Stop asking users to register before checking out

Paul Boag

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.