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Blog > Why You Shouldn’t Force Customers To Log Into Your Online Store

Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.

 


Why You Shouldn’t Force Customers To Log Into Your Online Store

August 11th, 2008

This is topic covers one of the things that annoys me the most when I’m shopping online. I recently had a particularly frustrating purchasing experience with Ticketmaster that I wanted to share. This example will help explain why I’m so against forcing online shoppers to create a login account before they can purchase something from your online store.

I was simply trying to purchase tickets for a Seattle Storm game using Ticketmaster online. When you purchase tickets using Ticketmaster, they have this system that automatically tracks how much time you are taking to make your purchase. If you take longer than 2 or 3 minutes, you will lose the tickets you’ve selected and get bumped out of the system. I presume this is to prevent folks from taking tickets and then sitting on them, preventing someone else from buying them. But I offer up my own experience as evidence that giving folks 2 or 3 minutes to complete a purchase is not long enough – especially when you force them to make a customer login account.

So here’s what happened. I selected my tickets and started the check out process. But Ticketmaster forces you to make a customer login account before you complete your purchase, and so, annoyed, I attempted to make an account. Here’s what I got:

Click on the image to make it bigger. It says “Please complete this page within 15 seconds”. And the following warning to tell me that the email address was already registered and I can request the password be sent to me. Now, I timed myself, and it took me 15 seconds just to read the message on this page. And remember, I didn’t want to have to create a login in the first place. I just wanted to buy tickets. I wanted to give them my money. But since they forced me to login, and the clock was ticking, I plain ran out of time:

“You exceeded the time limit and the tickets have been released”

Like this was my fault? I was just trying to give them money, but because they forced me to create a customer login that I didn’t want to create in the first place, and apparently they had my email address on file already, I ran out of time. Needless to say, I was pretty angry. And that they were blaming this on me, the customer – when in fact, it was their own system that is causing the issue, by forcing me to create a login account.

So don’t do this to your customers. If you’re shopping for an online store, I highly recommend one that lets you set customer login accounts as OPTIONAL. The ecommerce store I work with has this setting and all the online stores I develop have this set to optional, not forced. Not all online stores let you make this setting, so be sure and check this out before you buy an online store application.

Don’t force customers to log in to make a purchase – let them make that decision – and if they just want to give you their money and be done with it, let them do it. Let your customers have the fastest possible checkout time and the least amount of frustration and they’ll reward you with completing the purchase.

Jill
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J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.



3 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Force Customers To Log Into Your Online Store”

  1. Katie Kay Says:

    I agree! It is very frustrating to have to login every time you want to make a purchase, and I so often forget what username and password I used, UGH! Ticketmaster is especially frustrating with their limited time.

  2. Chidozie Says:

    Jill,

    I would disagree with you slightly on this one. I agree that if ticketmaster is going to have a time limit they should probably make it more realistic than 15 seconds. But if they don’t have your contact information how would you expect them to send you a receipt or order confirmation to your email and of course they want some infromation on their customer.

    In the case of physical, shipped products the merchant wouldn’t be able to send you an emailed shipping confirmation or be able to contact you if your something goes wrong with your order. Finally, if in the future you were interested in your order history or wanted to ‘re-up’ on an order you wouldn’t be able to do so.

    Katy mentioned she always forgets. I would recommend to use one to three (they usually lock you after 3 tries) STRONG passwords (8 characters long at least on symbol, number and capital letter – ie Pass@word1) that you can always remember for all your logins.

  3. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Chidozie,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I was in no way suggesting that merchants not collect information on their customers – all online stores – including the one I work with – collect name, email,phone, address – everything necessary to ship and contact customers. I’m not referring to contact information at all. I’m talking about creating a login – a username and a password. This does indeed make reordering easier – easier that is if you can remember your username and password. Every single step you take to make it harder for someone to purchase, is a bad thing – that’s why companies like PayPal even have “PayPal express” – it skips over ALL of the data entry part of online stores.

    So to repeat – I’m not being critical of collecting normal contact info from customers (name, email, phone, address) but forcing – not optional but preventing purchase – by making someone create a username and password – remains, in my opinion, a bad idea. I’ve also read several studies of online shopping and they usually mention forced checkout as an impediment to purchase completion and one factor in shopping cart abandonment. I suggest you read my article:
    http://aldebaranwebdesign.com/blog/shopping-cart-abandonment/
    as it notes several studies that actually interview folks who abandon shopping carts and frequently they cite things like the checkout process being confusing and taking too long – and call out forced registration as a bad thing.

    Until I see data that proves otherwise, forcing customer registration is something I will continue to advise my ecommerce clients to avoid. Again, thanks very much for your comment!




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