Using Facebook credentials for registering to get in to ecommerce websites makes life easy for today's impatient and password-overloaded users. But according to a survey by Betapond, only a modest 14.5% of European and a measly 6% of US ecommerce sites are using it.
Despite its low adoption, social credentials offers benefits to both a business and customers. What are the pros and cons of using it, and best practices should you choose to implement Facebook Connect for registration and account sharing?
Top Reasons Why eCommerce Sites Should Use Facebook Credentials
Reduce friction in the registration process
Web form abandonment pain needs no explanation. The appeal of a streamlined - sometimes one-click registration doesn't either. If a site wants to ask for custom field inputs, a web form can pre-populate form fields from Facebook data like name, birthdate, gender and city to speed up the process. For example, Burberry prefills with all gray fields below with profile data.
Erradicate password failure
Using social credentials eliminates the need for password recall, especially helpful for returning customer checkout.
Personalize and merchandize
The ability to pull profile data like Likes and interests can help you tailor home page content and product suggestions, or to persist to CRM data for segmentation analysis.
Interestingly, the Betapond study found 86% of ecommerce sites using Facebook Connect requested permission to access the friend list, but only 31% requested access to Likes, and 17% to interests. When it comes to ecommerce personalization, the fruit hangs much lower when you can glean from user's own profile than try to infer interests from the social graph. However, access to the friend list is useful for birthday reminders and gift suggestions, as well as social proof -- identifying when friends (and friends of friends) have purchased, Liked, reviewed or added a product to a wish list.
Keep in mind, if you're site experience is quite different for Facebook users than non-FB'ers, consider the impact on your analytics. Figure out how you will segment Facebook and non-Facebook to identify if personalization is working or not.
Top Reasons Why eCommerce Sites Avoid Facebook Credentials
Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts exist around security, the degree of control over customer information and skepticism of its appeal to customers (to name a few). The first two are easy to rebut - Facebook Connect is built using industry standards for open authentication, and the business is in full control of what data is shared with Facebook. Whether or not customers want social credentials to register can be gauged by its usage after you implement it, but it's not a feature that can be A/B tested, because users that sign up with Facebook can't authenticate if you remove it after a round of testing.
It's tough to back out
It's possible to move Facebook registrants to your regular credentials to register, but it requires their action -- action they may never take. If social credential's time saving attracts the lazy customer, it could be an even tougher feat to accomplish.
Some sites will auto-authenticate your visit if you're currently logged into Facebook on your machine. Customers that don't want others who may use that device to accidentally register should use session timeout or request social authentication on every visit, regardless of whether someone's logged in to a Facebook account at the time. This may be a strong case for industries like telecom to not use social authentication.
Tips for Optimizing Social Credentials
Only ask for what you need
Even if you're pre-filling your regular form with Facebook data, less is more for the user. The registrant will look over the fields and notice what you're pulling. Only ask for the fields you'll actually use for personalization or customer segmentation. Pre-filling hometown when it's not in addition to current city, for example, could give the impression you're asking for TMI.
Ditto for sequential requests for permissions. Though the user can skip these permissions and still use their Facebook credentials to create their account, this is not always understood by privacy-wary customers.
Apply the right styling
Bazarchic's button styling is near identical to Facebook's in color and shape. This may cause confusion with the Facebook Connect button, which looks like instructions rather than a clickable call to action.
Cdiscount.com makes the clear distinction between connection options.
Make the Facebook button prominent
Dawanda presents the customer with a sign-up form, but places the Facebook Connect option at the bottom of the form. The user sees the registration form most prominently, and thinks "hard work." Show the social credential option before a form, either at the top, or in a step before the form is revealed.
Link to an explanation
Dawanda gets it right with a FUD-crushing link to more information.
Avoid asking for a password
The beauty of Facebook authentication is it negates the need for a password, so think twice about asking the user to create a separate one, as in the Burberry example.
Pare down the menu
You've got a lot of social connection options to choose from, but offering more than one or two is problematic. Not only does it make customers think hard and make a decision which social network to commit to, you risk losing the customer account should Yahoo, AOL or MySpace, for example, stop supporting their API or shut down. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are your best bets, but offering just Facebook is the safest bet.
Don't forget mobile
Ensure your design and process is usable on mobile phones. Many mobile users are logged into their Facebook app, and a simplified sign-up can be much appreciated.