Ai Editorial: Friction in CX is necessary, just focus on the right type

8th October, 2019

From a travel retailer's perspective, having the right type of friction, with the right action, at the right time is imperative, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


Planning a trip and travelling can’t be termed as one experience. There are multiple sessions and in all probability multiple devices that encompass the planning, buying and consumption of the travel product.

Travel e-commerce players need to find ways to curb friction, especially in cases where one is returning to access an app/ or an account, or where a traveller isn’t able to enjoy an integral feature (like being able to select a seat and pay for it only via a PC and not via a mobile app/ site!).

One of the areas that e-commerce players have been focusing on is trust data from early on, and counting on the same to mitigate risk for future interactions. If travel companies aren’t prepared for the same then they won’t be able to accelerate transactions from returning customers or being in a position to block fraudsters using spoofed or stolen identities,

Before delving into the same, let’s understand why friction shouldn’t be looked upon as a dreadful word.

What is friction?

As LexisNexis Risk Solutions highlights, a frictionless customer journey “doesn’t equate to an absolutely friction-free experience. It’s about having the right type of friction, with the right action, at the right time. You have to figure out where and what that is”. From a shopper’s perspective, friction could be any feature or requirement that hinders their path through the sales funnel. It could be a compulsory registration, wearing form-filling and time-consuming authentication processes.

  • Authentication-related friction: For avoiding fraudulent transactions or checking whether the user is genuine or not, it has to be ensured that unnecessary steps shouldn’t be added. Authentication without proper context only prolongs the session, takes more time to complete a task. In terms of not being a victim of any sort of fraud, LexisNexis recommends an “application of digital identity paired with thoughtful risk-based use of other risk solutions such as decision analytics, verification and authentication, and where necessary, investigation and review products.” A unique digital identity for each user is based on analysis of many connections between devices, locations and anonymized personal information. Behaviour that deviates from this trusted digital identity can be identified in real-time. Travel retailers need to introduce identity validation measures only in questionable transactions. Also, if a verification measure has to be adopted, the most convenient ways must be introduced. Riskified’s data indicates that more than 80% of online shoppers respond to SMS confirmation, as opposed to a response rate of only 51% to emails. A  fraud prevention offering should be scalable and dynamic, efficient at evaluating a number of factors, and worked out for  sustained improvement based on valid and verifiable metrics.

  • E-commerce-related friction: Other than authentication, other areas of friction that all retailers tend to avoid are related to discovery (refrain from giving consumers more choices than ever before), transaction (for example, non-mobile-optimized checkout experience, non-availability of the preferred payment method, failure in transactions etc.) and post-purchase.

Some recommendations include:

  • Let shoppers complete a transaction without pressing them to sign in or create an account. Forcing that information up-front is one of the biggest obstacles to customer conversion  
  • Cut down the number of form fields in the checkout flow
  • Make forms as simple as possible
  • Share an outline of the checkout process
  • Feature copy and visual signals/ cues
  • Try modal windows or accordion interfaces rather than external links
  • Don’t forget to display a confirmation page
  • Offer shoppers every reason to come back
  • New initiatives: Airlines are looking at new programs to ensure they not only come up with enticing offerings for repeat purchases but also to wrap up an interaction in a speedy manner, including the transactions.

For example, the trend of subscriptions. It today goes beyond Netflix and Spotify. Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris’ decision to embrace the subscription model, v.pass, exemplifies the same. Be it for the idea to the development process to managing a subscription product, its technical complexity and above all, ensuring the passenger experience isn’t diluted, the airline asserts it is making progress. It is counting on possible benefits – thriving on data of members, stepping up the ancillary revenue generation etc. Just like retailers, travel brands are curating offers or offering incentives to travel shoppers to return and complete their transactions in a frictionless environment.

  • Integration with 3rd party apps: Also, for those travel shoppers who are used to using 3rd party apps, there are ways to integrate their offerings and in turn taking caring of pain points that are associated with shopping. This is a reason why digital wallets are attractive to buyers. Private authentication from biometrics (fingerprints or facial recognition, for example) as well as secure encryption and tokenization of payment information are a few reasons behind the same.


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