Diving deeper in E-commerce: Guest checkout vs Customer accounts

By Rita Vilaça | Project Manager at Monday

In the checkout process, online purchases may offer to the users the ability to checkout as guest or force them to register before completing the purchase or provide both options.

There is no easy way out, so we constantly try to adapt the necessities of the client to the solutions that the market as to offer, the kind of clients that are going to buy the products and any other problem.

There is no right solution, it all depends. In one project we could use one way and in the next we are certain that the same solution is not going to work. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of guest checkout and consumer checkout.

Be my guest — Checkout as guest

Permission to checkout as guest is especially important when the user has first contact with the website/brand. In the first contact the user often doesn’t trust the brand to provide their personal data. Forcing users to register before completing the purchase leads to a decrease in conversion rates (estimated for 35% of abandonment rates). To make a checkout as guest is generally much faster than creating an account.

Forcing a registration often breaks the buying process. Once the user takes the initiative to make a purchase the checkout process to be presented should be as easy and fast as possible, so minimising the number of clicks, and the number of hoops is usually a good idea.

However, although guest checkouts enhance the user experience, there are disadvantages on the merchants’ side:

  • The emails provided by users may only be sent notifications and not newsletters with promotions or other similar content
  • They will not be able to request reviews after the purchase
  • Difficulty reviewing, modifying or tracking orders
  • Inability to easily reorder products
  • Customer service finding it time-consuming or difficult to assist shoppers with theirs orders
  • Inability to link a customer’s order history

As a way of sending new promotions to the guest user, during the checkout process can be presented an option to send promotions, trends and new arrival, as shown above.

However, if a high value is provided as well as a good experience for users they will return, so at this stage, they may register.

On the other hand, if the e-commerce doesn’t get a lot of repeat customers, it is usually to turn customer accounts off completely and give only the option to checkout as guest, saving them the extra click of choosing guest checkout, but this option depends of the sold product or service and the type of customer. These customers could still be loyal to certain brands, but they still might only drop by once or twice a year or during the holidays. In this case, if the merchant wants to make an effort to turn their customers into frequent buyers, there are many marketing methods that can be used — forcing to create a new account isn’t a great way to do that.

It is also a common practice at the end of the checkout process to question the customer whether he wants to save the details for next time, not mentioning the word “register”. “Saving your details” implies convenience, it puts customer experience as the main focus. The word “register” is heavily associated with marketing spam.

Providing a guest checkout option is always a great way to increase conversions on mobile, with a smaller screen and sometimes bad connection speeds can be harder. Thus, simplify the purchase process is a must.

The easier and interactive way — Checkout as customer

Registered accounts give customers a more interactive and interesting experience with the merchant. More meaningful relationships can be built with the customer this way. Registered accounts allow customers to leave reviews and be more involved with the brand community. This relationship is essential to present products, adjusted deals and rewards, redirected to the customer. For example, Amazon never presents the same homepage to 2 different signed-in visitors.

Customer accounts allow online retailers to personalize the experience of the customer, like, the browsed products are stored for later, to show specific recommendations on the website and via email.

User accounts also allow to save customer billing information, so it doesn’t need to be entered for every purchase.

Furthermore, in some cases, when a store sells and shipps physical products and has features like membership, bookings, courses, digital downloads or some other service, having the guest checkout can cause problems. In this case it’s best to ask for accounts to be created during checkout and present the benefits.

One way or another

It is common in e-commerce to offer the option to checkout as guest and offer the option to create/login customer account. Since they both deliver results under certain circumstances.

When enabling guest checkout, it is offered to the customer the option to create a customer account immediately after checkout. In this way, the contact information and billing information of the customer are stored, preventing customers from filling all their information again in the next purchase.

Checkout examples

Above are presented some good examples of checkouts of well-known ecommerce stores.

ASOS a known British online fashion and beauty store, Asos.com, offer their customers to checkout as guest or sign up with social media, as shown below.

FARFETCH an online fashion retail platform that sells products from over 700 boutiques and brands from around the world, uses the same strategy, as well as asos.com. In this checkout, if the user performs a checkout as a guest, it is required to enter his email. This email is useful for shopping cart abandonment campaigns.

NIXON is the premium watch and accessories brand for the youth lifestyle market. During the checkout process don’t show the options to checkout as guest or to create account. So, by default all users checkout as guest. However, the user has the option to login/sign up (in the upper right corner of the website).

BIRCHBOX raking in at least $70 million as of Sept. 2015, the company operates in 6 countries to more than a million subscribers. It has a loyalty program benefits with points (the more the user shops, the close they will be to qualifying for their VIP programme). By this reason when the user make a checkout it is required to register.

Therefore, for some stores, guest checkout offers shoppers a convenient way to place orders quickly and be on their way again without any hassle or delay. But for others, the option can cause confusion and wasted time.

To generate a significant customer loyalty is essential to demonstrate trust, ease of purchase and a great shopping experience. It’s always a big challenge to make a checkout the least difficult part of the customer ecommerce journey (from visit to purchase).

Thank you for reading

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Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We believe in the power of brands and we work side by side with our clients transforming their customer experience. This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create. Clients include: Snickers, Red Bull, Twix, Philips, M&M’s, Guloso…