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If you’re a frequent web user it’s inevitable that you will at some point have been asked to login to a site using your Facebook ID.

It tends to be a popular option with publishers and content sites as it offers an easy way to expose their brand to a wider audience, however it’s not uncommon for ecommerce sites to ask customers to login using Facebook. 

That said, ecommerce sites offering a Facebook login are still in the minority.

A study by Sociable Labs in September 2012 found that just 30 of the top 500 online retailers have implemented login with Facebook, which shows that the majority of ecommerce sites feel they are better off without it.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a Facebook login option has no place in ecommerce. In fact, last year we published an infographic which showed that 40% of consumers prefer social logins over a guest account.

So if you’re considering implementing a social login on your site, here are some pros and cons that you should first consider...  

Pros

One password for many services

It might go against everything we’re told about online security, but having one login for a number of services is extremely convenient for the user.

Therefore offering the ability to login using Facebook may reduce frustration at the login page and improve the overall user experience.

Familiarity

Unless you operate a world-renowned ecommerce site, it’s likely that a large proportion of your customers will be new to your brand.

However it’s more likely that they will be familiar with Facebook and will have come across a Facebook login on a third-party site before.

Therefore they will be familiar with the user journey and it may reassure them about using your site for the first time.  

Added convenience

Forced registration is a major cause of checkout abandonment, with a quarter (26%) of respondents in a recent Econsultancy survey stating that being forced to register would cause them to abandon a purchase.

If you have your heart set on forcing users to register before using your service, then allowing them to verify their identity using Facebook may limit the number of people who drop out.

Potential for sharing

The thought of having all your customers sharing your brand with their friends is probably the main selling point of Facebook Connect.

I’m dubious over whether that actually happens en masse, as I’ve logged into several sites using Facebook and have never shared details of any of them with friends, but there is presumably a proportion of customers who will happily provide their favourite ecommerce sites with some free advertising by sharing purchases.

Access to profile data

If a user is logged in using Facebook Connect the site owner can potentially access profile data and personalise product suggestions based on their social graph.

This can be useful for upselling gift suggestions or for birthday reminders.

Cons

Accuracy of data

Often people will use false information or a nickname when signing up for Facebook, and those with really old accounts (like mine) might not use the email address they signed up with anymore.

Users also control their own privacy settings for date of birth, gender, etc. and can restrict who accesses that information.

Loss of control

With more than 1bn users it’s unlikely that Facebook is going to disappear anytime soon, but what happens if it suffers a catastrophic problem with its servers (admittedly that could happen with any third-party service) or simply decides to change its terms of service?

Or, what if your customer decides they no longer want to use Facebook and cancels their account. Probably without even realising it they’ve also cancelled their account with you.

Giving a third-party control over such an important part of your ecommerce strategy could prove to be risky in the long-term.

Some users don’t want everything to be connected

Facebook is a great service and is useful for keeping in contact with friends, but that doesn’t mean I want everything I do online to be shared and connected via Facebook.

Shopping and socialising are two very separate things, so forcing people to login using Facebook is likely to put off a number of users (just ask @lakey).

The sharing options that are often an unavoidable part of a Facebook login means that sites using the system also give off the unfortunate impression that they are surreptitiously trying to force users to act as brand advocates and unwilling advertisers.

Some people don’t use Facebook

Admittedly with 1bn Facebook users around the world you’ve still got a pretty big audience, but believe it or not there are still people who don’t have a Facebook account.

And are you willing to completely ignore these people by relying solely on a Facebook login?

It doesn’t really simplify anything

Other than the username and password, the customer will still need to input most of the other data, such as billing and payment information.

So the argument that it makes registration more convenient for users doesn’t really stack up.

Muddying your brand image

Admittedly this isn’t an ecommerce example, but in this excellent case study from MailChimp Aarron Walter states that the company implemented social logins as a way of reducing the amount of failed login attempts.

However MailChimp found that not only did social logins have limited take up (just 3.4% of visitors) but it also had a negative impact on the look and feel of the site. So much so, that CEO Ben Chestnut demanded that they be removed.

The main concern was that you are placing another brand’s logo on one of the most visited pages on your site.

As Aarron points out:

Call us control freaks, but we built this brand and we ‘feel strongly’ about shaping its direction ourselves. One logo on our login page is enough.

And what if Facebook or Twitter does something awful and suffers a major consumer backlash? You’re putting yourself in a position to feel some of that negative sentiment every time a user sees the logo on your login page.

Added confusion

Remembering your username and password for an ecommerce site you use infrequently is difficult enough, so adding social logins can just cause more confusion.

Instead of just asking the user to remember their logins details, you’re requiring them to remember which of three login options they used in the first place.

This has the potential for causing additional headaches by slowing down the login process, which isn’t great for the user experience.

David Moth

Published 21 January, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Rick Noel

Excellent post David. I am surprised that just 30 of the top 500 online retailers have implemented login with Facebook. It can be convenient to offer as one of a few options like many sites do. For those that want to login with Facebook, they can and those that want to register have that option as well. In this scenario, an eCommerce site can have the best of both worlds. Thanks for sharing.

over 3 years ago

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Alessandro Locatelli

Accessing profile data (even if some profiles contain fake info) allows a highly targeted content.

over 3 years ago

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edward bass

What about personalization via Open Graph as a 'pro'?

over 3 years ago

Tim Watson

Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

I think many people are not considering the risk side of Facebook Connect, the risks that you point out. Such as having put Facebook in control of your customers.

There are also a couple of further risks.

Once you've spent effort collecting your customers on Facebook, what's to stop Facebook then selling advertising to those people to your competitors?

The other overlooked issue. Facebook T&C's place restrictions on what you can do with the data you gain.

In particular, to quote:

"You will not directly or indirectly transfer any data you receive from us, including user data or Facebook User IDs, to (or use such data in connection with) any ad network, ad exchange, data broker, or other advertising or monetization related toolset, even if a user consents to such transfer or use. By indirectly we mean you cannot, for example, transfer data to a third party who then transfers the data to an ad network. By any data we mean all data obtained through use of the Facebook Platform (API, Social Plugins, etc.), including aggregate, anonymous or derivative data."

You can't use any data in a monetization toolset. Clearly Facebook want to keep all advertising rights to themselves, but moreover, could monetization toolset have a wider definition. What else might you not be able to do?

over 3 years ago

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Jeff

Great post David, very informative.
I agree with Tim, seems like the pros outweigh the cons.

over 3 years ago

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Daniel

"A study by Sociable Labs in September 2012 found that just 30 of the top 500 online retailers have implemented login with Facebook, which shows that the majority of eCommerce sites feel they are better off without it"

It doesn't show this and this is a poor assumption too. ... but good article overall.

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Daniel, the study does show that. This is from the Sociable Labs report:

"Sociable Labs found that adoption of Log in with Facebook by the IR 500 is still in its beginning stages with 30 of the top 500 online retailers having implemented Log in with Facebook into their account creation process today."

over 3 years ago

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tristan george

David, i think we need to look at whole scenario of social login not only the facebook connect. Some ID provider does not provide that much information to the website owner but still make the whole login process much better. So better to have multiple social ID providers not only LoginRadius only. I really feel rather than going for facebook connect, e-commerce stores shall try social login with option to user to select their choice of ID provider. Also, with so many 3rd party solution providers like LoginRadius, Gigya, Janrain provding these solutions it is easy for the web stores to integrate these services

over 3 years ago

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Paul Simmons, Manager at FmeAddons

I have developed a Facebook Login account for Magento. Let me know how do you rate this one?

http://www.fmeaddons.com/magento/social-facebook-twitter-login-extension.html

about 2 years ago

Luiz Centenaro

Luiz Centenaro, Consultant at eCommerce Cosmos

As usual a ton of marketers go and implement the shiny new object without testing to see the effects. I'm glad Mailchimp did a piece on it.

Though I sound anti social login I actually love using it but have yet to determine it's place in eCommerce and don't use it when shopping online.

over 1 year ago

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Roz Brabner, Ray-Ban.com Manager (Northern Europe) at Luxottica

I'd be really interested to read a 2015 update on this subject.

over 1 year ago

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Pierre Malaval, Director at japan-best.com

A very thourough article. Thanks David.
As I run an ecommerce ( http://japan-best.com ) I thought I could give my humble opinion.
During the registration process, for a new customer that has no account yet, the facebook, or any other platform for that matter, can give the user a faster way to log in, also by using a log in you are familiar with, it will make you feel sort of more "at home" right away. But honestly, out of this billion user, How many of those are real?, and out of the real ones, how many use their real infos on Facebook.
And anyways, the customer will still have to input its billing, shipping infos, as well as payment infos when checking out.
So, on this side, what is the real gain here?

On the other end, are the marketing tools it supposedly offer.
First, I'd like to say, that I personally dislike this way of using people's info to "track" them, remarket them and whatever is the hot trend at the moment. I believe more in other forms of connecting with people, based on more
But there anyway, as Tim Watson already pointed out wisely, facebook has you well tied in their TOS. On the other end , they have no liability to you watsoever as to how they can and will undoubtedly use the data they have collected with their log in app.
So, in the end, as mailchimp boss mentioned, you build a brand just to advertise for free for a different company that does not care about you, and will use all the infos they collect via their app and sell it to your competition or whoever will pay enough to buy their data.
It sounds a little suicidal to me.
This is why the top ecommerces may be reluctant to use it.

...and funnily enough I did not see the facebook login when I signed up here on econsultancy ;)

Again, thanks for this good article.

over 1 year ago

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paul stanely, Developer at eCommerce Development

Excellent article, Good work David.
I think one should consider the benefits of using social login which not only provides a simplified registration option but also improves the user experience. It's better to offer such options in Magento store.
I use FME Social Login extension which integrates Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo & Google login options to Magento website.
Check the demo here: https://www.fmeaddons.com/magento/social-facebook-twitter-login-extension.html

9 months ago

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