Friction Management is the Future of Retail


This is a very exciting time for retail marketers. It’s true, the industry is seeing some challenges, and some of the largest brand’s leadership are saying that the retail bubble has burst. I assure you, that is not true. For many brands, it may feel like the next Great Depression for retail. But why? People aren’t buying less, they just aren’t buying into your brand anymore.

Frictionless Automation

The more businesses that perfect the digital and ecommerce model, the more convenient and affordable they become. There’s no turning around from that. It’s the wave of the future and unless there’s a world-wide internet melt down, you’re going to have to find a new way to connect with your customers, or lose them forever.

Many retailers will develop successful strategies in the digital space, particularly through some level of automation and predictive technology. This means, that the future is not ordering your favorite meal from a robot, it’s never having to order the meal at all. An algorithm already knows what you want, and has it waiting on your doorstep before you arrive home. As brands begin to predict consumer behavior, they’ll be faced with a completely new challenge. This challenge may provide a different opportunity for businesses that aren’t interested in the increasingly competitive digital landscape.

Good Friction

Reducing the friction in a sales model is at the heart of omnichannel advancements, and a paramount goal for most brands, including those in the digital retail sector. The idea of a seamless, omnichannel experience is a good one. Companies that refine and perfect it will see exponential growth in the next 5 years. But, this model just isn’t realistic for everyone. The time and money that goes into producing digital platforms capable of this kind of experience won’t be cheap or easy. So, the small, boutique, and local businesses will likely spend their time trying to find the right kind of friction, instead of losing friction altogether, that makes the recreational aspect of shopping feel fun again.

The concern with anticipatory ‘zero click’ retail models is, with the sense of exploration removed from purchasing, the recreational element of shopping will essentially disappear. Brands that aren’t interested in moving into the automation/digital space, will need to find a completely new way to interact and differentiate from the (seemingly) soulless companies.

What’s to come?

How might retailers go about evolving with the influx of digital commerce and the need for community-based shopping options? The answer will depend largely on the company’s market and brand messaging. Whatever the future holds, we’re excited to see what’s in store for experiential retail and desirable friction.