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Should registration be optional on an e-commerce site?

I have seen a number of eCommerce sites which force the users to signin for making a purchase.

Is this at all a good practice? Forcing the users to sign in can provide you a bulky mailing list but again if the user is not interested what's the point?

Again what will be a good substitute for getting the user's email address for News Letter Subscription? If the answer is "subscribe" then where shall I place it?

Also are there any eCommerce best practices?

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This question shouldn't be downvoted, because it is a good question, but it is an exact duplicate so should be closed off with a link to the dupe so that any answers that people require for this topic can be found in one place and not just scattered around numerous posts. –  JonW Feb 22 '12 at 11:28
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marked as duplicate by JonW, Patrick McElhaney Feb 22 '12 at 13:58

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You should not require users to sign in, if you wish to maximise revenue.

This is the topic of Jared Spool's famous article The $300 Million Button:

The designers fixed the problem simply. They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: "You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout."

The results: The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.

On the topic of newsletter subscriptions: the easiest way would be to do so as part of the purchase process, such as providing a checkbox beside the email address field of the format "Send me the [your site] newsletter". Since you generally capture the email address in an e-commerce transaction for sending the customer their tax invoice or notifying them when their purchase has been shipped, it shouldn't require users register to buy your things.

Good rule of thumb: when you want a person's money, remove as many impediments as you can that get in the way of them providing it!

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You get a +1 because I have used your reference in my thesis. Thank you! –  Schroedingers Cat Feb 22 '12 at 15:54
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It's rarely a good idea to ever force a user to do anything. Ask this simple question: would adding this feature help or hinder a person from completing the task?

Usually, forcing me to go through a sign up process and creating an account would annoy me, and if there's an easier way to get what I want, I'll just go there instead.

What I would suggest:

  • on check out, give them the option to create an account/sign in with an existing account OR check out as a guest
  • if they choose guest, upon finishing the checkout, give them the option to add some final information to create an account if they'd like
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The principle of the Amazon One-Click purchase, as outlines in Krugs "Don't make me think" is important here, I think. OK, that process is different, because it requires an accout to have been made, but the priciple is that putting no obstacles in the way of buying stuff provides a substantial portion of their revenue.

If I have made a decision to buy something, the less I have to do to make it happen, the less chance I have to change me mind. Consider each time that the user has to consider something other than "buy this now", they may get bored and go away. When they have to enter an address, they may get distracted. When they have to get their credit card, they may get distracted. But more importantly, when they have to register - a process cognatively discoected from buying - they may get distracted, expecially if the registration is more than is needed for buying.

It is fairly common to allow a no-register purchase, and then let the user add a password at the end if they wish to persist their account. That focusses their attention on buying, while gathering all of the needed information for an account as a side-issue.

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