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A quick background: I work for a software company which sells software B2B. After the initial purchase, the software we sell works on a support renewal basis of either 1 or 3 years. There are only about 8 products available for purchase.

So that's the scenario. Currently, when purchases are made online the customer enters their details from scratch, even if they have purchased the product (or one of the other products) previously. A proper renewal is only handled by speaking to sales, who sets up a renewal invoice which can just be paid using a one page credit card form - completely separate from our store.

As you can imagine, having the customer enter their details each time means inaccuracies in the data received, so sales must manually link customers up. This causes issues with licensing - purchases online get licensed instantly - so changing details is a bit painful.

One solution floating around is having customers register/login upon return. This obviously solves the data match up nicely, but I'm concerned about how infrequently accessed the store is. With 99% users only returning, at most, once a year, having an account is almost wasted. It may not be the same person purchasing the next year, and they may not know which email was used to register (let alone what password). So we get new registrations each time and the data remains cluttered.

Has anyone come across this type of scenario before? How did you solve it?

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Is it possible to show all the customers on your site to provide selection from the list? –  Alexey Kolchenko Aug 29 '13 at 15:34
    
No this needs to be quite secure, almost as if they were logging in even if they don't actually type in a username as password. One idea is filter down our list based on a questionnaire the customer fills in (eg step one asks for their email, step two their postcode, step three their company name,...), if they get 4 out of 5 correct (eg they forgot the email they used) and if only one customer record has been found then we can assume it's them. Make sense? –  Chris Nicholson Aug 29 '13 at 15:39
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I wouldn't mind creating an account as long as it supports OpenID registration. –  Ramchandra Apte Aug 29 '13 at 15:40
    
I thought about social/open login systems. Certainly possible but I know in our company we don't use them for third party registrations so I was unsure about how widely used they might be in other businesses. –  Chris Nicholson Aug 29 '13 at 16:18
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Had the pb whith software bought by people who left the company. Be sure to give an easy option with Serial or Bill to recover account. Company sometime change names, phone address, but most of the time the accountant keep track of serial/bill. –  ColdCat Aug 29 '13 at 21:43

1 Answer 1

If there isn't sensitive information like payment details you could consider allowing a direct link to renewal with encoded info from within the software, eg pushing a URL like:

http://mysite.com/autorenew/E4238F8E-24DB-48FB-B319-E3950F3E6F1B

And this link being made up of all the details necessary/non-dangerous.

Edit:

An alternative playing on the email option is to ask them to enter their email then email a link to login directly.

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That could certainly work for the automated renewals (we could equally just email them with a unique code that matches an auto renewal record in the DB). How about if they return to buy a different product but it has still been a long time since they last logged in? That's obviously something we can't prepare for as we don't know when they'll be back and buying again. –  Chris Nicholson Aug 29 '13 at 15:36
    
If there's a link in the software they could go there first rather than direct to the website, the encoded link could include Company Name, Contact Name, Tel and current product, once they use the link however you have these details if they move to a different product and wish to renew. –  bendataclear Aug 29 '13 at 15:47
    
This might be stretching a bit too far, the products aren't really set up to sell/promote, purely functional. Worse than that they often exist in offline/restricted locations (internal servers) so it's not really the place new software would be purchased from. Should have mentioned about that, sorry. –  Chris Nicholson Aug 29 '13 at 16:20
    
That makes sense, I certainly wouldn't let someone use the internet on an internal server! I've added more detail on an email option too. –  bendataclear Aug 29 '13 at 16:31

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