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Making people register before they can make a purchase is a needless obstacle to put in front of customers, and has been shown in various surveys to be something that web shoppers dislike, and cite as a reason for checkout abandonment.
Plenty of retailers are still insisting on customer registration though, despite the potential for reducing abandonment rates and increasing profits by removing this step.
I've been having a look at some of the top e-commerce sites in the UK to see how many are still insisting on making shoppers register...
Online shoppers hate having to register as it's one more step to go through before actually making the purchase. Most of the information needed to create an account for a customer will be asked in the checkout process anyway, so why not get the purchase first and think about registration afterwards?
Also, web users have plenty of passwords to remember already without asking them for more. Returning customers may forget their passwords and will therefore be forced to go through the process of resetting it, yet another barrier to purchasing.
I've looked at the top ten UK e-commerce sites to see if they insist on registration, loosely based on Hitwise's February Hot Shops list of UK e-tailers by number of visits, though I've excluded travel sites from my sample.
You have to register before checkout on Amazon, first entering an email address, then confirming it on the next pages, as well as providing your name and setting a password. It is annoying, but Amazon is probably better positioned to get away with this than other retailers.
Argos has a much better approach to the registration issue; while a form is provided for users to login, new users aren't forced to register before they proceed to the checkout.
It also informs users that they will be offered the chance to register if they wish further along in the process, which is a smart move.
You have to register on Play.com, entering an email address and password twice:
There's no way you can but from Tesco without registering first, and the process is pretty annoying. After first entering and confirming my email address and postcode, I then have a huge registration page, asking me for name, address and passwords, as well as confirming that I have read the terms and conditions, 11 compulsory fields in all.
This is way too much, and I suspect that many smaller e-tailers would never get away with this sort of over-complicated registration process.
Marks and Spencer
No chance of buying from M&S without registering:
There's little chance of me getting past the homepage on the Next website, thanks to the unwanted music I'm forced to listen to, but even if I did get near to the checkout, then the registration process would force me to bail out.
While Argos, another catalogue retailer, can do without its registration process, Next even asks for customers' birthdates, while insisting that they pay £3.75 for a Next Directory before they can qualify for free delivery.
You have to register to buy from Currys, but at least the benefits of registration, order tracking, special offers, and saving time in future, are summarised for potential customers to tempt them to sign up.
You have to register before the checkout on ASOS, though it also gives some reasons why it might be a good idea.
If you are going to insist on registration, then keeping it brief by simply asking for an email address and password is the best way to do it. ASOS asks for too much information though, which may deter some shoppers. I can see that finding out birthdates and customer's gender will be helpful for future email campaigns, but is it worth making this compulsory?
John Lewis is one of the more usable UK e-commerce sites, and it does insist that customers enter an email address, but doesn't make password entry compulsory for new customers, instead giving customers the option of choosing a password and registering later in the process.
Comet gets straight down to business with its checkout process, it doesn't even have the option of registering before purchase, therefore no obstacles at all for customers. It may miss out on the chance to get registered users, but it has obviously decided that a smooth purchase is more important.
So, that's seven out of ten e-tailers that insist that customers register before they checkout. Some, like Currys and Play.com, make it easier than others, but it is still an obstacle that could easily be removed, as shown by Argos, Comet and John Lewis.
In his blog post on Monday, Paul Rouke talked about the need for retailers to optimise their existing e-commerce platforms to get the best conversion rates they can in the current economic circumstances, and registration is one area where small changes can potentially make a big difference.