In the world of eCommerce, the idea of forcing a potential customer to do anything fills us with dread. We use calls to action and marketing messages on the time, but the thought of demanding an action from a visitor… that’s just too much pressure, isn’t it?

This thought process is likely why so many online stores shy away from requiring an account at checkout. Why risk losing out on a sale? Why demand something that isn’t required if it might cause you to miss out on an opportunity to make money?

The thing is, sometimes you should be requiring your customers to create an account — perhaps even long before they get to the checkout page. While forcing registration might sound like a bad idea, it’s not always something you should actively avoid. In fact, getting those accounts created can benefit some sites.

Today, we’re here to help you decide when it’s right to require your visitors to sign up and log in — whether that’s right away, during checkout, or not at all. Read on to learn more.

Account-free websites are not for everyone

As we covered in our post on enabling guest checkout, sometimes it’s an easy decision to allow customers to make purchases on your store without signing up. But sometimes guest checkout can be detrimental to your business, and so what seems like a no-brainer is actually best to avoid.

You might, at first, think the same thing about customer accounts in general. Why force someone to sign up to do anything? Traditional logic says that it’s annoying, distracting, and possibly even detrimental to conversions.

But not every site and store follows traditional logic, because — as you likely already know — every website is different.

Every website and store is a little different, so whether or not an account should be required is going to depend from site to site.
Every website and store is a little different, so whether or not an account should be required is going to depend from site to site.

So while traditional advice might dictate that it’s a bad idea to make potential customers create an account before they can check out or even use your site, it won’t necessarily hurt your bottom line. The fact of the matter is that it might be unavoidable, and if you can make visitors realize this, they won’t mind. And even if it’s still optional, presenting the benefits of registration can go a long way in keeping those conversions high.

There are plenty of situations where you might have to ask or even force visitors to register to use your website properly. Let’s have a look at what those are, and what you can do to keep everyone happy in those situations.

For some stores, accounts can be incredibly beneficial — for others, they’re not necessary

Some online stores are simple: they sell a few carefully chosen products that can’t be customized, are likely to only be ordered once, and have variations only for size or color.

Others, however, are a bit more complex. These are the stores with fully customizable or personalized items, products that are often reordered from the customer’s shopping history, multiple variations, or even made-to-order goods.

For stores that fall into this latter category, it makes sense to ask shoppers to create an account early on in the process. Accounts are highly beneficial to them, either because it allows them to easily reorder, keep track of their order process, or reference what they purchased in the past.

On the other hand, for the more simple stores, an account might not be necessary. If this is the case, it’s not necessarily a big deal — keep in mind that you can still reach these shoppers with marketing. And if registration is still enabled and they foresee visiting your store frequently, they might sign up at checkout anyway.

If you want to restrict access or extend member benefits, accounts are required

Some websites or stores don’t make all of their pages available to the general public. For some, special content might be hidden behind a paywall, requiring a monthly subscription to view. For others, specific products might only be available to register members.

If you want to add this kind of functionality to your own website, you’ll need to ask visitors to create an account. It’s almost impossible to limit access or extend benefits without user accounts, so asking for registration up front is the best way to get this functionality running smoothly.

If your goal is to keep certain visitors out while letting others in, you'll need to require account creation at some point in the process.
If your goal is to keep certain visitors out while letting others in, you’ll need to require account creation at some point in the process.

This situation is most commonly going to arise if you’re using an extension like WooCommerce MembershipsIf you want to offer member benefits or create content restrictions for different membership tiers, you’ll need to have user accounts to work with right away.

The good thing about membership sites is that you have full control over when that account (and with it, membership) is going to be required. You can set up your products or content so that a vast majority of them are available to both registered and unregistered customers, but only registered or paying members can see the last few items.

Having a members-only section or membership-based site might actually make the registration process seem like less of a barrier, since there’s an immediate benefit that goes hand-in-hand with signup (becoming a member), and potentially perks as well (like access to restricted items).

Advanced marketing functionality like wishlists and rewards might work better with registered customers

Nearly any store can send out a coupon code or run a sale for its shoppers. But some of the more advanced marketing tactics you might begin to consider will only work well if those shoppers are signed up and logged in on your store.

Take wishlists, for example. The WooCommerce Wishlists extension does support wishlist creation and sharing for unregistered customers. However, those wishlists will only be stored for a maximum of 30 days.

If you want to use wishlists as a marketing method (say, around the holidays), it makes far more sense to encourage your customers to sign up for an account so they don’t lose their lists.

The same applies for other marketing perks, like saved coupons, discounts, or rewards. If you want customers to be able to keep those items, they need an account as a sort of storage location for them.

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Any kind of advanced functionality added to your store or website will likely work best with an account — otherwise, that visitor might lose their information.

Much like memberships, this makes the signup process seem like less of a barrier, since you can focus on the obvious benefits to the customer. Language like “having an account allows you to save and use rewards on future purchases,” is far more actionable and convincing than “having an account makes checking out easier.”

Registration might seem detrimental, but the key is to present it as a benefit

Something you might have noticed is that we’ve mentioned how using specific wording or calls to action can remove a “barrier” for potential new users. This is something that’s important to keep in mind even if you’re keeping registration optional.

Whether you’re going to immediately require accounts for website members or subscribers or just suggest them to your store’s newest customers at checkout, the key to success is using language that presents registration as a benefit, not an annoyance.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Above all else, focus on immediate benefits. If registering gives a shopper instant access to hidden products or provides an instant discount, mention that.
  • Present the long-term benefits next. This might include the ability to easily reorder products (ideal for stores selling consumable goods) or reference the order status (best for those with long turnaround times, like those with customization).
  • Mention what not having an account means for a customer — ex. “without an account, your wishlist will expire in 30 days.”
  • Focus on ease of use or fast turnaround times. If registering only takes a few seconds, mention that. (But if it doesn’t — maybe because you manually approve all new members, or have to grant access on a case-by-case basis — don’t lie!)

Don’t dread asking your customers to create an account

You might think that user accounts create a barrier that prevent potential customers from converting. If you’re worried about this, it shows you’re concerned about your customers, and that’s a good thing! But sometimes accounts are necessary, and can even be helpful.

With the right mindset and language, if you need new user registration to happen, you can make it look less like a necessary evil and more like a benefit. So if you find yourself in one of the situations we described above, with something like registration benefits or membership perks, take heart in knowing that just a few tweaks can change your visitors’ thoughts from “ugh, I have to sign up?” to “oh, it’s time to sign up!”

 

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