The joy of friction

Most brands are on a mission to create customer experiences that are as simple and smooth as possible. Yet, argues Wayne Deakin, ECD, EMEA at Huge, sometimes a bit of friction is a good thing

There is a growing cult in marketing. I’m talking about the cult of brand experiences that are seamless and obstacle-free. Brands that do best in a post-pandemic world will give us back our time through frictionless customer journeys, popular wisdom now suggests. Popular wisdom, however, can be misguided.

Consider Amazon with its seamless user experience that every time is as well-oiled and meticulously choreographed as North Korean marching soldiers. This is the degree of frictionless experience to which a growing number of brands now seem to aspire.

Now think about Ikea which, when it comes to its brand experiences, has two major obstacles baked in. The first, if you can think as far back as pre-Covid-19 store closures and lockdowns, is the physical bottlenecks built into its convoluted in-store journey. The second – and, perhaps, the more obvious – is you have to assemble the furniture you buy once you get it home.

True, Amazon is an online business that at last count now operates at least seven different kinds of physical stores with plans in the UK to open 30+ bricks and mortar outlets while Ikea is a retailer that started out in the real world before extending online. But at heart, Amazon is a delivery mechanism while Ikea is a brand in which certain frictions enrich the customer experience.