Find Your Customers' Friction

Written by:
Dan Parry
December 10, 2019

The definition of friction:




Resistance to the motion of one object moving relative to another.

In the context of your business though, we describe friction as something that slows or stops your potential or actual customers from getting what they want. It might be something practical like getting food delivered to your home from your favourite restaurants (think Deliveroo) or something less tangible like trying to be more mentally sound (Calm or Headspace are good examples of this).

In this article, we’ll talk about what friction is, how it affects your customers, and what you can do to minimise or remove it. We’ll use the examples of Deliveroo and Calm to help make our points a little clearer, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop me an email. 

Know Your Customers

Your first step is to identify and learn all you can about your customers, understand what they’re trying to achieve (i.e. What’s their goal?), and why they're trying to achieve it. 

As mentioned, their goal could be as basic as getting lasagne from the small Italian down the road that doesn’t do deliveries, to something far loftier, like getting access to most of the music ever created – thank you Spotify.

It’s important to get as much data before you launch as possible. Get quantitative data from surveys like Typeform or analytics software like Google Analytics. Get your qualitative data from doing interviews of potential and actual customers or from reading reviews of your competitors – on the assumption that those reviews are real, of course.

Some of these options will be more appropriate than others. We believe that you can never have too much good data. It's key to ensure the data you’re collecting is good, or you could end up going in the wrong direction.

Talk To Your Customers

Assuming you’ve got good data, the more you have of it, the more reoccurring themes will emerge. You ideally want evidence of your target customers coming across repeated points of friction and overcoming them with great difficulty, or not being able to complete their goal at all. 

If you’re getting this information from an interview, try to get as much detail as possible. Let your interviewee ramble. And usually, if their struggle is really painful, they will go on and on. 

The question you need to ask is, do enough people experience these pain points often enough to pay you to resolve them?

Listen To Your Customers

We’ve identified a few different behaviours or situations that could cause friction for your target customer. Your customer may say this in different ways:

Friction of complexity

“This is hard to do”

“There are too many steps”

Deliveroo example:

“Arranging to get food from my favourite restaurant is difficult. I have to call them up, place the order, arrange a time, and then pick it up. It’s especially annoying as I don’t drive in London.”

Friction of understanding

“I don't know how to do this”

“I don’t know why I should do this”

Calm example:

“I feel like I don’t know how to meditate right. I keep losing concentration and don’t really get it.”

Friction of ability

“I don't have the skills to do this”

“I’m not good enough to do this”

Deliveroo example:

“My flatmates and I really want authentic Tandoori chicken after nights out, but none of us know how to make it"

Friction of cost

“It's too expensive to do this”

“I can’t do this as much as I’d like”

Calm example:

“In London, meditation classes are £150 for 6 classes. That’s really expensive.”

Friction of time

“I don't have the time to do this”

“I don’t have the time to learn how to do this”

Deliveroo example

“I love Japanese cuisine, but don’t have the time to learn how to cook exotic meals.”

Friction of behaviour

“I don't want to do this”

 Calm example:

“I’ve got no interest in meditation at all. I don’t see the point.”

Empathise With Your Customers

The thing about friction is that it’s situational and circumstantial.  Different customer types will experience friction differently. Olympic ice skaters handle the ice much better than people who have never skated before. Also, different customers will assign different values to their friction points. It’s your job to understand how much value they place on each of these and then minimise them so that they can achieve their goal more easily.

To achieve this you need as little friction as possible.

The fewer the points of friction, the easier it’ll be for your customers to complete their goals, and the faster they will pay you.

A good example is cost – Some people care more about cost than others.

Your price point may not be a big factor if your clients are more well off, however, they may value their time highly. Any solution you pose may need to reduce the amount of time it would take for a potential customer to achieve their goal in order for it to be valuable.


  • Identify your Target Customers
  • Identify their goals – what are they trying to achieve and why?
  • Get data from your Target Customer to identify their points of Friction – i.e. what is stopping them from reaching their goal? 
  • Figure out how much value or importance they place on each point of friction.

What’s next?

In another article, we’ll explain how you can evaluate if your business can reduce or remove friction for your customers, and how to create minimum viable tests to prove your assumptions.

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