Secret Sauce

Author: Rishi Rawat

The original goal wasn’t to develop an optimization framework. But after running 300+ experiments it became clear some ideas were consistently doing better.

So we went through our entire back catalog and started organizing ideas into buckets. Those buckets were sliced and diced dozens of times. The goal was to organize ideas into well-defined tactics. We’d get really excited when we felt close to a break-through. And then an inconsistency would appear and we’d have to start all over again.

There were times when it felt hopeless.

Finally, on May 20, 2019 the model was complete.

It took 6 months to finalize the model. Without further ado, here is the magic behind what we do at Frictionless Commerce:


Let’s say at some point you say, “you know what, I like the way these Frictionless Commerce people think” and decide to discuss things further. During the call we discover we share a birth date. That fact should have no say on your final decision (it’s a trivial coincidence), but, statistically speaking, it will. knows this.

There are two types of holiday shoppers: those who get their shopping out of the way a month before the big day and those who procrastinate until 11:59pm on Christmas Eve.

For that second group of shoppers, added this to their homepage:

For these last-minute shoppers, has recommended an email gift certificate. No wrapping and no mailing. Just what a last-minute shopper needs.

A last-minute shopper who visits this page will feel as if the site predicted something about them and they will be more likely to convert.


Narrative Control is simply the process of making positive something that is or will be perceived as a negative. Why does this matter?

Shoppers hate paying shipping. If you A/B test a $100 item with free shipping versus the same item at $90 with $10 shipping, the free shipping option will win every time even though the effective total price is the same.

A client didn’t want to offer free shipping. His reasoning was “we pay for shipping, so we’ll charge for it”. So, instead of offering free shipping (which we knew the shopper would respond to) we explained the truth about free shipping, and conversions increased 7%. You don’t have to always do what the shopper wants. Well reasoned explanations are incredibly persuasive.

Many shoppers instinctively close popups before reading their content. How can we solve this? Narrative Control is one option.

Take a look at this popup:

We had an idea to make sure shoppers stuck around to see what had to offer. When shoppers click on the ‘close’ button, instead of immediately closing the popup we show this:

We’re using Narrative Control by letting shoppers know that if they close this popup, they won’t be able to receive the discount offer again. Now shoppers have a choice to make: close the popup and never see the offer again or take the offer. What do you think they will choose?


People remember …

  • … 11% of what they hear
  • … 20% of what they read
  • … 80% of what they see
Visuals are processed 
 58,000x faster than text.

And this is why Visualization works so well.

Here’s a conventional example of Visualization to help you… uh… visualize the tactic:

The above image shows an image of two journals. The first is one of BooQool’s journals and the second is their competitor’s journal. BooQool is illustrating how ink doesn’t bleed through the paper of their journals while it does with their competitor’s journals. This makes it easier for the shopper to visualize the value BooQool’s journal offers.

Oh, and Visualization isn’t just about showing visuals. Words can activate Visualization too ( example ).

Our Views on Ethical Use

Our Idea Diary

Why Does Narrative Control Matter?

Various studies show that we have anywhere from 12,000 to 90,000 thoughts per day. While that's a large range, the general consensus is that the vast majority of those thoughts (upwards of 80%) are negative.

The purpose of Narrative Control is to change a shopper's negative thought into a positive one. If we let the negative thoughts pile up, chances are the shopper will leave the site without making a purchase.

So the next time you say "Shipping is free in the contiguous U.S.", also provide a call to action that, when clicked, shows a lightbox window with content explaining why your business can't ship for free to Hawaii and Alaska. That little explanation may help a Hawaiian or Alaskan shopper realize that small businesses can't afford to ship for free to places so far away. Instead of leaving the site, they'll stay and make their purchase.


Why don't we?

Our work is so proprietary so we're simply not allowed to share details about specific tests. But clients have made testimonial videos where they talk about the impact of the work (they feel more comfortable detailing the work in their own words). You can find this on our clients page.

This might not be enough for you. We get it. We also offer a totally free 1-on-1 consulting session. Here’s how it works: Pick a time that works for you and just throw the biggest marketing questions and challenge our way and see how we respond. We’ll even make quick mockups to show you solutions to your actual problems. All real-time. All on video. Yes, seeing what we did for client X might be interesting but it’s no substitute for an idea that’s custom designed for your situation. Interested?

How a Retired Couple Found Lottery Odds in Their Favor

This is a fascinating story because it shows that things right in front of people are often the least obvious to see.

Here is the story. Jerry Selbee and his wife, Marge, are a retired couple from a tiny town of Evart, Michigan (population 1,900).

Note: Jerry and Marge aren't "quants". In fact, they are the opposite. A simple, humble couple that had run a convenient store.

On a morning in 2003, Jerry walked into a corner store and discovered a new lottery game called Winfall. He read the rules and instantly got excited. If his basic calculations were right they felt he could play this game to his advantage.

But then his rational mind chimed in, "Jerry, think about it, this game was developed by Michigan lottery. There are smart people all over the state. If this was so simple they would have figured it out."

Fortunately for Marge, Jerry dismissed his negative thought.

Want to see the math Jerry ran in his head?

Our Views on Ethical Use

Neuromarketing is powerful, which is why us marketers need to be on the right side of ethics.

It's one thing to create a strategy to slow down distracted users. It's quite another to use tactics to manipulate.

Seen the Netflix documentary Fyre Festival? That's an example of unethical marketing.

Let's use marketing for good.