This question has come up a couple of times with Magento clients of ours over the last few months – with clients asking whether customer accounts should be global (giving customers the ability to login on any store) or restricted to an individual website level. By far the most common use case for this would be for international retailers with multiple localised websites – and there’s not really a right or wrong answer.

With the most recent example of where this came up, a client of ours has 6 international stores and they’re not correctly navigating users to the correct local website (and accounts are set to website level), meaning users are then unable to login, be it when they initially access the site or as part of the checkout journey. 

I can definitely see why this is an issue from a UX perspective, but I’m generally an advocate of really pushing to get users onto the right store as early as possible – with my most common route being:

  • Correctly using hreflang to ensure that users coming from organic search are accessing the correct store (without a GEO-IP redirect)
  • Using a pro-active overlay to suggest the correct store for users whose IP doesn’t match the current store (and them cookie’ing them to force this in the future)
  • Use a marketing redirect domain to control traffic from social and email channels (based on IP detection)
  • Make it very easy and clear for users changing store (e.g. if shipping to X, you MUST be on X store)

As part of this, I’d strongly suggest setting up specific reporting for this and also the usage of the overlay and the store switcher. This can help to identify where issues are coming from and the stores / areas that need to be optimised.

Although setting customer accounts to global may seem like an easy solution for these kinds of problems, it can cause more (or different) issues – such as:

  • Users persisting to buy on an international store with incorrect pricing (causing frustration with customers and potential loss of income)
  • Users not being shown correct shipping, payment, tax etc information
  • Users persisting to shop on the incorrect store and then still not being able to checkout (at a late stage of the purchase journey)
  • More difficult to analyse customer data and behaviour

Overall, these issues are representative of not getting the user to the right store – this is the bigger problem generally. 

It’s worth noting that by default Magento allocates accounts to local stores, but there is a setting in the admin that allows you to switch from local customer accounts to global accounts, this can be found in stores > configuration > customers > customer configuration > account sharing. If you have local accounts set, the customer’s account can only be used on the store where the account was originally created.

Overall, I’m generally an advocate of using the local stores and solving the bigger issue around getting the user to the right store in the majority of cases (as there’ll always be edge cases). For one of our clients we try to identify edge cases and then serve a generic overlay with store options and clear info around which one to choose. If you just want to share customer accounts across different types of stores etc, this is likely going to be fine. 

Feel free to email me if you have any questions on this.