • Checking out is incredibly fast and simple after setting up an account.
  • This is especially true for mobile – tap “buy now” and swipe to confirm. No fumbling involved.
  • Alexa makes ordering and reordering possible without lifting a finger
  • Customers can order groceries and other perishables, saving time and skipping the lines and hassle of grocery shopping.
  • Amazon can deliver inside homes and cars.
  • Amazon can deliver to a slew of Amazon Lockers, located at convenient locations.
  • Customers can use one account (Prime) for many things, including free fast shipping, TV and movies, web storage, music streaming, grocery discounts, video game perks, and more.
  • Amazon ships “Frustration-Free Packaging,” allowing customers to open packages with ease.

In short, Amazon is making continuous efforts to make things easy. If something is frustrating or difficult, rest assured that they’re working to fix it. This is a huge reason why they’re winning — even though their prices aren’t necessarily the best anymore. Amazon initially attracted customers with great deals. Now they’re confident in the ecosystem of convenience that they’ve created, and are making big moves, such as increasing the price of Prime by 20%, as a result. Moving swiftly toward profitability, Amazon has combined the convenience of the 1927 corner store with the power and influence of an international retail giant — a combination that’s certainly tough to beat.