So what kind of work do we do at Frictionless Commerce™?
When it comes to the work that we do at Frictionless Commerce, we follow a very systematic process. We look at what we do as an engineering problem. We’re like architects looking at the blueprint for a home. If we design the blueprint wrong, we’re going to design an awful home that won’t be up to code and may cause a lot of damage for the homeowners. Through trial and error, we’ve developed an internal process that forces us to take a systematic approach to every conversion problem. We call this our Conversion Rate Optimization Process.
One of the tools we use archive examples of our 16 conversion rate optimization tactics and examples of our past work is Evernote. We’re lazy. We don’t believe in reinventing the wheel if we don’t have to. There are companies out there that sometimes intentionally or even unintentionally do things that are genius and that fit into our conversion optimization framework. When we see those things, we make note of them and archive them in Evernote for future reference.
Something we do every day at Frictionless Commerce is a process called “Deconstruction”. This is the process of examining every single pixel, word, and emotion that is being expressed by the target. The “target” can a single page, a sequence of pages, or even just a part of one page of a site. Essentially, it is whatever we and client determine to be a point of friction for shoppers. The purpose of Deconstruction is to systematically break down the target and identify “hidden gems” within the target. The reason why we want to identify hidden gems is because one of the big misconceptions marketers have about how shoppers use the web is that if something is on a page or if something is linked to from a page, then everyone’s going to discover it.
What is iterative conversion rate optimization and how is it different from “one-shot” optimization? This is a really important topic for us at Frictionless Commerce. Clients will often come to us and tell us, “here is a page that is really problematic for us.” We will then spend time and effort identifying the tactics we can use and designing a solution for their problem. We show it to the client and they love the concept, after which we test it. If the test performs well, the client says, “Great. Problem solved. Now let’s focus on something else.”
What is the difference we’re seeing between mobile and desktop users? One of the big misconceptions marketers have about mobile users. There’s one school of thought that believes shoppers who are on their mobile device are in research mode, therefore we shouldn’t expect them to convert.
However, after analyzing data, the trend we’ve noticed over the past few years is that mobile traffic has been growing exponentially (in fact, some of our clients experience more mobile traffic than desktop traffic). What’s even more interesting is that if you segment your data by age group, you’ll likely see that younger shoppers convert at a much higher rate on mobile. This means that younger people are not only comfortable with researching on mobile, but with continuing through the entire purchasing process on their mobile devices.
The other thing to consider is that the mobile experience is different from the desktop experience. If you imagine your mobile site to be a shrunken version of your desktop site, you’ve already lost.
Businesses need to look at their mobile experience completely differently than how they look at their desktop experience. You need to segment out your traffic. Study your historical trends. You will find that mobile users behave in entirely different ways. The mobile experience is a different journey altogether.
Many marketers assume it’s impossible for mobile conversion rates to be higher than desktop conversion rates. But we have seen first-hand sites that experience mobile conversion rates that far exceed their desktop conversion rates.
We were blown away by this ourselves.
Today, we’re seeing dramatic changes in mobile traffic. On a segmented basis, we’re seeing much higher conversion rates for younger audiences on mobile and we’re seeing a general trend of better mobile conversion rates. For many of the businesses we see that don’t have a mobile-specific strategy, we’re seeing conversion rates that are ⅓ to ½ that of their desktop sites. Assuming this is the norm or what the norm will be is the wrong attitude. Mobile conversion rates will continue to accelerate for the next few years. Even Google is changing their indexing to be mobile-first, meaning there are search engine optimization (SEO) implications businesses need to consider.
While we don’t focus on SEO, we are deeply concerned about the mobile user’s experience. We know for a fact that the mobile user is fundamentally different from the desktop user, so we need to architect a completely different story for them. A completely different journey.
Redesigns have the potential to hurt conversion rates. Businesses often find themselves in a situation where they believe enough has changed about their business that need to rebrand or redesign their website. Many business may even redesign their site due to technical complications with their current site. For example, a business may currently have a separate subdomain for the mobile site but decide that they instead want their mobile site to be a responsive version of their desktop site. Because of this, they decide to redesign their site.
We’ve been in this business for the past 9 years, and while we don’t get involved with redesigns and instead specialize in conversion optimization, we have had 13 clients who did a redesign. Out of those 13 clients, 12 took a hit on conversion rates following their redesigns.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward.
When you do a redesign, you’re changing hundreds of variables on your site. All you can do then is look at the finished product and say overall this performing worse. There’s no way to work backwards or reverse engineer to pinpoint the specific reasons your new site is performing worse. That’s the nature of redesigns.
However, there is a process for diagnosing the reasons for worse performance. When a client who has just done a redesign comes to us expressing that their new state is providing non-favorable outcomes, we triage the situation by looking at the metrics for the old site to determine why the old site was performing better. We understand it’s not practical for the client to revert back to their old site because they’ve already invested a massive amount of time, effort, and resources into the redesign.
What we do instead is identify areas within the new site where there are growth opportunities. We can put together a road map to determine what we can do over a 6-month period to systematically and sustainably improve conversion rates to where the client wants to be.
Part of what makes us unique is our process. One of the most critical steps of our process is what we call layered conversion rate optimization. We believe this is the thing that makes us the best in the world at what we do.
When we first began as a business, clients would allocate a certain number of hours for us and ask us to find a solution for their conversion problem. We would then present a concept, set it up, and that was that.
However, what we’ve learned over the past 9 years is that when you spend tens of thousands of hours on conversion optimization, you begin picking up on certain nuances that the average person simply doesn’t notice. One of the insights we had is that the concepts improve significantly if we can iterate on them. This is an internal process for us (so the client isn’t included at this stage).
Our process entails working in 2-hour cycles, following a conversion optimization checklist we’ve developed, deconstructing the target to formulate ideas, then developing a concept. We stop working when we believe we’re at the point where our concept can outperform the target. At that point, we send the project to another team member for their review. They will then follow the same process while asking themselves if we’ve missed anything during our first iteration of the concept. Because this team member is looking at the project with a fresh pair of eyes, they are actually able to quickly identify things the previous team member overlooked. They will then pass the project back to the first team member, who will use the second team member’s insights to further amplify the project.
This is a repeated process, which is why we refer to it as layered conversion rate optimization.
What we think is really remarkable is that some businesses view this approach as a waste of time. However, this is actually the best way to add value for a client because the last thing a business wants and needs is a concept that has been developed with all things being taken into consideration. Layered conversion rate optimization is how we get ahead of potential problems that would arise out of conventional conversion optimization.
It is important to note that we do realize there needs to be a balance with time. This is why we force ourselves to work within 2-hour cycles. We understand that work expands to fill time, so by placing restrictions on ourselves, we can come up with practical ideas that can move the needle.
We try to be intentional with our work. Even though we have a predictable process for conversion optimization and a toolkit that allows us to actually produce ideas that we’re confident can outperform any other agency in the world, we do have a specific view on how large we want to be.
We’re not very excited or interested in having a large agency where we have dozens and dozens of employees and clients who come in to be handed over to a junior conversion strategist. Instead, we want to stay small and work with a handful of clients. We don’t want any conflict of interest, so if we’re working with a client that sells designer clothing, we don’t want to work with similar clients at the same time.
We want to proactively identify potential clients ourselves as opposed to having clients come to us through referrals. That’s not to say we don’t understand the power of referrals (in fact, we think it’s wonderful that our clients recommend us to their friends). But we think that because we do so much work up front—by the time we reach out to a client we’ve already deconstructed their site and identified areas of opportunity—we believe we’re already able to tackle the conversion problems our potential clients are trying to solve. This is why reaching out to potential clients is an effective strategy for us.
Being a large company for the sake of being large is not our goal. More work is not what’s exciting for us. What’s exciting for us is solving really difficult conversion problems and applying our unique skill set to solve those problems. We value working with companies, founders, and teams that are a perfect fit for our personality type.