Email and E-Commerce

Fred Wilson had a post last week called Don’t Forget Your Logged-Out Users where he discussed how social media sites need to pay attention to the value they create for users that aren’t logged-in; i.e. Twitter allows you to see Lebron James’ Tweets without logging-in.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot in the context of e-commerce.  You need to be very careful about what value you provide to a user before you force them to authenticate (i.e. force them to give you their email address). 

Most web services drive the majority of their traffic through email – especially repeat traffic.  As a result, email capture for a new visitor is critical.  It’s hard to get a user to your site, it’s even harder to get them back – in most cases you need their email address to get them back.  An email address allows you to regularly market to that user to bring them back when you have a better or more relevant offer for them.

So when you think about how much value you provide to a user that isn’t logged-in, you need to consider the potential missed opportunity to capture that user’s email address.

I’ve found that when you put up a authentication page before allowing a first-time user to shop, you lose about 20% of visitors; most users came to your site to see what you have and they’re willing to take an extra step to see it.

I’ve also found that when a user comes a site, there’s about a 5% chance they’ll transact on the first visit. 

Think of it this way:

Scenario 1 – Authentication and email capture before user can shop

1,000 New Visitors

800 New Email Addresses

40 Transactions

Scenario 2 – No Authentication before user can shop

1,000 New Visitors

50 New Email Addresses

50 Transactions

Here’s the question to consider when making the decision on how much value to provide to users that aren’t logged-in to your e-commerce site: what’s more valuable to you, 10 transactions or 750 new emails?