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Friction isn't a bad thing. Here’s why.
Reflections from Floor's Head of Partnerships
In a world saturated with advice and strategies focused on eliminating friction for users, what if web3 growth leaders dared to challenge the status quo? What if our relentless pursuit of an effortless, frictionless customer journey is actually leading to higher churn? After all, what is easy to get is also easy to forget.
What if, instead of avoiding friction, we should embrace it as a catalyst for greater customer engagement? What if friction has the power to unlock higher conversion rates, beckoning us to explore a paradigm shift in our marketing approach?
In our conversation with Zack who heads partnerships at Floor, the leading NFT mobile app, we delve into the untapped potential of friction and its positive impact on customer behavior. This is an invitation for web3 growth leaders to reconsider conventional wisdom and discover unorthodox paths to success.
When removing friction makes sense…
Conventional wisdom around removing friction is sensible in most, but not all, contexts. In particular, friction should be removed for routines - when a recurring task needs to be completed, and typically involves a trigger for an activity that produces a reward.
Think about the routine of getting from one point to the other - you would want the experience to be as frictionless as possible, which is how Uber stood out. Within 3 taps, you can call a car right where you are. Or the routine of moving money - a mobile banking app allows you to skip trips to the banks, and you want the experience to be as seamless as possible. In such routine contexts, reducing friction is the way.
…and when friction enhances engagement
But web3 growth leaders operate in a slightly different environment - one that is particularly fickle and absent-minded. It does not take much to hit the “Follow” button on Twitter, join a Discord server or get added to a Telegram group. As a result, web3 users are inundated with noise and activity.
Like the namesake song: easy come, easy go.
Removing friction also removes the joy from going through a journey - one that is effortful and requires commitment, but as a result is a lot more rewarding.
Zack shared his learning, “One of the largest global travel sites ran an experiment almost a decade ago - reduce the time it took to search for the right hotel. They managed to bring the search-to-book process from a minute down to 5 seconds, and thought that it would increase engagement. As it turned out, usage dropped considerably as users no longer found the joy of discovering new hotels as well as the thrill of comparing options and hunting for deals. The fascinating experience was no longer present.” This “fascinating experience” enabled by friction is what Floor has introduced since inception.
Want access to Floor? Find an invite and get past 3 friction points
Since inception, Floor has been an invite-only mobile app. While the typical path for a startup building a mobile app is to launch it with much fanfare, open access to anyone with a smartphone and encourage as many signups, Floor decided to go against the grain.
“Our onboarding experience included numerous areas of friction. In each of these steps, we were able to provide a curated experience to make the experience special for the new app users that we were introducing to Floor. In a world that has endless airdrops, we were excited to onboard people that went the extra mile because they really wanted to try the app.Yet we found that eliminating or reducing these different points of friction significantly impacted activation rates,” says Zack.
Adding friction does not necessarily mean stifling growth either - Zack led the charge in partnering with NFT communities to drive thoughtful adoption and activation. “The special power in web3 is how impactful being a part of a community is. Working with these communities to provide a special experience and to bring utility to their loyal holders has proven to be a great collaborative experience.”
As a result, Zack worked directly with NFT community leaders to introduce Floor. While the activation journey had intentional friction points, it was also designed to be special. Each community enjoyed an exclusive week - “Instead of bringing our app to 20 communities at once, we took only a handful of communities each week. During that week, we made custom landing pages - even inside the app. We spent time in their Discords to answer questions, and app demos. We brought the relationship and human connection back into a mobile app.”
In short, the Floor team identified an opportunity - where the larger NFT marketplaces had grown so quickly that they missed the boat to nurture superfans through intimate connections. Floor is out to experiment the relationship ethos - can closer connections lead to a moat?
Scaling with friction
Thoughtful friction can lead to commitment and engagement from users, but what about top line growth?
This is where Zack shares Floor’s two-pronged approach: scaling beyond NFT communities, and engineering virality.
Floor began with NFT communities, yet there is a finite (and relatively small) number of users in each community. Scaling then became about finding communities with larger audiences. This included NFT marketplaces, wallets and eventually blockchains. “We started to layer on our approach to communities. For example, we recently launched Floor for Solana and have partnered with multiple areas of the area ecosystem stack including marketplaces. Simple moves like adding a welcome message - “Welcome Tensor traders” helped us maintain personalization while accessing a larger audience.”
Furthermore, Floor’s growth has accelerated through community invite codes. Each new member of Floor had 2-3 invite codes that they could share with peers, even if they were not part of the original community. “As our k-factor grew, we started to see user numbers pick up really quickly.”
Bringing the excitement back to users
As Zack reflected on the hits and misses of Floor’s growth journey, he declares, “Some of our worst performing campaigns were through airdrops. Airdrops are the counterthesis to friction - users literally do not have to lift a finger to receive the drop. As a result, it became too easy, and lacked exclusivity. Users think, “I will go have a look at it when I am free”, but they quickly forget about it and receive more airdrops from other projects - all of which go into the graveyard of the hidden folder”.
Friction, as it turns out, brings the excitement back to users because it is not one of 100 free things. Instead, conquering through the friction offers a sense of achievement. “You earned it! ”
Friction also offers the opportunity for VIP experiences. Every step of the flow can be designed with the right message, and Floor has done it so users feel exclusive and special. After all, they only received access to the Floor app because they were part of select communities that were onboarded as Floor partners.
In conclusion, it is worthwhile for web3 growth leaders to challenge the prevailing mindset of eliminating friction. While reducing friction is sensible in routine contexts, web3 potentially calls for something different. Embracing friction as a catalyst for engagement can lead to higher conversion rates and more meaningful interactions, as demonstrated by Floor. In an era of information overload and fleeting attention spans, friction might be what it takes to bring back the excitement, deeper connections and ultimately, sustainable growth.
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