As both a web designer and an online marketer, I often do a lot of reading up on both subjects and when they intersect. While I was browsing news articles, I happened upon this article by Jared M. Spool, entitled The $300 Million Button. And as I read it, I found myself agreeing with every point that had been made; customers shouldn't have to log in to complete an online purchase. Although it sounds like a good idea in theory, it doesn't quite work out on paper - and here's why.
Many people don't want to register. Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes just for fun, only to find out that if you wanted to receive your answer, you had to give away all this personal information? Although that same personal information is necessary for shipping a package, customers feel the exact same way when they're forced to register in order to make a purchase. They might wonder why you want that information, or if you're going to spam them relentlessly. Some people are just looking to make a one time purchase and don't want to feel like they're signing up for anything.
It is seen as an inconvenience and a hassle. Not only do people not want to register, but they also don't want to log in either. You might think the amount of time it takes to log in or register is negligible, but people want to complete their purchase. Plus, you want to take advantage of impulse buys, and each second that customers are not spent typing their information in and completing their transaction is another second they can reconsider. It's just one more step they have to complete, and people want checkouts to be as simple and straightforward as possible. One more required step feels like a chore.
People forget their information. If users haven't logged in for awhile, they might not remember their user name and password. Precious time could be spent guessing this information or trying to retrieve it from their email inboxes. And while this may seem like it doesn't take a long time, it's more than long enough. When it comes to Internet use, just one roadblock and a few extra minutes - or even seconds - is enough to cause users to go to your competitor.
Although there are some benefits to having customers log in, don't make it a requirement. Make things as easy for your users as possible, and you'll find your online business will be successful.