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There are lots of online stores which sell stuff.

Suppose an end-user buys an inner tube for their bicycle from a website tubeworld.com (Tube World probably is a real thing, but I meant it to be a generic website for an online shopping experience).

In the year 2002, users of tubeworld.com would:

  • type in their shipping address
  • type in their phone number
  • type in their credit card number

Twenty years later, in the year 2022, the end user must do much more:

  • End users must provide an email address.
  • End users must click a link in an email in order to verify that their email address belongs to them and not someone else (and confirm that the email address belongs to anybody at all)
  • End users must choose a new password for their tubeworld.com account.

Many months later, the end user will attempt to buy a bicycle part. They will attempt to create a new account only to find that their is an account already associated with that email address. Also, a password reset will be required.

I am being facetious; but still, there must be some rationale which says that creating an account leads to a better user experience than only asking for shipping addresses and credit card numbers.

I used to think that requiring the user to create an account was for purposes of data-analysis. However, there are cheap services which will convert shipping addresses into GPS coordinates. You can use GPS coordinates rounded to 4 significant digits as user ids. After using GPS coordinates as user ids, lots of statistics (analyitics) about how users who buy Shimano brand bicycle brakes also tend to buy panier racks, and that peak bicycle season in North Dakota is one month later than peak bicycle buying season in Utah.

Why has there been a 20 year shift towards requiring login credentials to purchase and ship retail goods?

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    In 2002, things weren't like that. Granted, there was no 2FA, but still, all companies were demanding as much information as possible, spam was in full swing, and you were glad to have your CC number secure. Still, you forget something: a business isn't just there to make users happy. It also has to serve the business purpose. And that's to get more money from customers. UX has to find a balance between the occasional annoyance and the business goals.
    – Devin
    Jul 14, 2022 at 14:26

2 Answers 2

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There are two basic rationales work behind this 'force to sign up' step that needs to be done by the end users:

  1. To personalize end user's shopping experience or, to improve end user's future shopping experiences (e.g, speeding up the checkout process in future purchase) at their online store
  2. To utilize end user's information to market items directly to that end use

On top of these rationales, to make sure better UX and to avoid hassle of promotional emails from the online store, option of easy way out (unsubscribe) needs to be enabled (most of the ecoms have it) on the user's end.

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Its a good point you have made here. And I empathisize with you and can totally relate myself in that experience.

There are lot of sites which have temporary checkout for example you can order Dominos pizza without creating a login, those sites allow you to checkout as a guest. So a potential solution to your problem.

However one important thing to understand here is the value of the money spend on those websites are small, and hence users are ok to take that risk. Users might show a totally different behavious if the value is say $500. You would like to know where your shipment is, when will it arrive, can you return it etc. Having those makes a login somewhat essential.

Now a company would not like to loose you by sending you marketing invites, but then the question is are you the real long term customer to retain and send emailers?

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