Stop asking users to register before checking out

One of my biggest frustrations with the ecommerce sites we work on, is when clients want users to register before they can purchase.

Users do not come to your site to register. They come to purchase. Even though there is very little difference between the two activities (to make a purchase you have to provide all the same information as registration, with the exception of a password), in minds of users registration is a distraction.

It was therefore refreshing to read a post on econsultancy driving this message home. The author writes:

Making customers register before they checkout is a barrier to purchase, yet many online retailers have yet to learn this lesson.

He goes on to say:

A recent Econsultancy / Toluna study found that 25.6% of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first.

The post goes on to outline a series of alternatives. However, interestingly it fails to mention my preferred approach. I recommend that ecommerce sites ask users to register when they have completed their transaction. This is the point where the user is thinking “what next” and provides a superb opportunity to layout the benefits of registering.

Of course, the problem with not forcing registration is that users effectively create multiple accounts. This is not great from a marketing and data hygiene point of view. However, the post makes a suggestion for dealing with this too based on Amazon:

Amazon has an interesting example of how to handle this. It will allow me to create a new account with a previously used email address, but warns me that the existing account will be disabled.

If I’m a reasonably regular customer who has simply forgotten their password, this will convince me to go down the password reset / reminder route and avoid losing my stored billing address and payment details.

However, if this is an old, unused account, then allowing customers to go ahead anyway avoids the pain of resetting the password.

Do you build or run ecommerce sites? How do you deal with the issue of registration? Is there a better way? Share your approach in the comments below.

  • You can still create them an account, without having to tell them they have one. If you make their email address the unique point, link orders to a single account, and update the adress info with the latest entry. That way, when they do create an account, it’s already filled with all their previous orders.

  • Ideally, I’d like to be able to add an account to say, something like BrowserID. For example, when you get to the checkout process they’d be no need to register or enter your details. Simply, select what card to pay on and where to deliver the order to with BrowserID.

    From a security point of view, this would be great because your details wouldn’t be stored across various sites. Inconvenient for business as you wouldn’t be registering your information with them, but ‘ey. 

  • Dave Sanders

    25% seems ludicrously high in this day and age.  Perhaps in 2000, when people were still getting online and into e-commerce, but I really can’t believe that now-a-days.  If you are shopping online then you are already divulging the lion share of your personal data – your name, address, and payment information, and also likely your email.  What’s the difference with adding a password?

    I’d like to understand more what the survey population is, how the question was asked, and see it backed up by empirical evidence which would be very easy to assess via web logs.

    More likely, the user is bothered by ONEROUS registration.  Having to put in extra information than what is needed for the order, or having to go through an email authorization process.  Or perhaps having to register, then go through the terrible Paypal buying experience that smaller retailers use.

    Joel has the right idea – don’t call it “registration” – just ask them to give you a password along with the rest of the information they already have to give you so that they can “review or adjust your order later.”  Turn it from a “you must do this to buy from me” into a “you get better service if you just put your password in so you can come back.”

    But I really just don’t buy the numbers.

    • Aysha Marie Zouain

      I do, I really am that lazy that if the process is that long I will avoid it.

    • To me it’s like dating, no-one really wants to make a lasting commitment on a first date. (Unless its not really a first date but rather just a first purchase after they have had extended interaction with your site previously) You should probably ask nicely if you can call them again. Then you could always ask them if they want to have an extended relationship by creating an account but be gracious if they say no. If they have a good experience the first time they will probably come back. If they have a difficult time purchasing from your site they won’t. Negative impressions are far more lasting than positive ones.

    • I disgree with you. I really DO think the numbers are that high.

      I literally will leave a site if any form of registration is required anywhere during the purchasing process. I could be asked identical information between ordering and registration, and even so, I will leave the site.

      It’s not about the EFFORT of entering information. It’s about having a myriad of accounts lying around that I’ll likely never use again, and won’t be able to remember the login information for. It’s irritating, and it’s unnecessary.

  • Dave Sanders

    Which you handle like 99.9% of the sites do: a terms and conditions that no one is likely to read anyway, and is a requirement for purchasing.

  • Do Amazon allow you to overwrite an account with a new email address even if the address is different? I can understand why they would allow you overwrite it but it seems to somewhat defeat the object of creating the account in the firstplace.

  • Do Amazon allow you to overwrite an account with a new email address even if the address is different? I can understand why they would allow you overwrite it but it seems to somewhat defeat the object of creating the account in the firstplace.

  • We ask customer to register at the beginning of the checkout process and outline the benefits of registration, but we don’t require it. While registration after checkout would appear less intrusive, many of the benefits of registration – for example, loyalty points, shipping discounts, etc., – could not be applied to a customer’s first order if it was already processed before registration.

  • It’s even more annoying when you have go to your email, to “authorize” the newly created account.

  • It’s even more annoying when you have go to your email, to “authorize” the newly created account.

  • What we’ve done at LemonStand is provide a mechanism to combine checkout/registration. You are already asking the same questions during checkout. Why separate the two? Why not just make it a seamless experience for the customer not get in their way, but give them the benefit of having an account after?

    What our customers have done is:

    1) Generate a password, and send it to the customer via email. This then becomes their account “welcome” email.

    2) Include a password + pass confirm field in the checkout somewhere, and use this as their new account password. You can include a small chunk of text explaining why you’re asking for it, and even make it optional. It normally results in customers signing up.

    This seems to have been working great for merchants using LemonStand.

  • People saying that it “doesn’t take much more effort to enter a password” in addition to regular ordering information are missing the point.

    It’s not about effort required. It’s about creating an account for a user that is very likely will never be used again.

    I make a lot of one-off purchases on websites that I know I won’t be buying from again in the near future. I don’t want an account lying around for a website I never intend on buying something from again. It’s e-clutter, and it’s absolutely unnecessary.

    If you want my money, you won’t force me to take steps that will result in something that’s unneeded, and that’s going to piss me off. Otherwise, I’ll buy somewhere else.