Require Customers to Create an Account – If You Want Conversion Rates to Drop

There are two types of customers in the world of ecommerce: first time buyers and returning customers. When talking about digital product sales, the vast...

There are two types of customers in the world of ecommerce: first time buyers and returning customers. When talking about digital product sales, the vast majority of transactions involve either first time buyers or returning customers who last purchased over a year ago. In either case, is it a good idea to require a customer to “create an account” during the time of buying?

Take a look at the following example from Nuance Communication’s checkout process for PDF Converter Professional:

Requiring a password in the shopping cart
Requiring a password in the shopping cart

The customer wants to buy the product and completes all the personal information, then reaches this point where he must pause to ask, “What password is this?” followed by, “Why should I have to?” At least the last sentence of the explanation identifies why the customer is asked to do this. But, by this time, how many customers have left the order process confused, resulting in lost sales? Don’t forget that passwords are a very personal thing and asking for a password does not result in the same comfort level as asking for name, address or email address.

Similarly, we all know that there are plenty of customers who don’t read the instructions on the screen, which also results in potential customers abandoning the cart because they start trying to remember their password or look through their older emails. At best, this results in potential customers taking longer to complete their purchase and at worst cart abandonment occurs.

Now let’s think about a couple of common reasons that you might want to require customers to create an account for every transaction.

In the example above, the benefit is that the customer can look up their order at a later time. From the instructions in the cart, it’s not clear what data appears from “look(ing) up your completed orders.” Let’s assume that a receipt, download link and order history are available behind the magic wall. Aren’t there other pieces of information that can be used rather than creating another password? How about the order reference number, which is uniquely available to the customer, or last four digits of the credit card number used or a zip/postal code?

In online communities where virtual products are sold, the user has already logged in with their global account and the ecommerce system does not need to ask the user to create a new password. If you are using a different ecommerce system than your main credential engine, ensure that your ecommerce system supports single sign-on to facilitate tying the transaction information to the master customer account.


Avoid creating customer confusion and declining conversion rates by following a few simple rules:

  • Avoid requiring a customer to create an account by providing a password before purchasing. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the user account, there are alternatives.
  • If you already have an extensive customer account section, be sure that your ecommerce system is tied tightly via single sign-on technology.

What do you think about requiring your potential customers to create an account during the order process? Have you seen any other login examples that you think work well?