Welcome to our guest blogger Bea. 

Bea is a Behavioural Science Consultant at LAB Group. She works with Reflect Digital and our clients by expertly blending Behavioural Science and Digital Marketing to help you understand the human behind the technology, enabling leaders to make better-informed business decisions.

At Reflect Digital we apply behavioural principles to search marketing for better user experience and better results for our clients. 


We all strive to provide a seamless digital experience for our users, but have you considered the potentially negative effect of a frictionless journey? A valuable consideration in the user journey is the appropriate application of friction, which introduces and incorporates marketing prompts to wake people up and ultimately create better engagement with the brand. 

Read on for a more indepth look at friction and the future of digital experiences as Bea provides a breakdown of her acclaimed TEDxLSE talk:

Friction: A digital wake up call

Behavioural science tells us that human behaviour is highly context-dependent and that even the smallest changes to our surrounding environments can influence behaviour. It has also been shown that our minds can be transformed by technology. Take VR for example, Rosenberg (2013) showed that embodying a superhero can help encourage prosocial behaviour, while Banakou (2016) showed that the embodiment of white people in a virtual black body helped decrease impartial racial bias. It’s no wonder that we all start to become addicted to our digital devices from time to time.

In digital, our frictionless world is designed to reduce the amount we have to think about online interactions. Traditional user experience (UX) advice is to encourage system 1 thinking, which is automatic, unconscious and effortless (Kahneman, 2011).  For example, at the moment on Instagram, they have designed a frictionless experience using system 1 thinking, with their ‘infinite scroll’, to allow a continuous reel of content so you don't have to think. 


They’ve added friction to this experience by telling people ‘you’re all caught up’, when they’ve seen all the content on their feed. By adding friction here, Instagram provides an opportunity to engage system 2 thinking, more conscious, effortful thinking, to stop scrolling. 







The power of friction in digital experiences 

Businesses are starting to realise how much digital experience can negatively impact customers. From spending too much time on our screens, feeling down from FOMO on social media, to overspend and buyer’s remorse. The truth is, businesses have a moral obligation to encourage users to think more online, at key moments. 
Ultimately, businesses play an active role in preventing the negative consequences of frictionless experiences, from addiction to overspend. While championed by many, consumer rights in digital are still considered second to speed and ease in the design process. 

We know behavioural techniques can help marketing and sales. Emotionally or psychologically engaging messaging and more emotive creativity engages imagination and ultimately connects with the person behind the screen. You can’t blame businesses for who rightly invest in digital marketing for its measurable ROI, specific targeting for highly relevant messaging. It's relatively quick and easy to implement with the potential for highly targeted optimisation. With this in mind, how do we make changes in an environment where these tools have been so heavily used and where businesses believe that frictionless experiences are the only route to success? 

Time to shift our thinking 

Businesses need to shift their thinking from a frictionless world which is often unmemorable. The focus should be on adding enough friction, in the right ways, at the right time to enhance the journey and ensure people are making the right decisions online. 
There is a balance between having little friction to allow people a good user experience, yet adding enough positive friction to increase engagement and memorability. I had the pleasure of speaking at TEDxLSE about some of the most popular uses of biases and behavioural principles used in digital. I introduce an ethical guideline to help businesses decide how much and where to use friction in a given journey. I’d love to hear how you think we can encourage a more thoughtful design of digital experiences in a world obsessed with results, ROI and optimisation. 

Watch the TEDxLSE talk

If you would like to learn more you can watch Bea's full TEDxLSE here - Friction: A Digital Wake UP Call


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