Decision intertia

I was having an interesting discussion with a colleague Cris Pearson (founder of Skitch & Comic Life) about pricing models on the web – as soon I’ll be changing the rentoid model.

I asked his some advice and his response was so simple it is till ringing in my ears.He said;

The more choices you give consumers, the less likely they are to do any anything.

Cross road decisions

He then went on to say ‘choose a price’ not multiple options, to avoid decision inertia. The question for startups is – what complexity barriers have we created which stop our people from buying from us?


Transaction Friction

I’m currently in the midst of improving the usability of We are quite certain that it will improve things dramatically from where we are today. easy to follow steps and visuals to first time users.

But in truth it really won’t be enough to be game winning. After this website improvement, we’ll need to continuously iterate what we have.  And if I am to tell you all a secret here on startup blog it’s this… Some the new changes will need to be replaced in a couple of months, and so on in perpetuity. The reason is that I get phone calls all too often which sound like this:

Customer: ‘Hi I’m ring up about renting that double bed you have listed on’

Me: ‘Sure, are you new to rentoid? If so let me explain very quickly how it works…..

(I say we don’t own items, rather have a website that people use to rent items to and from each other. I tell her how to join / transact)

Customer: So it’s some random person?

Me: Usually things like beds are rental business – it will be identified as such saying’rentoid business partner’

Customer: Ah, no sorry… It sounds just too hard sorry…. thanks.’ Hangs up phone.

* If the first contact was with the owner, things may have been very different.

There’s too much friction. As a little reminder this is the definition of friction as it pertains to physics:

A force that resists the relative motion or tendency to such motion of two bodies or substances in contact.


The bodies in this case are the customers and the website. And transaction friction occurs whenever these bodies interact.

Currently, there are too many interactions before a transaction can happen. The reason the system has been designed this way has been to ‘protect revenue’, as all my readers will know I don’t believe that “Free” is a business model. But the question I am seriously asking myself is ‘How much revenue are we losing because of friction?’

It is free to join and list on and we take 5% revenue of each rental. Which means both the renter and the rentee need to do quite a few clicks before the transaction is complete. Both parties have to deal with significant fraction in order to transact with each other.

The owner has a lot of friction listing the item

The person renting also has a bit of friction when paying the 5 % deposit on rentoid to get the owners details.

This process protects our revenue, but slows things down and is painful.

There is no doubt it that turns many people away – how many we just can’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to make it ‘free’ – but maybe it’s time to make people pay to list. Which we have avoided to reduce barriers to entry for listers, as listings (having the most items for rent in one place) is game winning. That said, listing already has a lot of friction in any case…. it takes time & effort, maybe asking for a few dollars up front isn’t really a problem? Maybe people wont mind if it creates more rentals for them because their phone number is on display for the renter to call them immediately and get renting? There is only 1 way to find out the answer to this question and that is to implement it. But friction has to be balanced. We need the minimal amount of friction to to move things forward, but enough friction to make so money as well.

The other benefit of changing the system is that it will bring the money forwards and reduce complexity of the site mechanics. But it does open to other competitive risks like screen scrapping, and listings being stolen.

I’ll let you know which way we go…. In the mean time think about this in relation to your business or startup:

“How can I reduce transaction friction in my business?’