How strategic friction lets brands balance security and convenience

Customers love online shopping for the convenience, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to sacrifice the security of their transactions. Unfortunately, many brands struggle to properly balance security and ease, leading to a confusing experience for their customers. Too often, security precautions add excessive friction, inconveniencing users by forcing them to fill out CAPTCHAs or jump through other hoops just to make a simple purchase.

Fortunately, there’s a better solution available, one that strikes the right balance between safeguarding your systems and users’ sensitive data and the need to provide a streamlined user experience. By accounting for the known context of a user’s behavior, strategic friction solutions introduce additional security measures only when appropriate, allowing trustworthy users to navigate your platform with minimal disruptions.

The importance of context in online transactions

Ecommerce fraud is an ever-growing problem for online brands. In fact, total ecommerce fraud losses hit $41 million in 2022 and total online payment fraud losses are projected to reach a whopping $343 billion over the next five years.

Naturally, brands want to avoid fraud at all costs. But adding too much friction to the shopping process negatively impacts sales, cutting into revenue even further. A one-size-fits-all approach to friction doesn’t work either, as it ignores the context behind each transaction. Every customer has unique preferences and varying levels of tolerance for friction when they engage with brands online, depending on factors like the size and urgency of their purchase.

For example, if a customer is making an inexpensive purchase from a website they frequent regularly, they will expect to complete that transaction with little disruption. However, if that same customer makes an expensive purchase on a website they haven’t used before, they exhibit trepidation about the security of the purchase and, in turn, accept more friction throughout the process in exchange for peace of mind.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that context dictates the amount of friction customers will tolerate. But you still must identify opportunities to put friction into practice. This is where strategic friction comes into play.

What is strategic friction?

Strategic friction is a user verification process that adjusts the amount of friction experienced online depending on the perceived risk of the user. This risk score can be affected by a number of factors, such as the number of transactions a user has made within a certain time period. When a user’s risk score shows red flags, strategic friction would enable you to introduce an additional roadblock, like a one-time password (OTP), to verify the user’s identity. This approach allows you to be more intentional with the friction you introduce to customers, which helps preserve a smoother user experience overall.

However, strategic friction is difficult to implement without a thorough understanding of your customers’ online behaviors. This is why behavioral biometrics are so important. Behavioral biometrics look at a user’s inherent behaviors like typing cadence and mouse movements to develop a profile of the user over time. As users interact more with your platform, their profiles grow more comprehensive and their known behaviors more well-defined. Then, when a customer behaves in an unexpected way, indicating their account might be compromised with a bad actor involved, you can introduce strategic friction to verify the user’s identity in real-time.

Ultimately, online users will continue to expect both seamless user experiences and secure transactions. Strategic friction that is powered by behavioral biometrics and risk scoring puts your brand in a position to strike the right balance between these two expectations, while protecting your systems and data from fraudsters.

Strategic friction is there when you need it to be

A seamless user experience is a must for online brands and retailers. But it can’t come at the expense of security. By leveraging behavioral biometrics and risk scoring, you can introduce strategic friction when necessary and let trusted customers complete purchases without interruption. After all, in an e-commerce world fueled by personalization, why shouldn’t friction be the next frontier of customization?