Will 2017 Be the Year eCommerce Gets Lazy?

Whether our clients’ carts are Yahoo! stores, out-of-the-box third party carts, or 100% custom-coded, I can’t help feeling like there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Despite the advances in technology and usability, no one should be satisfied with the industry’s 2-3% conversion rate, and cart/funnel conversion rates in the low double digits.

I tend to attribute these low metrics, in some part, to the continued insistence on throwing a registration requirement in front of visitors right when they begin to convert. Even the popular “login, register, or checkout as guest” screens have some dropoff, and that’s money left on the table.

Note: I know we’ve blogged about this topic before, so I assure you I’m hoping to take this in a unique direction.

I’m going to suggest that everyone who manages some sort of “checkout process,” including registering with B2B sites, take some time in 2009 to think about the concept of Lazy Registration. According to UI-patterns.com, Lazy Registration is a solution to “let the user interact and use your system/application while postponing formal registration to a later time.” In layman’s terms, it’s the concept of building a temporary profile in the background and subtly encouraging visitors to finish/formalize their profile when they’re ready (and when they’re persuaded of the value). Sites like TripIt.com, Jumpcut.com, and Geni.com all use some form of lazy registration to get visitors using their service without requiring the creation of a formal account.

Now I know what you’re thinking…none of those sites are retail sites selling physical product online, so does Lazy Registration make sense in my case? Well, I argue it’s worth looking into. Take a look at a few of UI-Patterns’s stated reasons for using the approach:

• Use when giving away the personal information required for a formal account registration is a big step for your users (Really, I argue that giving away the customary account creation personal information is a big step for 100% of your visitors, especially first time visitors)
• Use when you want to allow your users to try out your website (and in turn compare it to alternatives) before making the decision to register an account with your website (If we can all acknowledge that our visitors engage in comparison shopping, this becomes a killer argument)
• Use when registering an account requires an exchange of money, why the user might want to “browse around” your product first in order to make a decision (This one seems to apply to all B2C, and if time is money, then it’s relevant to B2B)
• Use when you don’t want to force your users to register at first – when you don’t want to put too much pressure on your users (If putting pressure on our visitors, especially first time visitors, causes them to not convert, why would we want to put pressure on them?)

I think most of us, if we could “get outside the bottle,” would admit that we don’t do a good job of presenting WHY our visitors should register with our sites. Remember the What’s In It For Me concept. Lazy Registration is an approach that forces us to prove value BEFORE we ask for registration, and I wonder what kind of conversion rate increases it might provide if applied elegantly.

With continuing improvements in how our developers can handle AJAX, cookies, sessions, etc., 2009 seems like a great year to start thinking about this concept and figuring out the implications to your business (e.g. less data in the database to market back to, but more sales). And if you decide it’s something worth exploring, then definitely test it on a small portion of your traffic, and let us know how it goes.