Website Login and Data Collection Practices That Drive Consumers Mad

Mar 01, 2012

I don't like it. Most consumers don't like it. And, chances are, you don't like it either. Yet, it continues. It's enough to drive perfectly sane people crazy.

Yes, the typical website registration and login process sucks, to be blunt. It's a user experience nightmare and pretty much everyone agrees. The problem starts when well-intentioned marketers employ site registration systems that prevent consumers from getting to the content they desire unless they are willing to give up an increasing amount of information. Usually it's a laundry list of all sorts of personal, financial, and demographic information.

Business magazine publishers (including this one) are some of the worst offenders, although they usually don't hand over the information to a sales team that begins cold calling you. Usually. But that's not the case with product manufacturers and providers of all sorts of services. They treat registration data as sales lead information, which it is certainly not.

Take the software industry, for example. You can bet that if you sign up for a webinar or download a white paper on a subject you are researching, they're going to add you to a mailing list, send you newsletters, and call you up to try and sell you something. The irony is that marketing and sales people use the web as well. They are consumers, just like the rest of us. They know all too well that the registration process is a giant inconvenience. They hate it, too.

"I don't return to sites that require me to submit too much information," says Sophia Farina, marketing and revenue performance management consultant at Revenue2. "It's just not worth my time."

"The act of collecting information from web consumers wouldn't be so offensive if brands learned to gather it in bite-sized bits, and used it to create an experience that is relevant to each individual," she says. "But, that's not what's happening 99.9% of the time."

"The way most brands approach information gathering is disrespectful," says Farina.

According to a recent study by Blue Research, US consumers agree with Farina and they're taking their frustrations out on brands by spoiling registration and demographic data collection efforts. The study found among the 86% of consumers who find registration website registration bothersome, 88% admitted they provide false information or leave forms incomplete. Did you hear that CMOs of America?

It's not just tedious and often invasive information gathering practices that upset consumers the most. It turns out that the biggest obstacle to a positive customer experience is the seemingly simple act of logging in.

What's the problem, you ask? There's no uniform approach. User identification fields vary from site to site. Some limit the number of characters user IDs may contain. Others insist that users login with an email address. Still others automatically assign user IDs. Passwords are even more challenging. There seem to be an increasing number of approaches. Some sites require passwords of a certain length (at least 8 characters but no more than 16), while others require passwords to contain one capital letter and a combination of alphanumeric characters. Still others...well, you get the picture.

According to Blue Research, 90% of web consumers leave websites when they can't login successfully. And, no, they don't bother to answer the security questions, which are equally as cryptic.

What's important to note here is the damage done by sloppy login experiences. 54% of web consumers who are unable to login, leave the site and may never return. What's the solution? "For starters," says Farina, "marketers need to fight to ensure they create the best customer experience possible. It's not enough to collect so-called leads and pass them to sales and then pat yourself on the back and claim a job well done. You need to ensure the entire customer experience is equally as good as your content, from start to finish."

The findings of the Blue Research study indicate that what web consumers want is a single login experience -- 77% think websites should allow them to login using an existing online identity like Facebook, Google, or Twitter. 41% say they prefer a social login over creating a new user or guest account.

"Social login continues to dramatically increase in favor among consumers as they realize the benefits of using an existing identity in order to bypass the traditional online registration process," says Paul Abel, Ph.D., managing partner, Blue Research. "Failing to offer social login is a missed opportunity for businesses to improve ROI of online properties, as fans of the service are more likely to register on the site, influence their friends through social networks, and more likely to return to a site that offers them a personalized experience." 

And, what Abel (no relation) doesn't mention is the cost of failing to provide a seamless login experience. When customers need to access a site that is critical to them -- such as a bank -- but fail to gain access on their own, they are likely to call customer support, increasingly call volume and slowing down the customer service process. These burdens come with costs. The irony is that self-serve websites are often sold to upper management as a way to reduce support costs.

What do you think? Are you tired of struggling to remember user IDs and passwords? Do you long for a single login ID? And, what about registration information? Do companies ask for too much? Do you lie? Leave forms blank? Let me know.