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No 2000/1 - Monday, November 20, 2000









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  Multi customer registration is a delayed-marketing bomb  

Every day we notice that customers have more and more e-mail addresses and register under different names.

According to new American surveys, such phenomenon that at first could have come only from Internet professionals is now becoming a massive phenomenon.

The global Internet population (according to IDC) should reach 361 million people at the end of this year.

And yet, when we add up all the people that are registered on the biggest portals and Internet providers such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Excite and Lycos, we get a figure that is as big as 529 million people!

All this means that multiple registrations have become a marketing reality that can no longer be ignored.

For a long time, web sites that were valued according to the number of registered people they could push forward (portals, community sites, Internet providers), have been trying to minimize the problem by using what could be thought as a coherent speech: "the more visitors commit themselves to our site, (and the fact that they subscribe to our services, such as our newsletter is a typical example of such phenomenon), the more we'll get to know them and they'll end up trusting us and let themselves be seduced by the advertising we'll send them".


That's the reason why these sites charge more for the advertising that aims those specific visitors than for the usual add banner, for instance.

But today this type of advertising is greatly endangered by the fact that customers register more than once on one single site.

And yet, even though a customer might easily register a few times on one single site or on competitive sites, it is not out of spite but it is only due to the fact that the registration process is a very different matter whether it is done online or offline.

Indeed, if you wish to become a member in a club or a service in the traditional world, it requires a real commitment from your part (you need to go to a shop or answer a letter and more often than not you're even asked to pay a nominal fee).

But such is not the case for a web site:
- The customer does not know the service providers personally and does not feel indebted to them in any way.
- The registration process itself is much quicker online since you do not need to be as motivated as you would have to be offline. Very often, visitors only register themselves on a web site out of curiosity.
- The fact that visitors tend to forget their passwords has to be taken into account.

So many offers promise an instant gain that the customer is driven to multiply registrations, but as a result, he has to remember a great deal of passwords. And yet, he is not able to remember an infinite number of them.

I think a survey should be conducted to that matter, a survey that would study the relation between passwords and customers. That way, it would be possible to calculate the "passwords market share" that every web site has managed to acquire in relation with its customers.

- As customers get to improve their use of the web, they also learn to divide their life through different e-mail addresses (a professional address, a private address for friends and services with great added-value, one or more private addresses for sites that are not so important…). Such segmentation of their life leads them to register more than once on a web site.

For many web sites, the result is obvious: many accounts are no longer "active" and "die" little by little (when the account falls into disuse, Hotmail or Yahoo close it, because the mail box is full, for instance).

Nevertheless, it can take a few months before the account that is no longer active gets closed down effectively and yet the site keeps on exploiting the customer's address.

Announcers are starting to take such phenomenon into account and they now require that web sites "clean up" their base regularly before they go any further. Such is the price of the market today.

As it is often the case with Yahoo, the site decided to proceed to the required draining and its results commensurate with what could be feared. When Yahoo last published its results, it claimed having 185 million registered visitors.

But when you consider as active an account that has been used at least once or twice in the last months, such result goes down to 55 millions, which is more than three times lower than the last figure.

Even if such ratio may come as a surprise at first, I think that the difference between the registered number and the active number will become an Internet reality.

Such is also the case with the lookers-to-bookers ratio, which is now between 0.5 to 5%, but will never be close to the ratios that can be observed in the physical world, only because the nature of the browsing makes the visit (or the registration to a service) very easy, instantaneous, without any commitment (no salesman who is observing you, no time wasted between two shops, feeling of freedom and unrestricted choice…)

What really matters is not only this ratio as such but the ABSOLUTE number of buyers (or active registered members).

The cleaning of the base is a requisite factor when you want a serious evaluation of a site's business potential.

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