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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

Why Must I “Register” Before Checkout?

By Bryan Eisenberg
October 3rd, 2007

We’re in the final moments of completing our 2007 Customer Focus Study here at FutureNow. [UPDATE: FutureNow's 2007 Retail Customer Focus Study is complete.] We haven’t done one of these in the past couple years, and there’s already some shocking stuff popping out from the early analysis. One of the most interesting facts is that nearly half of the top online retailers still require people to register before they checkout.

Now, I understand how valuable executives think it is to have these customer accounts, but — of the hundreds we’ve analyzed — how many retailers do you think actually tested whether requiring people to register pre-checkout is costing them conversions (read: sales)?*

ecommerce account register before checkout

 

Retailers spend so much money driving new traffic to the site, only to force visitors away by asking them to register up-front. Most of the information you need to create an account will be asked in the checkout process, anyway. Get the cash (GTC) first, then do like TravelSmith does and offer the option to create an account after the order is complete.

get the cash and make customers register after order is complete

 

The silliest thing I’ve seen in awhile happened as I was reviewing one of the retailers in our study. I was working my way through the account registration process for one of the sites. After filling out most of the form, I kept getting an error message. I couldn’t figure out. This site demanded an answer:

  • “Yes, I would like to receive e-mail from Schwan’s.”
  • “No, please don’t send me e-mail.”

On most retail sites, you just uncheck the check box and avoid their e-mails. This one used radio buttons, altering the standard experience by having me choose just one. Why?

*Share your best guess in the comments.

Add Your Comments

Comments (31)

  1. I have a few ideas of why:

    1. The etailer is using a shopping cart solution that has pre-checkout registration a default and has not considered how that impacts usability. They’re not tracking analytics and funnel abandonment so they’ve never spotted the problem.

    2. It was a developer oversight. Often times businesses will hire web developers who are not schooled in ecommerce usability. The developers may also be limited by the platform of choice. As much as I think Drupal is a great and flexible open source CMS, its ecommerce functionality, especially with older versions, can be quite inflexible.

    3. The e-commerce store prefers to harvest data for marketing purposes.

    4. To simplify accounting procedures, they take the trade-off.

    5. One of the worst cases is when e-stores require registration because they only show pricing to registered users.

  2. I think another possibility we need to consider that many etailers are business people and rely on someone tasked with responsibility to track all those details. Problem is, as with many other corporations, in attempt to save they hire people not the most qualified or interested in it …

    Or as the case to be with small business – they try to do everything themselves and simply lack the knowledge to do it right …

  3. [...] Required Registration: Top Etailers’ Favorite Usability Mistake Posted October 3, 2007 by Linda Bustos / var addthis_pub = ‘hotwheel’; While preparing their upcoming report Customer Focus Study, 2007, Future Now observed “nearly half of the top online retailers still require people to register before they checkout. [...]

  4. I think the best way to approach this is to have registration option at the end ‘If you would like to track this order register here’. Then when they return offer them the option to register which will recall all their details from the first order, and save them time up front of their second order.
    Or don’t even mention stongly and as for an email to send confirmation and email them a password they can change.
    Its kind of like store cards in stores you do not need one to check out but if you get one you will get something back. (a bonus rather than a qicker checkout).
    What you want is the checkout as quick as in a shop you only need to give someone your money, not your life profile.

  5. Bryan, can you recommend any shopping cart software that doesn’t require you to register first?

    Zencart, MonsterCommerce, Xcart and some of the popular one’s do require to register first.

  6. I am pretty sure that AspDotNetStorefront has an anonymous checkout function.

  7. The other thing is: why call it registering — especially when you’re mostly collecting their credit card information and “registering” is somehat incidental? Can’t they “set up an account” like at Amazon?

  8. This is a throwback to when e-store owners bought what was on offer to get a store up and running and where not large enough to risk getting bespoke software written.

    The Registration process is nothing of the sort! It is usually just the collection of Name, address and e-mail details but done on a badly named “Registration Page” as opposed to a more friendly “Personal Details” page. The data collected is the same overall but the early software creates a barrier to sales completion by making it seem unfriendly or cumbersome.

    Get your software re-configured or at least use friendly language to stop the customer being put off by having details extracted from them before they have got WHAT THEY WANT, they are the paying customer here.

    Great topic

    This feature or configuration certainly irritates me and I know what is going on.

  9. By the way, TurnkeyWebTools’ Sunshop allows customers a choice: register or purchase without registering. XHTML and almost no tables anywhere, and themes dealt with the way WordPress does — design and upload, or design within the admin panel. Uses some JavaScript for tabbed functions, but if that’s acceptable, it’s pretty terrific.

  10. Bryan,
    Another point of view:
    We require customers to create an account prior to ordering as a means of eliminating insincere & fraudulent buyers. On-line retailers experience the same customer service pains-in-the-a..s as brick & mortar stores and perhaps we don’t really want everyone as a customer, especially when we sell a custom made (non-returnable) product. Our site’s funnel shows very low abandonment rates at the log-in/register page so I beleive that our customers really don’t mind creating accounts under the right circumstances. Each site owner has to evaluate their site visitors’ behavior and decide what works best for them. It’s not alway black and white.

  11. John,

    That is exactly the point. There are times when it really makes sense. It seems to in your case and in our case study with CafePress where we lowered their shopping cart abandonment from an already low 35% to only 15% abandonment. As you point out though, you thought about it, measured it and understand the impact. How many of your online retail colleagues do you think did the same?

  12. John – You say “Our site’s funnel shows very low abandonment rates at the log-in/register page so I beleive that our customers really don’t mind creating accounts under the right circumstances.”

    That is a testable hypothesis and you may well be correct. What I can tell you is that it is not the only way to deal with insincere and fraudulent buyers.

  13. Bryan,
    Well not many I guess. I have the advantage of having learned from the best in the business {;+) -FutureNow
    Jeffrey,
    Please elaborate on the topic of tools for qualifying quality buyers on-line.

  14. Bryan, regarding the use of radio buttons for email opt-in vs check/uncheck, I know someone that tested it and saw a noticeable increase in opt-ins.

    Why? I believe you said it best. “On most retail sites, you just uncheck the check box and avoid their e-mails. This one used radio buttons, altering the standard experience by having me choose just one”. That is why. It causes one to pause for a moment and either accept or reject based on the merit of the particular email being promoted rather then a habitual rejection based on the merit of previously encountered emails. It gives the email marketer a chance to persuade. The problem with the example shown is that “Yes, I would like to receive e-mail from Schwan’s.” “No, please don’t send me e-mail.” is not giving anything back to customer in terms of information in exchange for the few seconds of dedicated attention provided, to consider opting to receive the email. As in your case, it is annoying. For that you had keep me up?! You could have just allowed me to unucheck! It is just a roadblock. In addition, it also missed out on the opportunity to persuade. However, if there is real value in receiving a particular email, using radio buttons is a good way for getting one’s attention long enough to persuade or create momentum (link to a sample email etc). Then even if one declines to opt-in, it wasn’t just a roadblock. It was a conversation.

  15. Bryan,

    I made this very obvious point to our IT development team three years ago, and after much yelling and screaming I was able to get the “log in” page changed. Instead of a treatening log in dialog box a user is given the choice to either log in OR create an account. This simple change resulted in a huge scenario conversion increase. I agree, removing the step completely will further increase conversion, no doubt, but that’s another project.

  16. Bryan,

    I made this very obvious point to our IT development team three years ago, and after much yelling I was able to get the “log in” page changed. Instead of a threatening log in dialog box a user is given the choice to either log in OR create an account. This simple change resulted in a huge scenario conversion increase. I agree, removing the step completely will further increase conversion, no doubt, but that’s another project.

  17. Ken,

    X-Cart does allow for anonymous checkout. There is also a new player in open-source e-commerce that has the option – Magento.

  18. John – It’s not a tool (yet) that I’m describing it’s our framework for testing.

  19. Isaac, thank you. I’ll check this out.

  20. Our site doesn’t require pre-checkout registration, and we offer both “create account” and “no account” checkout. We give each customer the option of choosing a password during checkout – on the same page cc info is input. About 60% choose to. I’d like to ask for the password on the Thank You page, but for security by then session variables (containing customer details) are flushed.

  21. @Ken Savage

    One low cost shopping cart that can be configured to skip login entirely is Digishop.

    It is rediculous for a web merchant to expect everyone will be a repeat customer and need a login.

  22. I’m staggered that this issue is still so widespread. I think that it’s one of the biggest conversion killers out there in ecommerce.

    What is the big issue with creating accounts for people? Why should it not just be totally automated?

    For example, on completing a purchase, the customer is emailed a temporary password and an option to activate their “account” in order to review product / shipping status and personal information held. It could be seamless!

    After all, once a transaction is completed, surely this information is going to be held by the company anyway. Is there some US legal requirement that I am not aware of?

    Thank you Bryan for another insightful post.

  23. I think we should register before checkout because you can doing all thing with your account. Easy and simple

  24. With me, YES and NO. YES for any shop i always buying item from there and i will come back to buy more. NO for any shop i just need to buy one time.

  25. I also would love to know of a
    shopping cart software that doesn’t require you to register first? Seems most of them do these days. I would love to test them out if at all possible. Any ideas?

    I already checked these out too…Zencart, MonsterCommerce, Xcart, not bad at all though, impressed.

  26. I think we should to choose some famous shopping online website to buy product(s) from there. Then you should to register to save your information or just save your wishlist like Amazon. Or you can track back your old order. So great, right ?

  27. need to register first to be able to access a lot of info’s in the site..
    best lice treatment

  28. [...] έρευνα της FutureNow έδειξε πως το 50% των ηλεκτρονικών καταστημάτων [...]

  29. I also would love to know of a
    shopping cart software that doesn’t require you to register first

  30. Very easy to use WordPress Paypal Shopping Cart Plugin. PayPress is Great for selling products online in one click from your WordPress site.

  31. Wordpress is the best way of our advertisement of any thing like business prmotion, populatrity etc.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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