$300 Million Button: making customers create logins to buy cost etailer $300M/year

"The $300 Million Button," Jared Spool's 2009 article on usability and ecommerce design, is remarkable in that it a) articulates something that anyone who shops widely online already knows; b) is advice that would make a lot of money for sites if they adopted it; c) has been part of the literature for at least two and a half years; d) is roundly ignored.

Spool is recounting the story of an unnamed large ecommerce retailer who had one of those forms that made you register before you could buy anything, and to remember your login and password before you could shop there again. Removing this form, and allowing the option of saving your details with a login and password at the end of the transaction, increased the retailer's sales by $300,000,000 in the first year.

From a commerce perspective, the Internet's glory is reduced search costs for customers. When I was making my office coffee table, I decided I wanted to source some brightly colored anodized aluminum bolts, nuts and washers. I'd never bought these before, but I assumed they existed, and I was right -- a couple searches showed me that they existed and were sold to motorcycle modders. I found a site that supplied them, and ordered sixteen of each, plus some spares. It was the first time in 39-some years I'd needed brightly colored bolts, and it may very well be that long again before I need any more.

So while this specialist bolt retailer is visible to motorcyle hobbyists and can compete for their repeat business with other specialists, they're also tapping into a market to whom they were entirely invisible until the net came along. Periodically, someone like me is going to drop in and spend some money on a one-off basis, and make windfall cash for them. There are a lot of people who, at some time in their lives, want to buy some specialized component or good. Before the Internet came along, we'd likely have just got the non-specialized equivalent. But because of the Internet, businesses all over the world are getting sales from the unlikeliest of corners. And what's more, some of those one-time only customers might discover that they actually really enjoy whatever the specialist thing is, and come back for more. It's win-win.

But the fastest way to alienate those customers and scare away that free money is to make its owner establish a relationship with you before s/he can make a purchase. In the case of the company that sold me my bolts, I was required to create a login and password, and I still get a fortnightly newsletter full of information I don't care to know about bolts (I checked all the opt-out bits, but either I missed one or they just don't pay attention to it).

Spool's research showed that a substantial portion of ecommerce users are even more sick of this stuff than I am -- $300 million/year's worth, in fact. And what's more, of the repeat customers who might have benefited from the faster checkout afforded by creating an account, 45 percent had multiple accounts in the system because they'd forgotten their logins, lost access to the email accounts they'd used, and signed up again with a new address.

Repeat customers weren't any happier. Except for a very few who remembered their login information, most stumbled on the form. They couldn't remember the email address or password they used. Remembering which email address they registered with was problematic - many had multiple email addresses or had changed them over the years.

When a shopper couldn't remember the email address and password, they'd attempt at guessing what it could be multiple times. These guesses rarely succeeded. Some would eventually ask the site to send the password to their email address, which is a problem if you can't remember which email address you initially registered with.

(Later, we did an analysis of the retailer's database, only to discover 45% of all customers had multiple registrations in the system, some as many as 10. We also analyzed how many people requested passwords, to find out it reached about 160,000 per day. 75% of these people never tried to complete the purchase once requested.)

The form, intended to make shopping easier, turned out to only help a small percentage of the customers who encountered it. (Even many of those customers weren't helped, since it took just as much effort to update any incorrect information, such as changed addresses or new credit cards.) Instead, the form just prevented sales - a lot of sales.

The $300 Million Button (via Beth Pratt)


  1. Shit, well I was gonna comment on this thread but then I first had to go do this new BB login thing and, ya know … screw it.

    1. Actually, the old BB log-in system was bothersome in that many times I wanted to comment on an article and decided that logging in wasn’t worth it.

      That said, I’m a developer and I like to make things as easy as I can for users. It’s easy to fall into the trap that the user doesn’t understand the design. In fact, most users do understand the design quickly, but many times the design needs to be tweaked. The problem is that users don’t necessarily communicate the problem.

      Last week I updated a piece of software and while it was updating I worked on something else. The updater, upon completion, rebooted my computer. Shame on Samsung developers for doing that. After waiting an interminable amount of time for my network to be all reconnected I went to the Samsung site to send an e-mail to their customer service so that the developers might get word of the flaw in their design.

      No page to simply e-mail, but they do have a 7 day 24 hour phone service. No thanks, it’s not worth the time for me to wait on hold or talk to someone who doesn’t speak my language natively (I have a problem hearing on most phones and accents only worsen the communication). So there is a design flaw in their website. Finally out of frustration I wrote a very terse e-mail to support at samsung.com. I didn’t receive a delivery failure notice so I’m hoping that someone has at least eyeballed it.

  2. Interestingly, the online sites where I spend money do exactly this. they let me put things on my order list all willy-nilly, let me go to the checkout to see what my total is at, and give a guess on shipping costs, and lets me go back to shopping as much as I want until i decide I’m done and click “Submit Order.”

    I’ve never spent a cent at Amazon, where there *isn’t* a link to add something to a shopping cart unless you’re already logged in – and I dislike the interruption of asking for my personal information while I’m trying to shop, so I leave the site and find somewhere *else* to buy things. Somewhere that doesn’t pester me while I’m browsing. Honestly, if that sort of behavior turns me off in a brick and mortar store, why would I want it as my online buying experience?

    Want not let me wander about in acquisitive glee instead of annoying me two clicks into the experience?

    1. Amazon doesn’t require you to login to add something to your cart. I just did it to check if you were talking bullshit, and sure enough, you’re talking bullshit.  :)

    2. Except Amazon doesn’t do this. You can fill your cart away, then log in once you’ve done all that. It’s a bit annoying that you must login to calculate shipping costs, but you can certainly make most of your decisions before this point.

      1. I never have to log in to Amazon unless I want to track a package. I just use one-click for purchases.

  3. Something else that doesn’t seem to make any sense is the obsession with ‘strong’ passwords. I’m on a site and am offered a free download of a PDF – a sales brochure, white paper something like that.

    It makes me create an account to get the free download .. even though the free download is pitching their expertise.  OK, that’s a waste of time but I’ll click a couple of buttons.  It makes me create a password – and it then refuses to accept my password because it isn’t ‘strong’ enough.  Sometimes they even insist on having numbers AND mixed case.
    So I might try to use the password ‘wltywb’ and it tells me it isn’t secure enough.  So I end up just using ‘Password1’ so it has mixed case and a number.

    There isn’t any ‘safety’ here – the nonsense login doesn’t have credit card information or anything I actually want to protect .. yet I am forced to create an illusion of ‘security’ by using ‘Password1’. 

    Worse still, the next time I try to view the site I’m told there is already an account with my email address – and I have to get it to email me a password reset.

    Putting ‘security’ on accounts for no benefit to either party?  What’s the point?


  4. My insurance company recently offered to add me to a program that bases my rates on how many miles I actually drive my car- promising me a net reduction in rates for a car I don’t drive much. A few months later comes the email from the “automated service machine” designating my car’s license number and a link to a website where I can enter the mileage. Why not just reply to the email? No, you have to go to a website and…. create a userid and password before you can do anything! Apparently I work for the insurance company now.

  5.  This is why I buy a lot of what I purchase online through a few, big retailers.  It’s too much of a hassle creating a new login, filling out a profile, etc.  And frankly, the fewer online entities that have my credit card info, the better.  That said, I’ve got a list of about 20 different retail logins I’ve accumulated over the years, thanks to this or that specialty purchase.

    Nobody would do this at a real store.  If I run into a shop to buy some random item, they aren’t going to make me fill out forms and tell them my email and phone number and address.  (Well, Radio Shack and a few others try this at the register, but it’s pretty easy to opt out of this when you pay cash.)  In fact, when I run into a shop to buy sunscreen or whatever, I can just pay cash.  Come on, internet!  Get with the program!

    1. Actually, that behavior caused me to cease shopping at Radio Shack. I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

      1. “Actually, that behavior caused me to cease shopping at Radio Shack. I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

        No you aren’t I have avoided that store like the plague ever since, in fact I think of just stepping into it as like stepping into quicksand. The sales reps keep hassling me and nobody just wants to take my money and let me go, therefore they can’t have the money.

        Don’t want money? Keep using tricks to get people to read emails they don’t want to read. Don’t want money? Keep requiring registration for sales. Don’t want money? Accuse some blog (which doesn’t want money and doesn’t care) of hypocrisy for registering commenters while you go right on alienating people you depend on for money, thinking you are righteous — well, that’s just dumb. You are the one who wants the money. It’s up to you to get it. Registering to comment is wholly irrelevant.

        1. OK, then,  name any, ANY other store within 50 miles of my home where I can get LEDs,  120VAC neon microlamps,  RCA Y-connectors,   BNC bulkhead male and female connectors,  diodes, transistors,  ….  you get the idea.   I know there are lots of great sites like widgets.com and monoprice.com , but every now and then I’d like to be able to buy < $10 worth of parts without having to deal w/ the time and cost of shipping.   
          So,   RatShack may have its drawbacks, but it is the only hobbyist game in town.

    2. Some years ago RatShack faced a revolt from their customers over their aggressive tactics in collecting customer contact info at brick/mortar point of sale.  They apologized publicly and stopped the practice.
      Now you can’t get out of the place without telling at least 3 people that you already have a cell phone and don’t want another.

        1. not much

          i tried in vain to get some connector or adapter or something and went back home and ordered online and waited

        2. Hiya, Antinous.  I was in a ratshak yesterday.  They have lots of good stuff for hobbyist experimenters, though it’s a long way from their ’70s heyday.  When I was developing my Squelette audio amp for Make Magazine I prepared a working prototype almost entirely from Ratshak parts.  I had it at Maker Faire last year and Mark took a pic of it (scroll to bottom):

          1. It must be a local phenomenon. The one here sells nothing but accessories for phones, stereos, TVs, computers, etc. Three quarters of the tiny store is devoted to cell phone displays.

    1. LOL! And, without a doubt the most ironic part is….the list is split over two pages. It’s a 5 member list ffs. #6? Don’t split pages up unless they are *massive*

  6. The most downright obnoxious form of this are Groupon-like sites that force you to either give them your email address or sign in before you can even see what they offer. Some of the unscrupulous ones use this to spam you with unrelated promotions…for instance I was dumb enough to sign up for emails from CollegeBudget.com. After seeing that their deals are crap I unsubscribed…only to start being bombarded with student loan spam from them a few weeks later.

  7. I’ve run into the same situation (though not through buying colorful bolts). It’s enraging, and it’s ended up routing my business to the less tacky competitors. I don’t mind logging-in to certain websites where I do tons of repeat business, but for a one-off? Come on, man. Spare me. Let me make my one-off purchase, and if I enjoyed doing business with you, trust me! I’ll come back, build an account and we’ll get along fine for the foreseeable future.

    Interesting coffee table, by the way. I hated it on first glance, but the longer I looked at it, the more I liked it. It has a kind of satisfying chunkiness to it without being intrusive.

  8. I can see a reason for asking existing customers to log in first – to display any preferential discounts and special offers they’re entitled to. 

    That’s less common situation in a Business to Consumer environment and I agree it’s a pain to do if you’re a new or one-off customer. 

  9. So. Damn. True. That paper should get a “business truth of the year” award and be posted on the cover of every business magazine cover in the world. I’d like a campaign that seeks out whoever is responsible for the register-before-you-buy decisions in corporations, look up where they live and then convert all the physical stores in a 10 mile radius to register-before-you-buy. How do you like them register-to-buy apples?

    Two more things that seem obviously good for business but aren’t practiced:

    1. almost all ecommerce sites require the same customer information: Name, Adress, Country, Phone, Email. Come up with a protocol for the ordering of those data fields in a html form. Dub it EPIFF, ecommercy personal information form format or whatever. Each user enters the information once and saves it in a browser add-on. When shopping you press a hotkey and tada!

    I know browsers can save form data for different sites already but (a) people don’t keep track of what sites they have used that for and (b) the sites keep changing the form code and (c) you still need to enter it manually for each new site.

    2. you should never ever have to register or enter a credit card number or whatever to get a shipping estimate. That is a real turn off shopping wise. Information on your state/country and what products you want is sufficient information for any well run business to calculate shipping costs.

    If sites had little icons on the front page indicating that they abide by 1 and 2 above then I’d have strong incentives to shop there compared to at competitors.

  10. “I still get a fortnightly newsletter full of information I don’t care to know about bolts (I checked all the opt-out bits, but either I missed one or they just don’t pay attention to it).”

    This is the one thing I love about gmail – if someone does this to me? Mark as Spam. Boom. They are gone from my inbox for good, and if enough people that use gmail do likewise, nothing gets delivered. 

    It pays to not spam people.

    1. Although annoying, technically that’s not spam since it was opt-in from the beginning. Marking it as spam reduces the effectiveness of Google community generated filters for real, unsolicited mail delivered to harvested addresses. Try using Gmail’s disposable addresses in future: http://lifehacker.com/144397/instant-disposable-gmail-addresses

      1. If they deliberately ignore their own opt-out, then it definitely is spam.  They are spammers through and through, and deserve to be black-listed and auto-filtered.

  11. Funny that this was posted just now; yesterday I had this exact experience. I wanted to by a 9,99 EUR game from http://store.steampowered.com/ — I’m not a gamer, and I haven’t bought a computer game since the early nineties and then it was for the Commodore 64. But trailers for this game ‘Limbo’ caught my attention as being fantastically beautiful and a work of art, so I was intrigued. And for 9,99 EUR, I figured it’d certainly be worth it!

    Then followed a rigorous procedure where I first had to create an account, fill in lots of information, type a captcha that had to be redone FIVE TIMES even though I took great care to type it correctly each time. Ok, account created. Then, to pay for the actual game, I had to fill in another form with — apart from my credit card details — my full address and my TELEPHONE NUMBER. I’m not comfortable giving out my telephone number so I chose to leave that field blank. But no go — I was informed by the website that they needed my telephone number for INVOICE PURPOSES. What the f*ck? It’s just a 9,99 EUR app digital download!! Why do they need me to submit all this personal information? This is where I drew the line and thought, forget about this shit, I’m not buying anything form these guys.

    But not before speaking my mind — I wanted to send them an email to let them know I thought this horribly tedious procedure and privacy invasion just to spend 9,99 for a weekend of some playing around with a game is absurd and intimidating. Guess what? I had to create YET ANOTHER ACCOUNT, a ‘support account’ with new information to fill out (email address, password, etc) just in order to get in touch with them at all. D*ckheads.

    1. oh the irony, having to re-register with boingboing when commenting on a thread like this… count me as one of the 45% now :)

      anyway, telephone numbers, agree totally with jasonclock, wonder if I’m the only person who just enters my number with a couple of digits ‘mistyped’. I’ve had random strings rejected so some sites obviously parse what you enter. Pretty sure my standard wrong number is not used (yeah, tried dialling it once, just got ‘unobtainable’ :))

    1. It’s a less helpful definition for that kind of e-mail if you are trying to use a community tool to identify it. It might be annoying but as the original poster said: ‘I checked all the opt-out bits, but either I missed one or they just don’t pay attention to it’. What if he did miss one? What if the majority of people want those mails? Falsely reporting them as UCE (http://www.spamhaus.org/definition.html) damages the effectiveness of the tool. They might be annoying, they might be dubious if they make it hard to unsubscribe but they *were* originally solicited. 

      Personally I create a new e-mail address for everything for which I sign up. If the entity becomes shady (or accidentally shares my e-mail address with a third party) I can drop that address without problems.

      1. “Falsely reporting them as UCE (http://www.spamhaus.org/defini… damages the effectiveness of the tool.”

        No it doesn’t. And: tough. There is a very good way for retailers to avoid being marked as spam. Don’t use shady practices like hiding pre-checked opt-in boxes where they are difficult to see. Don’t send mail that sounds like spam. Don’t do anything that Gmail users might interpret as spam. That system works. To try to modify the behaviour of users is pissing in the wind. You should be talking to the retailers and asking them, ‘Why do you send out mailings in such a manner that they end up being unwanted or that people are looking at and interpreting them as spam?’

        Here’s my very easy solution for retailers who get ‘unfairly’ classed by Gmail as spam (after playing the world’s smallest violin for them): do everything in your power to make sure your email is never seen or read by a user who didn’t want it. Make those opt-in checkboxes huge and prominent. Do not pre-check them by default. No scam: no spam, it’s as simple as that.

        1. “Don’t use shady practices like hiding pre-checked opt-in boxes”

          If it’s pre-checked, don’t even bother calling it opt-in. If you have to take any actions to not get the crap, it’s opt-out.

  12. I’m still dining out on stuff Jared Spool wrote more than 10 years ago. I guess people don’t read.

  13. While we’re at it, I would like to point out that there are online and paper versions of the flurry-of-ads after buying an item from a retailer. I’ve recently been a victim of both. At least the emails don’t waste trees. 

  14. I shop online a lot.  The time when I’m most likely to buy is 5am for some reason.  Don’t fark with me that early in the morning; give me my stuff and take my money.

    As a long time internet shopper, I have no store loyalty.  I have grown more and more detail oriented; I demand dimensions, weight, content, country of origin and shipping estimates.  If any of the information is missing or flawed, I hold the site responsible.  I remember who is a pain in the neck and avoid them during my next search.

    A number of big name retailers lose my cart between shopping and logging in to make the purchase.

    A number of retailers refuse my business because ‘that email is already in use’.

    A number of sites keep too much information; don’t keep my financial information on file.  Too many laptops have been stolen.  Please brag that you never keep credit card information after the purchase has been made.

    A number of sites force me to opt out of their bs.  Opting in should be an action, not the other way around.  I receive duplicate catalogs I never requested because companies refuse to clean up their databases.

    I should be able to use any browser to access sites.  I’m surprised at how many sites can’t offer drop-down menus on Safari.

    1. As a designer and an avid Safari user, I’ve never seen a drop-down menu that isn’t webkit compatible.

      A banking site that I used to use demanded that I use internet explorer due to ActiveX, but that was about 6 years ago.

      1. jcpenney – try the drop down menus in Safari.  That’s the latest one.  Macy’s used to have this problem.  I don’t know if it still exists on that site.

  15. You need your email to make a purchase so I don’t mind giving that out, and most sites use that for your username.  What annoys me is having to go to the trouble of making up a password that is unique enough that I won’t compromise my other more important accounts when this sketchy merchant gets hacked and its passwords end up on a torrent somewhere, like gawker.

    And really it’s not merchant sites that annoy me as much as blogs… I am 500% more likely to make a one-off blog comment if I can do so without creating an account.

    1. I love the irony presented by this post and I totally agree.

      Having to create an account pre-purchase really is no effort.  You’re likely providing the same information you’d provide post-purchase (the company benefits collecting the data pre-purchase as it’s hardly uncommon for a user to drop-out at some point during the sale).  It’s more of a psychological thing than anything else – it will be perceived as a block, or more effort, when in reality it’s just reordering the process with no increase in time or effort presented to the user (on the most part).

      What IS completely unnecessary, is having to create an account, or provide a login to make a comment on a blog, where the data is rarely held by the blog and is of little use to anyone.  Take note BoingBoing, you’ve just done exactly what you’re preaching against.

      1. Take note BoingBoing, you’ve just done exactly what you’re preaching against.

        Yeah, they’re exactly, precisely identical experiences. Except for the part where the online retailer is trying to get you to give them money and we’re providing you with free entertainment and a free forum for your ramblings. But other than that, they’re exactly, precisely identical experiences.

        1. Yep, Rob.  I’m totally for blogs and such with comments that make it a wee bit tougher to comment.  It helps keep spammers at bay a little bit and I think raises the level of the comments in general,too.  If you had to create an account and log in to say something, you have to make a better effort than just seeing the site linked to somewhere and dropping by to post a quick “First” or “Meh” or an orientation slur.   It doesn’t ward off the real motivated trolls and idiots, but it does at least weed out the really lazy ones.

    2. You need to think a little.   Pick the strong password of your choice, and then simply append the website’s URL to it.   Say your password is   %#$TEHF@%23/<*    Then  log into boingboing  with   %#$TEHF@%23/<*boingboing ,   and to amazon with %#$TEHF@%23/<*amazon , etc.    That way you're really only using one strong password.   The drawback is that if someone gets yr strong password AND knows your secret trick, you have to change them all.   (I use a variant of this, using certain website data as a "keygen" for a portion of the password)

  16. I think that it’s important to note that there’s no such thing as a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to designing an commerce experience.  It completely depends on the retailer, their goals and their intended demographic.

    On the most part I agree with the sentiment; as will most e-tailers and designers, but that doesn’t change the fact that what works for one website won’t work for all websites.

    As it happens I’m a UX designer, and where appropriate I’d always push for soft-registration, post-purchase.  But I’m guessing you’ve never heard of marketing departments or management teams; who in many cases would favour the data gained from the registration process over the loss of the odd sale.

  17. I wanted to call out a retailer that, to my eye, does it “right.”  Rock Auto.  You don’t need to log in or create an account, but after placing an order with them, they will recall your shipping and billing info if you just enter your email address and zip code.  They don’t store credit card info.  No password, since they’re not storing anything sensitive.  Forget the email address you last ordered under?  No big deal, just order under your new one, entering your address again.  It’s awesome, elegant, and I wish more online stores did it.  And no, I’m not connected with Rock Auto in any way beyond a customer.  They have other issues – packing insufficiently for the weight and fragility of an item is one big one.  I had to return an alternator twice due to it being packed poorly.  But their ordering system is slick.

  18. As said by menton. Yeah. Registering just to see total cost, tax, and shipping so I can compare prices means I will not be buying from them.

    On small dollar items the most I expect to save by comparison shopping is about $5. So when I hit a reg wall I am MOAR than happy to give another store with a good UI $5 extra.

    But it gets worse… MUCH WORSE. Who here has registered a store, did not buy anything, and then saw your unique disposable email address get spammed two months later? Forcing people to register everywhere is bad security policy!

  19. This is why I buy a lot of stuff on eBay even when a little Googling would find it elsewhere a little cheaper.  I’ve had an eBay account for 14 years and it’s just easier for me to use them as a one-stop.  Plus if the deal goes sideways they aggressively pursue the issue on behalf of the buyer.
    For stuff I couldn’t find on eBay I have accounts all over Eastern Europe and Asia that I’ll never use again.  Hassle.

  20. Heh – my day job is working for a e-commerce company. Over the last year and a half, we moved away from that “register to check out” system to allowing anonymous checkouts, and about half of the purchases are from the new ‘anonymous checkout’ system. We might implement soft registration at the end, but right now we present a splash page to non-logged in users when they go to check out, and they can go from there.

    A lot of that “force people to log in” stuff is due to people who read “E-marketing for Dummies” type books in the early 00’s and assumed that every email address was a gold mine of future sales, and would do anything to get more of them. And people like that assume they know how to run a web development project, and micromanage the implementation of the template design, making the site not particularly useable *grumble*

    I’m eternally grateful that my boss keeps up on current trends on the Internet, and is not flogging a dead horse trying to get every bit of information they can.

  21. I’ll admit that I hate having to come up with passwords to log back into sites I don’t buy from regularly, and even worse the ones where they require you to answer a security question before you can reset your forgotten password, because I’m even less likely to be able to remember my answer two years ago to ‘What did you want to be when you grew up?’ if I can’t ever remember the password.

    That’s a digression though, I happen to design self-service phone sales apps for the DR industry, which is a totally different kind of UX from the web and we deal mostly with one off customers. Interestingly we’ve found that if we collect name address and even more if we get cc# up front the caller is much more likely to stay on the line and complete an order, so I wonder if this same logic isn’t what drives the log in first phenomenon as people with experience in one industry where the data shows if you  get personal info first you are more likely to convert transition over to the web and fall into the trap of thinking all modalities are basically the same.

    Also I agree with the chap above who said sometimes they don’t care about the sale as long as they have the lead, except if you can’t log back in to the account to buy later from one of their email blasts it’s probably not a very good lead. I think the link from the email should log you into a basic form of the account you have with them, especially if they don’t have record of an order or it’s been years since our last one.

  22. The only thing that’s worse than the forced log-on is the email from such a  company saying that their precious eCommerce has been stolen, and you need to see if your card number has been stolen.  I’ve never been back to a site that had that happen.

  23. Before I went freelance and worked as a webmaster for an online retailer, I tried to convince the owner that even offering the option for registration was little benefit to us.  My argument was registration created too much of an obstacle and provided little benefit.  Considering most of our customers where on average less then computer literate it caused a great deal of trouble.  Our customer service spent far too much time resetting passwords for users who misspelled their email address, forgot their login email address, or shipped their order to the wrong shipping address because they forgot to update it during checkout.  Registration isn’t necessary for a consumer to consent to joining our mailing list.  So from our point of view, what’s the point?

  24. With all this hacking ballyhoo going on, it seems like an easy fix to prevent people from hijacking accounts with a stolen password and buying old defenseless women packages of condoms and other rubbish is to not have a log in or an account at all.

    Personally, I’m sick of having to remember passwords for everything and typing my credit card number in is probably about as fast.  Isn’t there a better way?

  25. Where I live there are no zip/post codes and often this is a compulsory field. Fortunately just making up a random one often works.

      1. 12345 turns out to be Schenectady, New York.

        But it doesn’t matter if Quibbler doesn’t live in New York or even the U.S. (“Where I live there are no zip/post codes”). If the postal service in, say, Mali (or wherever Quibbler lives) doesn’t have numeric post codes, then the 12345 (or Quibbler’s random entry) will probably be ignored by the sorters there.

        The post code requirement is on a par with the presumably well-intentioned ignorance of requiring 5 or 9 digits for the post code outside the U.S., or disallowing alphabetic characters in the post code, or demanding 10-digit phone numbers or three-letter domains. This last is not as much of a problem these days, but some programmers apparently thought all TLDs were either .com, .gov., ,mil, etc., and so disallowed .co.uk, .name, .ca, etc.

  26. I recall trying to rent a car and being asked for full details including credit card before I could find out prices at one site. Sorry folks but you do not need my credit card number until I have decided to pay for your services. Which will never happen if you don’t tell me your prices.

    1. You probably guessed it, but your credit history affects the rental rates they’ll offer you.

  27. Hey..thanks BB! Thinking about this issue, I added the excellent COWOA plugin to my zen cart store. It was kind of a PITA, but now my customers have an option of buying without creating an account.

    I hope it increases my sales by $300 million, too :)

  28. Antinous – if you think about it, it’s not quite as opposite as you portray. The comments are what cause news and discussion sites to be sticky, and that stickiness is used to generate advertising revenue. BB has advertisers.I know BB isn’t like social media where our participation is the product being sold to advertisers, but you have to admit that it’s not crazy to think that removing barriers to quick comments might increase the ad revenue through increased participation.

    1. Not that I want to undermine my job, but there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between page views, comment volume and ad revenue at BB. Comment page views are a tiny percentage of overall views.

    1. Because Disqus makes one of the most loathsome jobs on the internet (comment administration and moderation) somewhat easier for the site owners.

  29. I’m about to launch a software webshop. How would you suggest one go about this with a license based product? What about support, redownloading your purchases, etc?

  30. same goes for comment systems on blogs… oh wait, what the f was my username again?

  31. I normally put in zz1 1zz a post code and it is always added to the address label.

    I recently ordered from a large electronic company (allied) and they added INDIA at the end of my address (I live in the West Indies).

    There are a lot of companies that will not accept credit cards that are issued by a West Indies banks which is another of my gripes as you have put your order got to the very last stage and it fails.

  32. I think the perfect happy medium for websites would be to offer an “opt in” option to create a relationship with the company, but with just zipping right to buying your item in privacy the clear default.  There’s a handful of companies out there that I absolutely use frequently enough to want to make an account so that I can set up some filter preferences and not have to type my address over and over and actually might be interested in seeing notifications about when they have sales and such.  Having a way to log in is really helpful on those sites.  But there’s a lot of them that I don’t  want or need that.  Especially when I’m shopping for gifts for other people.  Just because I bought one item one time for someone else doesn’t mean that I want a continued relationship at all with a site.  Nothing they or their partners have to send me will be of any relevance at all to me.  It won’t interest me or generate any revenue for them.  It’s a waste of both our time. 

    I’m still receiving emails regularly from a site that I bought one cheap gift for a wedding shower from over a decade ago.  I’m pretty sure no one ever purges their mailing list.  If a “customer” hasn’t bought anything from you or logged on in the last couple of years, it’s time to take them off your list.  That lead is no longer of much value. 

  33. I think that this finding was likely made about McMaster Carr. 

    I haven’t, in my middling experience, come across any other web sellers of the scale that could potentially handle an additional 300 million dollars in sales.

    I considered NewEgg, which I thought didn’t require an account creation, but a quick check shows that it too is in the relationship building business.

    I suppose it could also be paypal in general, which I think will process CC payments without opening an account, but I don’t see that really being a “sale.”

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