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A Little User Friction Isn't a Bad Thing. Here's Why.

What if user friction isn't the real enemy? Customers might appreciate a little friction in exchange for data security.

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In digital commerce, businesses often see friction as a problem to avoid. But why do we think friction is the enemy? Have we stopped to consider how customers might appreciate a little friction in exchange for ?

There's a lot of real-world evidence that people are feeling anxiety about data security. This is something I know all too well: My wife's food delivery account has been hacked. A lot. We've seen orders placed for Pad Thai in NYC when we were most certainly not in NYC. Unknown charges on food delivery sites worldwide are just the tip of the iceberg.

Poorly secured websites are a prime example of what can happen when the is too frictionless. Without enough friction, your data is going to be stolen, and accounts will be taken over by fraudsters. Last year alone, consumers lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud. It's time we move past the terror we feel when we hear the words "user friction" and focus on how a little bit goes a long way.

Related: 3 Solutions for Ecommerce Merchants Fighting Fraud

It all starts with onboarding

The onboarding process is when most potential customers jump ship, so user friction is a particular concern at this stage. You probably know the stats about cart abandonment: Around 70% of shoppers abandon their online carts, 57% will leave if the site takes three seconds to load, etc. With up to 34% of users citing account creation requirements as a reason to abandon their cart, it's clear friction plays a role in these statistics.

But why do those customers want to avoid creating an account? Is it because it's simply a hassle or one step too many to come up with a password, choose security questions and verify their email? Probably, but the growing demand for better personal data security comes into play here, too. There's an information fatigue factor here with customers. With every site that has your data, you're more at risk. It opens users up to yet another potential cyber breach, because a company isn't correctly securing its data.

We can fix that onboarding process, but it will require a paradigm shift to ensure customers understand why friction should happen at the beginning of this process. It's a tradeoff: A little friction for a lot of security. Luckily, people are already comfortable with facial biometrics for unlocking their smartphones, and that comfort level is also starting to translate to online banking. We can use that momentum to incorporate similar across other industries. First, however, we have to take the time to explain to customers exactly why we require a selfie to create an account.

Security is key. People are smart, and they're worried about how secure their data is online. However, customers will unfortunately often see account creation as an unnecessarily burdensome process without seeing the benefit of increased protection of their data. Suppose we can convince them that taking a quick selfie and uploading a picture of their ID for verification is a step that will vastly improve their online security. In that case, I think we'll see a rapid embrace of this little extra friction. In many cases, it's even faster than typical account creation. But first, we have to build trust with our customers that a bit of friction now means a safer and more streamlined experience each and every time they log in.

Additionally, identity document proofing is necessary at this step to ensure the person taking the selfie is actually the person they're claiming to be via this government document. An ID can quickly be scanned with a mobile phone and a decision made in seconds. This identity proofing friction accomplishes a few things. First, this verification step offers security for both the user and the company before a person is granted access to apps or services. Second, users will save time by not needing to manually enter in their personal data as this can be extracted instantly from the document to populate forms automatically. This is crucial for someone like me, who is trying to move fast and constantly makes mistakes in entering my information. Lastly, it means a user will save time later in the buying process (we'll get to that part shortly).

The statistics back up that people want a little more security. Nearly three-quarters of users in the U.S., UK, and China feel secure when asked to verify their identity with biometrics when signing up for online services. And further adding fuel to the fire that friction is necessary for businesses, nearly half of users think brands should be responsible for protecting their digital identity.

Related: Address These 10 Common Causes of Customer Friction to Maximize Success

Friction is better than fraud

From the customer's point of view, a few extra seconds during account creation outweighs all the time, headache and costs that fraud from an insecure website or application can produce. Capturing a selfie isn't any more strenuous in practice than figuring out security questions or a complex password, and it vastly reduces user friction in subsequent logins.

Changing the user onboarding experience will benefit companies, too. There's a lot of backend support that goes into helping customers with troubles or scanning for fraudulent activity. That amount of customer interaction also increases a company's vulnerability to lost sales. Simplifying the account security process through technology like facial authentication would alleviate the need for expensive call centers devoted to user security. Banks wouldn't have to employ people to call and inquire about possible fraudulent charges. A simple selfie would allow immediate authentication with strong underwriting.

Companies that take care of their customers' sensitive information get customer loyalty in return, and the reverse is true too: About a quarter of U.S. consumers reduced or stopped doing business with companies that suffered a data breach. Making the shift to a little friction and ongoing security means good things for both businesses and their customers.

Related: 3 Customer Experience Breakdowns That Buyers Hate

Speed and security

The friction associated with facial authentication only minimally applies in onboarding, anyway. Once you've created an account and verified your identity, the login process will become a lot smoother simply because of the ability to use a biometric selfie for future authentication. Just think about how easy it is to unlock your mobile device: Simply pick it up and look at it. You rarely, if ever, have issues with the device not recognizing you. The same could be true for business platforms that embrace a new way of doing business. This is a much faster process than any other method, from passcodes, to passwords, to knowledge-based authentication (KBA) or even voice verification.

There's a balance between user experience and security. Poor upfront identity proofing is a big risk, not just to customers, but to businesses' brand reputation and their fraud costs as well. The costs of fraud are going up: Every $1 of fraud now costs U.S. retailers $3.36, up from $3.13 in 2019. Incorporating that friction early in the process pays off in other ways as well: It allows for seamless underwriting to combat growing threats like synthetic fraud and friendly fraud. Businesses simply can't afford to avoid friction.

I understand why businesses might be wary of that initial user friction. Adding a potential hurdle to the onboarding process is daunting with how prevalent abandoned carts and uncreated accounts can be. But think about how much better the experience will be for both businesses and consumers. There are no more annoying one-time passcodes, no more passwords you can't remember and no more security questions you don't remember either. Instead, we're talking about streamlining the entire account creation and maintenance process with a substantial uptick in security. Who wouldn't want that?

Related: What Customers Expect Out of Their Digital Experience

Hold the oil, and embrace the friction. We don't need to shy away from friction. Good friction exists, even in the world of user experience. For example, when we first got online, passwords like "password" were considered secure. Creating a more complex password was a form of friction, yet nobody today would argue against it. The same can happen now, and customers will respond favorably if companies take the time to explain the "why" behind the new steps.

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