Fab.com No Longer for Members Only, as It Opens Up Site to All Visitors

Fab.com is no longer requiring visitors to register before browsing its site, a sign that the “members-only” e-commerce trend may be going out of style.

The New York-based company, which sells “unique” and trendy apparel, home decor and other items, was part of a wave of commerce sites that experimented with requiring visitors to sign up just to be able to browse its inventory.

In theory, membership provided the facade that the consumer was getting exclusive access to the site, even if it was free and accessible to anyone. It also gave merchants permission to send members a daily newsletter, which helped get new users in the habit of returning to the site everyday.

Today is the first day that visitors to Fab.com will no longer have to register, although customers will have to sign in to buy.

“We have 10,000 products on Fab, and (users) shouldn’t have to log in to discover them,” said Fab’s CEO, Jason Goldberg. “We always felt that design should be for everyone. The exclusive nature of members-only gave us permission to send emails to the inbox, but we are way past that now.”

Because of the required-registration process, some users never made it past the homepage. Goldberg said that about half of the potential customers would be turned away by the requirement, which isn’t a bad conversion rate, “but we decided that a better user experience is better than conversion in the long run.”

That is especially true since about 50 percent of Fab’s referrals are coming from social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If shoppers can’t easily click through after a friend recommends a product to them, then they could be distracted by the next shiny thing — even if it seemed important at the time to check out the plastic outdoor chairs that double as lanterns, or the ridiculously ironic T-shirts with animal prints that your friends were sharing.

Fab has a sense for what can happen once the restriction is gone. Its mobile application, for instance, has never required users to register to view its inventory. Goldberg said that 30 percent of the company’s revenue and 30 percent of its daily visits are now from mobile.

Other members-only sites, such as Gilt Groupe, have relaxed their requirements over the years. Most of Gilt Groupe’s inventory can be viewed without registering, but some items do require you to log in to see more information. Other sites, like One Kings Lane, have no plans to get rid of the registation process, because they say that it continues to work for them.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik