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What Is Guest Checkout?

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Last editedNov 20212 min read

From groceries to household items, more of us are shopping online for everything these days. But more online stores equal more passwords and log-in screens, all of which can get quite tiresome. If you have an ecommerce site, the last thing you want to deal with is customer fatigue. A lengthy checkout process can lead to abandoned shopping carts and reduced conversion rates, so is ecommerce guest checkout right for you?

Introduction to guest checkout

To begin with, let’s define what we mean by answering the question of ‘what is guest checkout’. Guest checkout allows shoppers to make an online purchase without the need to create an account. They’ll simply enter their name, shipping, and billing details to complete the transaction. An ecommerce guest checkout page won’t have any extra fields to fill in, such as account names and passwords, and their details won’t be stored in your database.

This contrasts with the customer account checkout process. With a customer account, shoppers store their details for future use. The next time they visit your store, their stored information is used to complete the checkout process and there’s no need to type it all in again.

The guest checkout conversion rate is often higher for first-time site visitors. It removes an extra step which encourages new customers to complete their sale. Yet while creating a customer account involves more work the first time, it involves less work for future transactions.

When is guest checkout beneficial?

With a higher guest checkout conversion rate, surely this is the better option for many stores? In truth, there are certain circumstances in which guest checkout does offer benefits.

  • It encourages first-time buyers with a faster checkout process and no need to create store accounts.

  • It optimises conversion rates and removes an extra step of the checkout process.

  • It encourages buyers who might be on the fence about making a purchase, because they don’t need to commit to an account.

  • It entices buyers with a low level of trust who don’t wish to have their card details stored.

If your business sells products or services that are essentially one-and-done, without the need for repeat purchases, this might be the best option. Guest checkout also appeals to more casual customers who might want to make a purchase once or twice a year, perhaps around the holiday season. These infrequent customers don’t want to go through the hassle of creating an account simply for these occasional purchases.

When is a customer account beneficial?

On the other hand, there are also times when it makes sense for customers to sign in with saved account details. Here are the benefits of customer accounts:

  • They make repeat purchases easier for customers with all payment details stored.

  • They enable loyalty programs to encourage repeat sales.

  • They save order history for easier returns, exchanges, and reordering.

Without saved account details, it’s difficult for customers to modify or track their orders. They’ll also need to search for products again to reorder them, rather than have this information readily available. For these reasons, customer accounts are a better option if your business is the type that involves repeat purchases. Perhaps you sell consumable items or have a subscription model.

Guest checkout best practices

There are clear benefits to both guest checkout and customer accounts, so why not incorporate both in your website design? Guest checkout best practices include offering the customer the choice to create an account or proceed with checkout as a guest.

Once the customer reaches the checkout stage, they should be presented with three options:

  • Returning customer

  • New customer

  • Guest checkout

This puts the customer in control of their own shopping experience.

Another popular method is to allow the customer to finish the transaction as a guest. However, once they have finished the transaction, a pop-up gives them the option to create an account for next time. The bottom line is that streamlining the payment process with fewer steps is always best practice.

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