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In an ideal world most, if not all, retailers would like their new customers to register when they place their first order, thus opening up the potential of a building a more meaningful long-term relationship with the customer.

Unfortunately most new customers want to avoid registering and just checkout as quickly as possible, so how can retailers encourage more registrations without deterring customers? 

The retailer challenge: get more new customers to register with us

In an ideal world most if not all retailers would like their new customers to register when they place their 1st order, thus opening up the potential of a building a more meaningful long-term relationship with the customer.

The new customer thinking: I just want to checkout, how can I avoid having to register 

Unfortunately web shoppers aren’t looking to start a meaningful long term relationship with the company that they have just decided to purchase from for the first time.

Instead, when they decide to make the purchase, they want to get from shopping basket to the order confirmation page as quickly and efficiently as possible, without worrying about whether they will start to get bombarded with offers after purchasing.

Why customer registration is important for retailers

  • You provide a trusted communication platform between yourself and your customer.
  • It is easier to encourage registered customers to get involved in your social media activities, for instance if you plan on developing an online community for your brand.
  • It is easier to encourage registered customers to rate and review products they have purchased.
  • Your account facility you provide for registered customers encourages a greater sense of brand loyalty, as they have their own personal area on your website.

Benefits of registering/account creation for customers

  • They can purchase from you much quicker in future.
  • They can track their order.
  • They can view their order history.
  • They can update their details.
  • They can manage delivery addresses (edit, add new, delete).
  • They may receive special offers only for registered customers.
  • They can manage their marketing preferences, such as whether to receive email, text and post communications from yourselves.
  • If they choose to engage with your brand in a more social sense they are already well connected through their personal account.
  • If can provide an intuitive way to rate and review products they have purchased from you.
  • Business customers can access past orders and print off invoices where necessary.

Common customer concerns about registering

What I find really interesting when facilitating user testing and simply speaking with web users is the perception that people have of what it means for them to ‘register’ with a retailer when they are checking out.

The most common concerns include:

  • Completing my purchase will take much longer than if I didn’t register.
  • I will need to provide lots more personal information.
  • I will start getting spammed with offers and promotions.
  • The retailer will pass my personal details on to third parties, who will also start spamming me.
  • Why do they need me to register? All I want to do is buy this one thing.

My favourite one is ‘completing my purchase will take much longer than if I didn’t register’. 

The most widely used approach for e-commerce checkout registration

After shoppers have decided to checkout, most retailers provide shoppers with three ways in which to complete their purchase:

  1. Login – using your email address and password created when you previously registered.
  2. Checkout without registering.
  3. Register and checkout.

Given the choice most shoppers I have spent time with choose to register without checking out, as they see this as the quickest route to go down and they aren’t opening themselves up to a marketing avalanche by the retailer (and sometimes third parties).

Our way or the high way

There are also retailers who only provide the ability for shoppers to login or register. This ‘register or you can’t buy from us’ approach is a surefire way of putting off some new shoppers from completing their purchase with you, especially for non blue-chip/high street retailers. A retailer currently using this approach is ASOS.

ASOS Checkout Options

One field is all the difference

During the checkout process on almost all retail websites, customers are asked to provide their contact information, billing address, delivery address and payment information.

So far so good, and providing you don’t make your web forms a usability nightmare, you should be OK (although there is always room for split and multi-variate testing to reduce checkout process abandonments).

The ironic thing about the whole ‘encourage customers register’ challenge is that when you break it all down, all new customers should be required to simply complete is one additional field – the create password field.

There is no reason why you can’t provide your marketing preferences options within the account area for the customer, rather than forcing new customers to consider a range of tick boxes of email marketing and third party communications during checkout.

A more customer-centric approach

One retailer taking a more customer-centric approach to encouraging new customers to register with them is sports and swimwear brand Speedo. Rather than forcing new customers to weigh up the pros and cons of registering at the 1st stage of checkout, they simply provide two options:

  1. Sign in if you already have an account with Speedo.
  2. Start providing your payment and delivery address.
Speedo Checkout Options

No mention of registering, no mention of creating an account, just simply start the checkout process.

Why this approach works:

  • Repeat customers can quickly sign in to speed up their checkout (although Speedo could do with making this option more visible).
  • New customers don’t have any decisions to make, they just get on with filling in their payment and delivery details.
  • There is no mention of registering, accessing your account, tracking your order, getting emailed offers and the other usual ‘benefits’ that retailers provide to encourage new shoppers choose the ‘register and checkout option’.

So how do you encourage customers to register?

If you follow Speedo’s example, you don’t. What you do is what I’ve hardly seen any online retailer do in my 11 years working in the industry, which is rethink what you present on your order confirmation page. In the case of Speedo, your order confirmation page is there to:

  • provide your new customer with their order number whilst thanking them for making their purchase.
  • ask the question “Would you like to save your details for next time?” – notice no mention of registering, it is focused purely on saving the customer valuable time in future.
  • provide clear benefits of creating an account (faster and easier shopping, track your orders, create ratings and reviews).
  • pre-fill the first name, surname and email address field with the customers details they provided a few minutes earlier.
  • simply ask the customer to choose a password and enter it twice for validation.
  • keep the customer focused on the benefits of providing a password, by using the words ‘save my details’ rather than ‘create an account’ or ‘complete my registration’, both which could raise customer concerns (see start of article).

Speedo Order Confirmation Page 

Making it even better

Speedo could improve this important account creation step further by:

  • Providing clarity on the number of characters that are required and whether numbers need to be included.
  • Use inline verification as customers are completing the two fields (this type of verification could also be used through the checkout process, but that’s for another blog post).
  • Move the no thanks button away from the primary action button, thus further encouraging customers to complete this step.

Notes

Understandably not all e-commerce platforms will be geared up to allow customers to provide a password on the order confirmation page, as traditionally the decision to go down the registration path is chosen on the first page of checkout.

In addition, many retailers won’t have developed a full account facility for customers, so the range of customer benefits listed at the start won’t apply.  

Summary of my recommendations

If I had to summarise my recommendations to retailers on how to increase new customer registrations (and at the same time reduce first stage checkout abandonments) I would say:

  • Don’t force new customers to register in order to checkout.
  • Provide only two options at the start of checkout – login and checkout.
  • Follow checkout best practice, such as enclosing your checkout and providing clear customer service contact details.
  • Don’t mention registration and account creation until the order confirmation page - even then you don't need to use the word 'register'.
  • Ensure your checkout forms follow form best practice, therefore reducing potential usability issues for customers.
  • Clearly promote the benefits of registering, ideally on the order confirmation page.
  • Use wording which appeals to customers, such as ‘save your details’, rather than ‘register’ even though it means the same thing.
  • Make the process (its not even a process when you think about it) of registering as simple as possible – remember the one key piece of additional information they need to provide is a password.
  • Save asking visitors to choose a range of marketing preferences until they have registered, and then make it easy and intuitive for them to choose how they would like to receive marketing communication from you.

My recommendation in one sentence:  remove as many potential distractions as possible whilst not forcing new customers to make a decision before they have completed their purchase.

I’m really keen to hear thoughts from other people working in the e-commerce industry, or simply online shoppers who have experienced the ‘registration dilemma’.

Given the choice, do you tend to register when checking out for the first time? Which retailers do you feel have got it right when it comes to encouraging new customers to register and create an account?

Paul Rouke

Published 16 June, 2010 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

37 more posts from this author

Comments (28)

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Amit

Great article and neat information provided. The Speedo example may actually work with some customers, but i think it may put off quite a few as well.

As an online customer, i would like my order confirmation page to be clutter free, and have clear information that my order has been accepted. Prompting the customer to fill in additional fields (be it for anything), can potentially confuse them on whether the order is still complete or not.

Providing clear copy may solve this situation, but i have seen customers getting confused and calling up the customer care even if the copy is precise.

Cheers-

Amit

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Amit - thanks for your comments. I agree completely about the importance of having clear information and all checkout pages (including the order confirmation page) being clutter free. This is one of the primary goals of enclosing the checkout process as was referenced in my post.

In the Speedo order confirmation example, there is a lack of actual order information (such as a summary of good bought and the total price, along with billing & delivery address), and without this information, a 'print confirmation' button wouldn't be much use, even though this is quite standard on retail sites.

This could result in a few customers not being completely sure if their order is complete although the wording used is clear - 'Thankyou for buying from Speedo' and 'Your order number is xxxxxxx'.

I'd be interested to see which retailers you have seen with this type of solution and that end up confusing customers. Another importance element of checkout design is providing clear customer service contact details, something which many retailers fail to do. At least by having this information clear, wary customers at any stage of checkout don't need to hunt round for this information and potentially abandon their checkout.

over 6 years ago

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Amit

@Paul...thanks for your quick response. I actually meant that even having clear copy sometimes fails to convince the customers about their order and leads them to customer care. The Speedo example is actually pretty unique and i dont remember seeing a confirmation page with fields for registration ever before :)

I totally agree with your statement about providing clear CSR contacts on the order confirmation page or have them on every page of checkout and keep them context sensitive, just in case the customer is confused about a particular screen (although if he/she is confused, the retailer hasn't done a gr8 job testing their website :D )

What i meant with my comments is probably that the Speedo example does not appeal to me particularly well. Wording registration as "Save your details" and asking for a password seems a bit tricky. Not sure how many conversions they are getting off that very page. Do you have any data on that?

and yeah..their order confirmation page is not very smart either...almost zilch information about the order there.

Cheers.

Amit

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Amit Thanks for your additional comments. I'm actually working with Speedo currently to evaluate and improve their checkout conversion rates as well as their new customer registrations, so some of the areas that you are talking about will be part of the evaluation and improvement work where necessary.

Likewise before Speedo I have hardly seen any retailers handling registration in this way, but as explained in my article there are many benefits with this approach (both for the retailer and customer) of removing the 'register to checkout' barrier that still exists on many retail websites.

It will be interesting to see whether more retailers look at adopting this type of registration approach over time.

over 6 years ago

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Ian Holmes, Front-end web developer at Coventry University

Paul,

Great article and its good to see at least one company bucking this trend.

This problem has been around for an age.  I had discussion (one I lost) about this when setting up a check out process for an ecommerce site.  The owner insisted on ASOS approach "because everybody else seems to be doing it"

No amount of persuation that by allowing them a smooth route to paying the customer was much more likely to firstly pay and secondly come back because of good customer service.

To add to the small usability test on the Speedo site the Order confirmation page is fine by me.  I find that when the "basket" is repeated its not always easy to decide if the process is complete. Also an email is (nearly)always sent which can be printed etc.

Ian

over 6 years ago

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Gary Bury, Managing Director at mediaburst

I agree with what you’re saying but in all honesty I don’t think the Speedo form is that great an example. I do agree with the approach they have taken to registration but the form itself looks daunting with nearly 20 fields to work through just to purchase something.

They could have the postcode field before the address, then use an address lookup system.

They could also hide the delivery address fields and only reveal if the customers clicks a “deliver to a different address” button.

Also, in the copy of the order confirmation, although they take the “save your details for next time” approach. The copy then says “benefits of creating an account with us”, which appears inconsistent.

What do you think?

over 6 years ago

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Amit

Great discussion. Love it when different viewpoints pour in like this. @Paul Awesome that you are actually working with them. I for one, will be very interested in your findings from this project...keep us informed of your observations after stripping off the confidential information :D

Cheers.

Amit

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Gary - thanks for your comments. You've picked up some really valuable points in terms of both the form layout and functionality, such as a postcode look-up facility.

As I wasn't wanting to give too much away considering my current involvement, I refrained from pointing out where the 1st stage of checkout in particular could be improved, and hopefully through iterative improvements and split testing they will provide a further improved checkout and registration experience.

Thanks for joining in the discussion too!

over 6 years ago

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Ian Holmes, Front-end web developer at Coventry University

@Paul - cheers the client was the form marketing director for jungle.com pretty much pulled rank in the end.

over 6 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hi, Paul, a lovely topic. I agree totally with Gary's comments. There is an extension you can add to what you're doing with Speedo to make things even easier/more effective: Rather than presenting the customer with a 'sign up for an account' box on the 'thank you' page, simply present them with a password. "We've created a password for you to help you track your order. You can use this next time you visit speedo.com for a far more pleasant experience", etc. Allow them to change it immediately if they wish, and email it out to them in a friendly but noticeable way. It's not 100% perfect (you may get visitors coming back forgetting they ever set up an account & going through guest checkout once again), but you get that anyway with this kind of thing. Hope that's useful! dan

over 6 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

ps. sorry - for some reason econsultancy ate my formatting there!

over 6 years ago

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Philippe

Quite good article. I hate having to register to make a payment. I think the sale should be prioritised over a registration, without a doubt!

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Dan - thanks for your comments.

Would you say you are in favour of this back-to-front way of handling the registration challenge? As I was saying I've hardly seen any retailers adopting this approach - registration is always seen as a customer decision point at the start of the checkout process.

Do you know any retailers who follow what you have described?

@Philippe - thanks for your input, I'd say your views are not too different from most people, including myself!

over 6 years ago

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Paul Bates

This is a great piece, but in order to maintain relations it is important that customers still feel that have the ability to opt out of email communications. You don’t want them to feel trapped. One way around this is to develop strategic responses to customer opt-outs.

One interesting marketing tactic that I recently witnessed was after I opted-out of future email communications with an online retailer during the checkout process. What caught my attention this time was that less than a minute after completing my purchase, I received an email from this retailer -- and it was not my receipt. Instead I got an email that stated the following:

"While registering as a shopper with companyXXX.com, you chose not to receive our promotional Email. This is being sent to confirm that XXX@strongmail.com will not receive Email from companyXXX.com.

The decision to receive Email is personal and can be influenced for a variety of reasons. In an attempt to better understand and respond to our customers, we would appreciate it if you would answer a short survey on this topic. To participate in the survey, click here. Your responses, and your email address, will remain private and will help us to continue to build a better shopping experience for you, and a stronger relationship with our customers.

CompanyXXX.com has always believed in using only permission-based Email marketing. If, in the future, you decide that you would like to begin receiving our promotional Email you can subscribe at companyXXX.com.

Thank you for your participation, and thank you for shopping with us."

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Paul - thanks for your comments. You've touched on a really valid point about not making visitors feel trapped. In its simplest form, if retailers do ask visitors to opt-in/opt-out of email marketing during checkout (which isn't my recommended approach) then its important to provide clear information saying that they can opt out at any time etc.

If retailers encourage new customers to register and therefore have an account area, my recommendation would be to encourage them to choose their marketing preferences within here, a more trusted area, rather than when they are trying to make their first purchase with the retailer.

Taking this a step further, if retailers can provide segmented email marketing so customers only receive marketing and offers on products/services that they are interested in, then even better.

over 6 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

@Paul - I think if there's no big technological/business reason for asking for registration *prior* to checking out, then why do it? In the Speedo case above, I may just add a password box to the main delivery form. The form is quite long anyway, and I'd be surprised if the inclusion of a password box would put anyone off buying. You could subtly word a password box as "this password lets you track your order & purchase more easily next time". In your work simplifying this with Speedo, I'd be interested if you come up with any downsides to that approach. One hugely interesting thing would be some stats. The title of the article is 'how to reduce checkout abandonment'. It would be lovely to be able to quantify that.

over 6 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

(gah! it ate my formatting again - so sorry!)

over 6 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Dan - I presume Econsultancy will be re-introducing formatting tools for comments as I'm having to add tags to my comments at the moment!

On your comment "if there's no big technological/business reason for asking for registration *prior* to checking out, then why do it?" I completely agree.

Where possible I'll be looking to provide some visibility of the stats to quantify the recommendations in this article (and comments!) once improvements are in place through the split testing that is being planned.

over 6 years ago

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Andy Smith

Hi 

This is a real problem for us, we use Zencart which by default requires the customer to login and create an account and have lots of customers abandon cart at the registration page on our main website Keep It Personal.

We are trialling the Paypal express checkout contribution which bypasses the login registration and directs the customer directly to Paypal on our other new site Christening Gifts Personalised. Keep It Personal requires the customer to register as it uses the Paypal IPN option.

We have noticed that more people are using the Paypal express checkout option which bypasses login on by around 33% compared to IPN which requires registration and have a noticeable reduction in abandoned carts.

Andy

over 6 years ago

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Ray Clarke

It might not be everyone's cup of tea but this is where eBay scores, checkout and paying are super quick. Surely, this is one of the reasons eBay is so popular.

about 6 years ago

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Cutcaster Photos

Given the choice most shoppers I have spent time with choose to register without checking out, as they see this as the quickest route to go down and they aren’t opening themselves up to a marketing avalanche by the retailer (and sometimes third parties).

over 5 years ago

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Mcghee

Can I just say what a comfort to find a person that
actually understands what they're talking about online. You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you are not more popular given that you surely have the gift.

over 4 years ago

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Beane

Very good post. I'm experiencing some of these issues as well..

over 4 years ago

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Oaks

Great article, totally what I needed.

over 4 years ago

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Robb

Hi, I desire to subscribe for this blog to obtain latest updates,
therefore where can i do it please assist.

over 4 years ago

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Horst

Appreciation to my father who stated to me on
the topic of this blog, this webpage is really awesome.

about 4 years ago

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Valerie Goodman, Head of Marketing at Javelin Group

Hi Paul
I have read in your recommendations regarding offering guest checkout "Don’t use ‘guest’ or ‘account creation’" Instead use New Customer or such.
Can you explain whey 'guest' is problematic please? Thank you.

about 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Valerie - thanks for your question. In user testing sessions we tend to find that new users would prefer not to be labelled as a 'guest' when checking out - they see themselves as a more of a new customer of the brand instead. That is why we tend to end up with 2 simple options at the start of checkout - Returning/Existing Customers and New Customers. See ASOS for a superb example this.

From a potential impact on conversion perspective removing the words 'account creation' or 'register' is of a much higher importance though, just to be clear. See the ASOS case study I provided where they saw a 50% reduction in abandonment - http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8391-persuasive-checkout-best-practice-from-asos

I hope this helps.

about 4 years ago

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