11 August, 2005

Businesses are Foolish

So many eBusinesses out there subscribe to the same, dumb model. They make you create an account to do the smallest thing, like email them a question. Buy.com just lost a sale because I could not email them a question. (Granted, the question was whether they would match, or even come close to a competitor's price.)

I imagine companies require all sorts of registration so they can collect information on their customers in order to better market. If I want specials emailed to me, though, I would just want to submit my email address to a "specials newsletter" form. I still wouldn't want to go through the whole signup process. If I don't end up purchasing from them, my account is just wasting space on their server; if I do end up purchasing, they've got all that information from the order form.

There is another possible reason for all these registrations: the programmers aren't smart enough to figure out a way to do what the business analysts want without logins. Just a tiny bit of thinking outside the box (and not all that outside the box) yields elegant solutions for many of these issues. Let's say you want to make sure that the email address submitted to the "specials newsletter" wasn't somebody else's; you simply send them a confirmation email first. Now, what about when the person wants to unsubscribe? Simply having an email daemon (they're FREE from Apache's Jakarta project, for goodness' sake) that listens for "unsubscribe" emails accomplishes this.

Now, don't get me wrong: sometimes, an account on a site - even an eMarketplace - can be a Good Thing(TM). (Side note: I'm really not sure why we say "Good Thing(TM)," but I'm pretty sure that's how it's done now.) If I want to view order history, view order tracking, not have to reenter my billing address, ... I'm all for it. But what if I don't want any of that?

So in the end: making people sign up for accounts that don't really do anything just pushes customers away.

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