The screencast I created of the effortless ecommerce process for Coda prompted several questions about how to best incorporate a login to the online sales process. I’m going to address that issue via a normal blog post rather than a video.
Every additional step in an online process usually costs you people who don’t want to go through that extra bit of effort. Depending upon the situation, the abandonment rate can be quite high for each step. Exceptions are when the goal of the process has a very high perceived value by the customer.
The Coda example does not use a login. They have no need for it. All they care about is selling an individual product to you. However, some organizations offer discounts to certain classes of customers (members, rewards program, etc.) and they need some way to identify them in the process. They may also wish to capture data about the individual purchasing a product for later analysis.
Here is the deal: you can incorporate a login to the ecommerce process if it provides sufficient apparent value to the customer to go through the extra steps required. Here are some potential reasons a customer would perceive value in logging in:
- Repeat customers can save time not having to re-enter their data and billing information.
- Certain classes of customer receive a significant discount or savings if they identify themselves to you by logging in.
- They want the product enough to jump through the login hoop. (This is obviously not a good reason for a login, however.)
Look at your process for selling online. Is there any value to your customers to login for each sale? If not, you are going to hurt yourself by placing a login between your customer’s money and your bank account.
What should you do if you have both customers who can benefit from a login and those who won’t? Provide the option to login but do not require it. A number of sites offer this where you can login to retrieve shipping and billing data or go to a simple form for entering it. Providing the option allows your customers to self-select the process that is most appropriate for them.
Your database administrators may be pushing you to implement a login to reduce the occurrence of duplicate records in the database. You must analyze this requirement for the actual value to your organization. Is forcing data maintenance onto your customers the most profitable tactic to take? It very rarely is from a online sales perspective.
Great post, David. The most important point you raise is that organizations need to ask themselves, through every step of the sales process (whether online or in person) “Is that step necessary?” Providing the option of buying without logging in is a great example of this. Unless the login saves the individual something (e.g., money or time), it’s probably not necessary. Saving staff time isn’t a direct benefit to the customer (as I note in this blog post: http://www.effectivedatabase.com/blog/2007/07/24/managing-to-the-exception/)
DG and WT – well said on both fronts. From another angle, I hate the phone prompts that ask you for your phone number or account number, then as soon as you connect to a live person, they ask you for your number and information again. Why did I type it in the first place? If you are using login’s, it better auto-populate all the right stuff as well.
That drives me nuts too, Matt. The number goes into a database that isn’t available to the call center person. Genius move! It is hostile to the caller yet it happens all the time. I wonder if the people who operate call centers never actually call one to see what it is like?