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Now I know the question seems like it will have obvious answers, but what I need mostly are sources if possible. I would like to convince my boss' that requiring logins to order is the right path.

I work for a web based company that has been in business for about 10 years. Our business is entirely service based, and ordering is often a matter of just having someone email their request to us. (I don't want to say too much here about the specifics of the business, sorry). Our clients range from mid-twenties to probably late sixties, and are all business professional types.

Up to this point, our business has THREE ways to order from us: straight emailing the order (not from website), an order form on the website that requires no log-in (just forces user to put their info in every time - although we band-aided this by using a remember-me cookie for just those credentials), and a login-and-order form. To make things worse, the login is given after the client places their first order with the non-login form (or by email) - so you can't just register once and order.

My thought is that we should get rid of the non-login form, create a registration process, and require login to order. We would probably keep the email only method as so many of our current clients use it.

Here are the benefits I see from moving in this direction:

  • It's simpler. Having two login forms - one of which you can't log into until using the other - is very confusing. What's more, if you have to order with one form, you are likely to not know of the other form - you have been trained as to how to order.

  • It's more secure. We of course use https and encrypt the remember me cookie and all of that, but it's still more secure to have someone login than to send their data (sometimes including credit card information) EVERY time they order.

  • It's easier for the client. Even with the remember-me cookie, there is a lot of information that can be just saved in a profile and made to not be dealt with more than once.

  • It provides accurate information and better statistics.

  • It's the STANDARD practice. I can't even think of a site that lets you provide personal information without login. If I were ordering from us, I would spend at least a few minutes looking for a registration and login form, and probably be hesitant to order in the end - I would feel like, "I can't log in? What about when I come back to order again, I do this AGAIN?"

Now, I feel like this is a no-brainer change. However, my boss' are VERY set in their ways, and I know what they're response will be: don't rock the boat, if it's not broke, why fix it, etc. The main argument that's come up in the past is that they believe our clients are used to this and that it is more convenient, and requiring registration and login will scare them away or be too much of a hassle.

I believe it will be more straightforward and a boon for both us and the client, and if we force them to do something a certain way, they won't really care, if we present it right (like, "Here's our exciting new method for ordering that is more convenient and a better experience!") People are used to registering and logging in; it's not a barrier IMO.

But, all I have is my opinion. Are there any studies or articles or anything about this topic?

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Create a script yourself that automatically fills out the order form (which in many cases triggers an email to be sent to the boss as a new order). Make the script do this a hundred, or a thousand times. Then go to him, and say, "This is what can happen if you do not require users to register and login before ordering." –  Spike Mar 31 at 19:52
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

While your situation is a bit different, always remember the $300 Million Dollar Button when it comes to registration. Just a little extra effort can cause a large drop off in conversion rates. Your users are probably much more likely to be repeat customers than the ones in the study, so I wouldn't insist wholesale on ditching the idea of a login requirement, but I would remain skeptical of the idea.

It sounds like you half-solved your problem with the "remember me" cookie, except I don't believe that should be a cookie; make it the start of your registration process. That way they've already entered in most of their info and you've greatly lessened the blow of the form. At the end of the form consider a check box that says "Remember my Information" and then you can collect the additional information for ordering only after this box is checked.

Presumably you only need to collect an email address/password combo to create an account; after placing an order you could bring the user to a page that simply says "Thanks for your order! If you are a repeat customer, consider signing up to speed up future purchases!" Then give them a form with a username/email field and a password field, and a submit button. Couldn't be simpler, and you can hold their past order data to carry over (using POST in PHP or however your website functions) so they don't have to fill in a whole other form to login.

I bet a large reason people don't sign up as much as you hope is because A) they don't understand the benefits and B) the first sign up is harder. By collecting the bulk of the sign up form info (address, name, ect which you need for the order form) you eliminate B), and with some simple persuasive copy you can educate them to eliminate A).

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I am not sure if I misunderstand or was maybe not clear, but the "remember me" cookie is part of the form - they enter the info that they usually entered for ordering, and at the bottom of that section for personal info, there is a "remember this next time" checkbox. But thank you for that link! It is nearly my situation exactly - I feel like those designers that thought they were making things simpler but made things more difficult. I think the approach taken there is a good one, and will be easy to implement. I'll wait and see if anyone else more to say but I think you nailed it. –  d3vkit Nov 4 '11 at 19:29
    
I did misunderstand your remember me comment. I see now, you are saying I am halfway there. Thanks. Very insightful answer. –  d3vkit Nov 4 '11 at 19:46
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In the past, I have avoided sites that require signing up just to order an item - especially when I have come from a list of links for the same item which makes it quicker to buy from somewhere else than have to create an account.

However, have you thought about signing them up automatically?

That is, one of your questions could be to ask for their email address. If they supply it (maybe it's required?), you can then just create an account for them once they go through with the order. Email them a summary of the account with a link to set a password.

If someone starts an order before signing in, have the email address as the first field you ask for. As they enter their email address, you can use AJAX to check if they already have an account, and show something like:

It looks like you have ordered from us before. Log in here to re-use your details from last time.

Have a password field and 'forgot your password' functionality expand out under the email box, effectively becoming a second-chance login box.

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Many users view forceful signup forms as roadblocks to their purchase and often times because of it they abandon the purchase decision altogether, it's especially true for smaller websites (unlike Amazon.com or similar). Moreover, how many times you have signed up for services and then forgot your login details? All the time!

But assuming that large share of your customers are returning customers. It will be a good idea to offer this option. But provided that it's not the only option, keep your existing order option in place too. Returning customers will see the advantages of signing up and I'm sure many of them will opt in to sign up as the time passes, since it will offer them faster checkout time.

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