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?