What keeps online shoppers from creating user accounts?

Photo: @nina_p_v via Twenty20
Sep 12, 2019

MarketingCharts staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

Having an online user account with a retailer can have its advantages, including faster checkout and the opportunity for a more personalized shopping experience. And while a report from DMI found that 46 percent of the more than 1,500 U.S. adult consumers surveyed use online accounts for all or most of their purchases, some factors are making the rest hesitate.

About one-third (32 percent) of respondents are not interested in receiving marketing e-mails.

Past surveys have shown retailers send more relevant and accurate e-mails than other industries. Yet, while more recent data shows that many consumers are scanning subject lines to decide whether to open retailer e-mails, others stay subscribed because it’s just too difficult to unsubscribe. Consumers making multiple purchases online at various retailers possibly are hesitant to wade through the resulting e-mails should they create user accounts.

One-quarter (24 percent) of respondents also say they are nervous about providing personal information. Most marketers are well aware that data security and privacy are the top demands of customers in the digital age — and what the consequences could be if they do not secure customer data. U.S. shoppers have been known to walk away from brands who use their customer data without their knowledge and many others have stopped using a brand after a data breach.

Another reason shoppers forego signing up for a user account is the time involved, with 22 percent saying the process takes too long. Additionally, another 13 percent of respondents say they don’t sign up for a user account because they are not planning on buying from the store again.

DMI’s advice included:

  • Doing a better job of telling customers how you’ll communicate with them.
  • Using an e-mail strategy to add value for customers and not spam them.
  • Giving customers control over the frequency and topics of emails.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest factors preventing consumers from creating user accounts with retailers? What solutions do you recommend?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"A lot of customers don't want retailers to know who they are -- and they don't want to have to remember yet another password."
"Retailers need to treat customers with respect, the best solution for long-term customer relationships."
"A solution? Make a promise to the customer about how the info will be used… and honor it!"

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "What keeps online shoppers from creating user accounts?"

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Anne Howe

Very Simple. Data breaches continue to rise. We’re on number seven so far in last 18 months. Ridiculous. Now it’s Amazon or Costco or a trip to the store.

Michael La Kier

People prefer to receive communications from brands via email over any other medium — likely because they then have control of the dialogue. But with so much email to wade through these days people are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with their current inbox, so why add more? Combine this with privacy risks plus companies losing personal data and it’s a recipe for not signing up. Creating a user account with a retailer is a sign of trust and an expectation of value; smart retailers express the value of the relationship (and expectations) upfront.

David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
2 years 2 months ago

The biggest factor preventing me from creating a user account is the fear that I will be inundated with too many marketing emails. If you make a purchase as a guest, you will still need to enter your address and payment information, so I don’t see a concern about providing personal information be a root cause for hesitation to create a user account. The other issue is setting up a username and password. We all have too many accounts to remember login credentials. It would just be another thing to remember!

Cathy Hotka

A lot of customers don’t want retailers to know who they are — and they don’t want to have to remember yet another password.

Bethany Allee

The number one reason listed above is that folks don’t want marketing emails – but I don’t think that captures the entirety of what “marketing emails” means. I think that with Cathy’s addition of just generally not wanting retailers to know who they are and not wanting to remember another password completes the thought. The three are tied together in my mind.

Lisa Goller

This business issue is all about trust — and consumers’ desire for more control.

Privacy concerns, opacity of how retail companies will use the data, spam and fatigue from overflowing inboxes all play a role in consumers’ decision to decline to create user accounts (even if doing so offers convenience and time savings).

Letting consumers opt in to receive retail emails or texts and determine how and how often they would like to receive communications gives consumers greater control.

Offering value-added content (exclusive offers and promotions, product trend information and even the levity of entertainment) rather than a hard sell helps to attract consumers and earn their engagement.

Also, making it simple for consumers to unsubscribe reminds shoppers they always have choices.

Neil Saunders

There are lots of reasons why consumers don’t create accounts. Some feel they have too many accounts and can’t be bothered to think of usernames and passwords. Some fear data breaches. Others don’t want to get future emails from services they have accounts with.

I don’t think consumers have an issue creating accounts with brands they use regularly; but those they use once or only now and again are more likely to miss out.

Shep Hyken

Customers are concerned how their information will be used. They are becoming more and more concerned about receiving unwanted emails and messages. It’s that simple.

A solution? Make a promise to the customer about how the info will be used… and honor it!

Lee Kent

Quite simply they are saying: I am going to buy this from you but I don’t want a relationship with you. For my 2 cents.

Oliver Guy

Fascinating results from the survey. What surprised me was the whole thing around remembering passwords was missing from top responses. I have come across numerous examples where people are reluctant to set something up because it is yet another password to remember. We are told not to have the same password for everything or write them down but I must have 50+ passwords of this type to remember – and the answer is “I don’t remember them” so I go through hassle of changing my password each time – which is the same amount of effort as entering my details again each time!

Ralph Jacobson

I think the reasons given in the survey for not signing up for an account are very valid. Retailers need to address these obstacles upfront with clear, concise messaging on their landing pages about how they are eliminating these obstacles.

Cynthia Holcomb

There are varying ranges of retail user accounts. The most frustrating are retail sites requiring a shopper to sign in with his or her social media account. If a shopper does not want to share their social account, the only option is to create a user account just to enter the site! Really, having to show ID just to enter a store? How many shoppers are these sites turning away?

Far and away the most egregious reward for setting up a user account is constant and consistent daily, multiple spam emails from the retailer. Unsubscribe is set up to be difficult. Retailers need to treat customers with respect, the best solution for long-term customer relationships.

Rich Kizer

The fear of having more and more emails plugging up their system. And also, my favorite quote from one of our consumer focus groups: “I want to date your store, not marry it!”, which means that with the mentioned breaches of privacy and the hordes of data collected about them, people are becoming more vigilant about their personal information.

Ken Wyker

Customers resist user accounts because they’ve been burned before. The primary pushback is that they don’t want marketing emails. These customers don’t hate emails, they hate the emails that they got from the last company where they signed up for an account and the one before that.

It’s not easy to overcome that, but the best way is to deliver genuine value to the customer. Too many marketers see email as a low cost vehicle to communicate all of their marketing ideas. If they instead focus on each customer’s wants and needs and leverage the digital connection to provide value to the shopper and make their lives easier, they will find more customers signing up.

Before aggressively pushing to get more customers signed up for user accounts, take a look at your email open rates. If they are lower than they can be, you’re not delivering the value needed to sustain the digital relationship.

Brian Cluster

Consumers don’t see the value of adding one more retail account in their lives. They likely have their bases covered with Walmart/Amazon/Target, CVS/Walgreens and their main grocery retailers.

So many of the major retailers have been breached in the past years. Consumers don’t want to worry about that happening to them. Retailers will need to show how they provide a better value or experience than the retailers that have already been adopted into the customers’ lives.

Here is an article highlighting breaches affecting consumers in the past two years.

Cate Trotter

I think speed is definitely part of it. It feels like there’s a lot more effort involved in setting up an account compared to checking out as guest. This is especially true if something like PayPal is a payment option as it can populate your billing and shipping addresses for you. I think others are spot on that having yet another username and password to remember is also a turnoff – especially if you’re making a first purchase from a brand and you’re not sure that you will be returning. Marketing is another consideration. It’s not that email isn’t a relevant way of communicating with customers – it’s volume that is the issue. With so many brands to shop from these day and consumers spreading their spending among them, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of traffic. Especially as some brands insist on emailing on an almost daily basis!

Craig Sundstrom

Most signups (that I’ve seen anyway) include an “opt out” box, so the fact that fully one-third of people are afraid of being spammed anyway suggests a trust problem (or people don’t see it or my experience is atypical).

So my advice to retailers who are concerned about account creation is (1) include that option, and (2) be ethical and honor it. But should retailers be concerned? For many, repeat customers are the norm, and an account would be expected. But there are lots of retailers that one deals with once and then never again. An account would make little sense, and attempting to coerce one would be counterproductive.

"A lot of customers don't want retailers to know who they are -- and they don't want to have to remember yet another password."
"Retailers need to treat customers with respect, the best solution for long-term customer relationships."
"A solution? Make a promise to the customer about how the info will be used… and honor it!"

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