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Is Guest Checkout Right for Your Store? + How to Make It Work
Feb 26, 2022

Is Guest Checkout Right for Your Store? + How to Make It Work

Will Guest Checkout Work for Your Customers?

At some point, every eCommerce business owner has to decide if they should allow their customers to place orders without an account.

In other words, should their eCommerce store accommodate guest checkouts?

While the benefits of a guest checkout may seem obvious – countless examples exist of guest checkouts boosting sales – requiring customers to create accounts to complete their purchases can do a lot for your business, too.

So, before you decide on one or the other, let’s cover all the facts about eCommerce guest checkouts.

What Is Guest Checkout?

To kick things off, let's quickly define what a guest checkout is. 

If you enable guest checkout on your site, shoppers will be able to complete purchases without creating a customer account. They don't have to log in or save any information to your website besides their email address. 

Any information they do enter, such as their shipping and billing address, will only apply to one order. 

Alternatively, if customers create an account to check out, they can store the information they enter for future use. The next time they want to make a purchase, their billing, shipping, and personal information will still be there. 

This means you also get to store this customer information, but we’ll talk about that in more detail a bit later.

The Benefits of Guest Checkouts for Your eCommerce Store

Again, at first glance, it seems that creating an account is the best option, both for customers and your eCommerce store. However, there are a few disadvantages to forcing shoppers into creating accounts. 

The friction that comes with account creation can rob you of the sales you might have secured if a shopper didn't need to create an account. 

That said, here are some of the specific ways guest checkout can benefit your eCommerce store. 

1. Faster Purchases for First-Time Customers

One of the biggest attractions of the guest checkout process for consumers is it takes less time.

In reality, creating an account with an online store isn't all that time-consuming. Unless you are asking shoppers for their life history and giving them endless fields to fill out, creating an account shouldn't take them more than a minute. 

However, this extra task during the checkout process can present just enough friction for a buyer to give up their purchase. 

2. Fewer Abandoned Carts

Because guest shopping reduces friction for consumers, it can significantly reduce cart abandonment rates

Research shows that after unexpected shipping costs and taxes, account creation is the second highest reason people abandon carts. According to survey results, 34% of respondents abandon their carts because they didn't want to create an account. 

3. No Major Commitment Required

Another way that guest checkout benefits your business is it requires a lower level of commitment. A lot of consumers still have reservations about trusting retailers with their sensitive information. Stats show that 1 in 4 shoppers use guest checkout options to avoid having to trust companies with their info. 

If a shopper doesn't have to create an account, they may be more likely to convert. 

4. Link Past Orders to a Customers’ Email Addresses

If you offer shoppers a guest checkout process, they won't have to save personal information. However, they will still need to supply an email address so they can receive order confirmations, invoices, and shipping info. 

Therefore, even if you don't require shoppers to create an account, you can still link multiple orders to the same email address. 

If a shopper does one or more repeat orders from you, this can build trust. Once trust is established, they might still create an account. After they take this action, you can allow them to see their previous order history and facilitate easier repeat orders. 

Why Guest Checkouts Aren’t Always a Good Idea

Enabling checkout as a guest is a simple process, especially if you use a service like Dominate one-click checkout. As some of the above stats prove, allowing guest shopping can significantly boost conversation rates. 

Given all the pros, you might be wondering why would anyone not enable guest shopping?

Although guest checkout can be a fantastic way to boost conversions and maximize sales, the reality is it's not practical for all stores. In fact, offering a guest checkout process can create more problems than it solves. 

Some of the problems you could encounter include:

  • Problems with reviewing, tracking, or modifying orders
  • Having to manually process large amounts of returns, exchanges, refunds, and credits
  • The inability of shoppers to easily reorder products
  • Customer service agents spending more time and having more trouble helping shoppers
  • Not being able to link customers' order histories with membership programs or any other reward system where accounts are necessary

That said, not every store will encounter these problems.

Having a guest checkout process can be crucial for some stores without causing any major issues.

For other stores, guest checkouts can trigger an unforeseen amount of problems. 

The best way to decide whether guest checkout will work for your store is to evaluate your specific business model. From there, you can determine how guest checkout might impact your operations. 

The Benefits of Insisting on Customer Checkouts

Before we get into how to evaluate whether guest shopping is something your business should facilitate, let's quickly take a look at the pros and cons of customer accounts.

Below are the main benefits of insisting on customer checkouts. 

1. Allow for Easy Repeat Purchases

When customers create accounts, they can store and maintain their information with your eCommerce site. Their online profiles will house their email address, shipping address, phone numbers, etc. 

The next time they make a purchase, your site already has all of this info, so they won't have to go through the hassle of reentering it. 

Setting up an account takes a few extra moments initially, but it can save customers time in the future. Because of this, customer accounts are well-suited to returning shoppers who visit and use your site on a regular basis. 

2. Automatic Enrollment in Loyalty Programs

If you set up a loyalty program, you can automatically enroll existing customers into it. Without saved account information like order history, customers can't join a loyalty program. 

Loyalty programs encourage repeat orders and offer exclusive discounts. This is a win, both for you and your customers.

3. Offer Order Statuses and Histories

Saved order histories can streamline a lot of processes, including reordering, returns, and exchanges.

If a client creates an account, this allows you to link to their order history and tracking numbers. Instead of having to track down order confirmation emails in their inbox, they can simply log in to their account and check the tracking status of an order. 

The 2 Big Drawbacks of Customer Accounts

Although customer accounts have a lot of advantages, they also come with two significant drawbacks.

1. Password Fatigue

Password fatigue is the feeling shoppers get when they are overwhelmed by having to remember usernames and passwords for numerous online accounts. 

Research reveals that the average internet user in the US has over 100 passwords. Some people use password managers, while others try to keep their passwords in their heads. Either way, a lot of people worry about their password and account safety.

Stats also show that the average person is locked out of 10 accounts per month, and many avoid sites where they forgot their login credentials. 

The takeaway?

Password anxiety fatigue is very real. 

Requiring shoppers to create yet another account just adds to their feeling of password fatigue and can trigger cart abandonment. 

2. A Longer Checkout Process

Creating a customer account shouldn't take shoppers more than a minute. However, no matter how streamlined your process is, account creation can still feel like a burden to shoppers.

You can skip asking them for erroneous details like their date of birth, gender, etc. But you will at least need their shipping and billing address, name, email address, and possibly their phone number. 

Once again, adding these steps and extending the length of your checkout process is another way companies inadvertently increase their cart abandonment rates when insisting shoppers register as guests before completing their purchases.

Deciding if Offering Guest Checkout Is Right for Your Business

So, how do you decide whether guest checkout is right for your eCommerce business? Here are some of the main factors to think about before you facilitate guest shopping. 

How Often Do Your Average Customers Shop with You?

Online stores typically fall into two categories.

First, some stores have a frequent shopper customer base, which views them as the best place to repeatedly order products or search for new products. 

Then, there are stores that don't see a lot of repeat customers. Their shoppers might still be loyal customers but only visit once or twice per year to make a purchase. 

Shoppers who make purchases once a month or more will benefit from having an account, so they can view account history, track items, log returns, etc. As such, they’ll be less interested in checking out as a guest, which is why this option is less applicable to the first type of store we just described.

Checkout as a guest is best suited for the second kind of eCommerce store, which has typical shoppers who aren’t likely to place regular orders. Customers who are only likely to buy again in a year's time usually prefer to go straight to checkout and skip having to create yet another account. Guest check allows these infrequent shoppers to have the quickest checkout process possible. They can get on their way in a couple of minutes and not get annoyed at being forced to create an account. 

If you want to motivate more infrequent customers to create an account, there are various ways you can do this that are far more effective than forced account creation. 

Are Your Customers Likely to Reorder?

Another thing to weigh up when considering guest checkout for your store is reorder frequency. 

When customers reorder, they aren't just placing a repeat order, they are ordering the same products as before. 

For instance, a natural soap brand will probably see a lot of reorders, as customers become loyal to not only the brand but specific products and scents, as well. When customers return after a month or two to order more soap, they'll be very likely to reorder certain products. 

A store like this could offer checkout as a guest. However, having customer accounts will be more beneficial for shoppers. When they want to reorder items, they can easily place a repeat order by looking at their order history instead of browsing through the whole site again. 

If your site sells consumables or goods that shoppers need to replace often, it's a good idea to at least offer visitors the option to create an account. You should also make the advantages clear to them before they reach the checkout page. 

You don't have to force signup but making shoppers aware of the benefits of having an account can reduce frustration down the line and increase sales. If a shopper used guest checkout and comes back in a month to reorder products, they might get frustrated trying to remember the exact products they ordered last time. 

Shopper frustration is a recipe for cart abandonment. If you sell consumable products, this is one case where not facilitating customer accounts can hurt conversions. 

Customer Accounts Make It Easier to Handle Returns

Can you remember a time when you made an online return with a store that was a little, shall we say, old-fashioned?

If so, you probably had to:

  • Locate and read the store's return policy
  • Email or call their customer service number
  • Wait for up to a week for a response
  • Wait to receive an RMA number to place on your boxed return
  • Ship the return back (and pay out of your own pocket)
  • Wait some more for your refund

If you're fortunate enough to not have had to undergo a return like this, we're happy for you. If you felt frustrated just reading that, multiply that feeling by 10x. That's what it feels like having to wade through a manual returns process. 

Fortunately, not all manual returns processes have to be like this. If you enable guest checkout, you can still streamline things by:

  • Putting a return shipping label in packages
  • Clearly indicating to customers the channel by which they should make a manual return
  • Responding to return requests as soon as possible

However, if your store typically processes a lot of returns, manually dealing with them from guest shopping can become cumbersome for your business. 

For instance, let's compare the soap store we mentioned earlier with a clothing retailer.

The soap store probably won't have that many returns. Most shoppers will only return a soap product if they dislike it intensely, or if the batch is defective. In the case of defective batches, the store would probably process a refund without a return anyway. 

A clothing store, on the other hand, has a much higher chance of experiencing a large volume of returns. Sizes might not fit, colors might be different in person, etc. 

Without customer accounts, shoppers will have to request a return through a contact form, email, or even social media. With an account, shoppers can simply sign in and log their return with one or two clicks. 

Like with pre-orders, the best thing to do is to strongly encourage shoppers to create an account when checking out. You can offer checkout as a guest if you like. However, if your business model is subject to a high number of returns, customer accounts will make the entire process a whole lot easier. 

Want to know one instance where guest check out should definitely be disabled?

If you offer trials, at-home try-on options, or fast exchanges, guest checkout is not a practical option. If you enable guest shopping, both you and your customers will waste time on manual returns if they don't have an account they can log into.

Customer Accounts Can Serve a Number of Different Purposes

Finally, you also need to evaluate whether customer accounts could help facilitate other functions for your online store.

Are your accounts multipurpose? If yes, then it's best to require account creation rather than guest shopping.

If you offer things like memberships or online courses, guest checkout is not going to work. Customers need to log in to their accounts to manage these types of products. 

Therefore, consider guest checkout a bad idea if your sell any of the following:

  • Courses
  • Digital downloads
  • Memberships
  • Access to private online groups
  • Bookings
  • Other online services

Customers who purchase these types of products need to manage them from one place. They might still purchase a physical product later, but this doesn't mean they don't need an account.

If you do offer guest checkout, your customers could end up being confused. If they can't find their orders in their account history, they might not realize this is because they selected the guest checkout option. It's better to require account creation during the checkout process than risk customers getting frustrated and not being able to access digital purchases. 

Guest Checkout Is Perfect for Many Stores – Trouble for Others

As you can see, guest checkout can be a great solution for certain types of stores.

It can allow customers to quickly place orders and be on their way. This can reduce frustration, lower cart abandonment, and increase conversions. 

For other stores, guest checkout can trigger more trouble than it's worth. 

Therefore, think carefully about all the factors involved when deciding whether to enable guest checkout for your eCommerce store. 

Do you have a lot of orders from the same customers?

Do you get a lot of reorders? 

How much need does your store have for customer accounts?

All of these considerations have a big impact on whether the "sign up" button triggers annoyance or is a necessary part of your site. 

7 Ways to Optimize Your Guest Checkout Page

Have you decided that your store is a good candidate for guest shopping?

If so, here are 7 ways you can optimize your guest checkout page. 

1. Stick to a One-Page Checkout

Try to confine your eCommerce site's guest checkout to just one page.

Ideally, you should be able to fit all the relevant fields onto a single page. This fast tracks the buying process and can make things easier for mobile shoppers and increase conversions.

You can also add options such as a PayPal button to reduce form filling. 

Sephora's checkout process is a great example of one-page checkout. Although they have a staged checkout, everything appears on just one page. 

Adidas also nails this strategy. The Adidas checkout form is self-contained, short, simple, and clean. It has no navigation bar or any other distractions that might sidetrack shoppers to other areas of the site and interrupt the buying process. 

2. Keep Things Fast

If your site is non-responsive, this will hurt customer satisfaction. Loading delays at checkout can erode trust and trigger customers into second-guessing your site and their purchase. 

Slow loading can be due to a number of issues, including:

  • JS error issues
  • Static content (including CSS files and images)
  • Incompatible third-party apps

If you want to see a benchmark of fast checkout page speed, Vitamin World is a prime example of a site that has fully optimized for page speed during checkout. You can even use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to compare your checkout page’s speed to Vitamin World’s or those of your competitors.

3. Optimize All of Your Checkout Forms

Always keep your checkout forms as short as you can. Only request necessary information and remove erroneous fields like "title" (Ms./Miss./Mrs.) that, frankly, customers probably don’t care about at all.

Place labels above fields for easy scanning. 

Autofill forms are a must as they save time and reduce errors, resulting in more conversions. 

Also, make sure you allow customers to use the same address for shipping and billing. 

4. Make Your CTA Buttons 100% Clear

Make your checkout process intuitive by labeling buttons to the next step with clear descriptions, such as "complete order", "proceed to checkout, "use promo code" etc. 

Always make sure customers can anticipate the next thing that's going to happen and where they are navigating to. Always include action words, as these can increase conversion. 

5. Make Sure to Show Security Icons and Highlight Guarantees

Customers have never cared more about security.

In fact, survey results show that: 

·         92% of shoppers say online security is important to them

·         81% think fraud is common

·         83% are more likely to shop on sites that discuss fraud prevention efforts 

To allay customers' fears, place security icons close to payment and credit fields. Remind customers of your value propositions, such as free shipping, free returns, etc. 

And if you offer any guarantees, your checkout page is the place to make this abundantly clear.

6. Offer a Variety of Payment Options

Offering a variety of payment options is another way you can optimize the guest checkout process. Alternative payment methods are rising in popularity and already accounted for 41.8% of eCommerce transactions in 2019. 

Currently, there are over 200 alternative payment methods, but this doesn't mean you should enable all of them. Focus on the ones your customers are likely to use the most. 

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for an easy way to integrate popular payment methods, Dominate offers seamless integration with PayPal and Venmo. 

7. Let Customers Save Their Information

Finally, even if shoppers are electing to checkout as guests, you can still give them the option to save their details until next time. This is less daunting than giving them a "register account" button, but it shows you have their convenience at heart. 

Outline the benefits of saving details and enable auto-fill forms where possible. 

Is Guest Checkout Right for Your eCommerce Business?

Guest checkout can be an impactful feature to maximize conversions and supercharge sales. And yet, for some businesses, guest shopping can create issues. 

No matter what kind of eCommerce business you run, the key takeaway is this: the faster your customers can finalize a purchase, the better—both for them and for you. 

If you want to increase your conversions, turn cart abandonment around, and cash in on lost sales, the secret lies in optimizing your checkout page. 

Here at Dominate, we have made it our business to make fast, streamlined, intuitive checkout easy for you and your customers.

Our checkout solutions meet the highest security standards, enable one-click checkout, seamless integration with PayPal and Venmo, and more. 

Boost your conversion rate today with Dominate's checkout solution and create a Dominate account today. 

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