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Are You Scaring Away Customers?

Your efforts to get to know your customers could be driving them away.

You want your website visitors' contact information, right? Of course you do. But is requiring registration causing you to lose prospects instead of gain them?

According to's "Industrial Purchasing Barometer" study conducted in July 2005, 89 percent of respondents want anonymity when searching the internet, and 95 percent want vendors to send them information only when they request it. Unfortunately for marketers, the study says buyers have learned how to avoid unsolicited communication by "staying away from websites that require registration."

This avoidance tactic isn't limited to industrial buyers. Many consumers are required to fork over too much personal information--or worse, choose yet another login name and password--if they want to subscribe to a free e-zine, download a free report, access archived articles, get pricing information or buy something on a website.

To avoid losing visitors, ask for the least amount of information possible. A first name and an e-mail address should suffice in most situations where you're giving something away for free. And why force shoppers to create a new account when they want to buy something right away? You can give them the opportunity to create a new account before--or even after--they make their purchase, but don't require registration before they buy. That can intimidate or frustrate first-time customers.

Consider changing your online registration process if your site does any of the following: requires nonessential information, doesn't disclose how you'll use registrants' information, doesn't state how often you'll communicate with registrants, or lacks instructions on how registrants can opt out of further communication from you.

And think seriously about not requiring shoppers to register for and log in to an account when they want to buy something. Just let them buy it.

Internet shoppers worry about protecting their privacy and saving time. Help them do both by requiring less information from them during registration, and win more customers in the process.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Sedaowns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

This story appears in the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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