Guest Checkout: Is it right for your eCommerce store?

John Ahya June 08, 2021
7 mins read Last Updated November 24, 2022
Best Enterprise eCommerce Platforms

We had an impromptu survey at the office the other day. We were listing out the things that frustrate shoppers the most when it comes to online shopping. And after what seemed like a good ten minutes of heated discussions, our group came to a unanimous decision. It is – being forced to create an online account to buy products instead of simply having the freedom of guest checkout.

This really got the nostalgic element in me coming alive. As a founder of an eCommerce website development company, I remembered receiving a call from one of my very first ecommerce clients a few months ago. He was desperately trying to find out why despite trying out every ‘sure-shot’ tip to improve conversion, his customers were simply giving up at the last leap. And his cart-abandonment rate was way too high for his liking!

Customers went from ‘standing at the far end of some really frustrated shoppers and a tired cashier’ to having their very own cashier every time they decided to shop online. All this sounds magical, but the ‘cashier’ sometimes makes you jump through uncountable hoops before you can finally breathe a sign of retail relief. Stores should remember that every time they force shoppers to sign-up, they run the risk of losing potential customers.

I had one question for my ‘anxious’ client, “why would you drive ‘ready-to-buy’ customers away by forcing them to create online store accounts?”

Having a guest checkout option is a good decision for some stores. And if it helps bring the cart abandonment down and pushes the sales graph up, why not know more about it. In this article, I am going to provide complete information on guest checkout.

Let’s dive in together.

What is a Guest checkout?

Guest checkout lets your customers make purchases from your store without creating online store accounts or logging in. Guest checkout and customer accounts both have a place in your online store. Guest checkout doesn’t make it obligatory to register before purchasing.

Statistics favor having a guest checkout option – 34% of online shoppers abandoned their cart because the online store required them to create an account. Additionally, the store’s conversion rates also saw a 45% increase if there was an option to checkout as a guest.

Guest Checkout vs Customer Accounts: Benefits and Drawbacks

Before going further in our discussion, let me give you a basic rundown on guest checkout vs customer accounts.

As mentioned earlier, guest checkout allows shoppers to make purchases from online stores without registering as a user. The customer’s personal information that’s been given is applied for that one-time purchase and is not stored on the database.

On the other hand, the customer account process allows users to create a store account and use the information provided for future purchases. So, the next time customers try to make purchases from your store, they can simply use the stored data.

Both guest checkout and customer accounts have their share of benefits and drawbacks. And each type has specific uses.

Guest Accounts

Benefits Drawbacks
Easier first-time purchases Returns and Exchanges can become a hassle
Lesser Commitment Customization can be tough
Reduced Cart Abandonment
Uninterrupted shopping

Customer Accounts:

Benefits Drawbacks
Repeat purchasing is easier New account creation fatigue
Customized product recommendations and offers Lengthy purchasing process
Easy exchanges and returns
Loyalty program benefits

Should your Store have a Guest Checkout Option?

With the number of eCommerce stores opening up, the list of online accounts in our names is also increasing. It seems impossible to purchase products online without having to ‘sign up.’ Add to this, the signing up process is never straightforward, and having to remember the passwords for each platform is also tiring!

Customers suffer from new account creation fatigue – and they wouldn’t want to create one unless necessary or there’s a clear benefit in doing so.

Moreover, if I were shopping on a site for the first time, I would be skeptical about saving my details on the site. The trust is yet to be built, and I don’t want to rush storing payment details on to the store’s database (sounds cheesy, I know!).

Forcing shoppers to sign up for a store account before they reach the checkout page can also make the conversion rates nosedive. Moreover, asking your shoppers to pause their shopping just to fill out a form doesn’t make the shopping experience interesting for the customers.

Once the shopper has decided to make the purchase, you should make the checkout process as hassle-free as possible.

I would also like to add that a guest checkout isn’t the right decision for all online stores.
It would help if you considered some factors when deciding between guest checkout vs customer accounts for your store.

1. Take into consideration your store’s number of repeat customers.

Having a guest checkout option or not depends mainly on the type of customers your store has. Some stores have a bunch of loyal customers who regularly buy from the same store. And then, some stores don’t get as many repeat customers as they like. It’s not uncommon for some stores to see repeat customers for a particular product or during the holidays.

Guest checkout is perfect for those stores that don’t usually get repeat orders from the same set of customers. I would consider signing up for a store account if I would purchase from the same site for, say, twice a month or even once every two months. However, if I am only going to the site for some Christmas shopping, I wouldn’t consider creating an account.

2. Consider the Frequency of Reorders

Now that we talked about repeat customers, let’s look at repeat orders. Frequency of orders and frequency of reorders from customers are two slightly different topics. Here’s why:

Let’s say I buy handmade soaps and lotions from an online store. I am satisfied with their products and pricing, so I am loyal to the brand and the product. So, every month, I make repeat purchases – of the same scent and the same size.

I would make the purchase regardless of whether there is a guest checkout or account process in the store. However, when I have an account with the store, the reorder process becomes more straightforward. I don’t have to go through the trouble of remembering the product names or keying in my payment details every single time.

3. Consider returns and exchanges

There’ll hardly be any online store that hasn’t had to deal with returns and exchanges of products. Guest checkout can make the total return and exchange process a tad bit more complicated.

Continuing with my soap example, I would most likely return the soap only if they are defective or if the person I gifted the soap to didn’t like the scent. However, if I had ordered clothing or accessories, the chances of returning or exchanging the items were more. The t-shirt’s colors might look different in person, the trousers might not fit, or the shoes could be two sizes bigger. The reasons are endless.

If there is no account, the entire return process should either go through the mail, phone calls to customer care or even through social media. However, with an account, customers can login and click on the return button.

4. Consider the Benefits of Account Creation

I always tell my clients to consider both sides of the coin before choosing one or both! On one side, we are discussing whether stores need account creations. On the other hand, let’s also consider whether customers need online store accounts. Shoppers can gain memberships, special discounts, or even customized product recommendations only when they have registered for a store account.

For some stores, allowing a shopper to checkout as guest is the best choice, while not so much for others. Providing only the option of guest checkout can confuse, exhibit lack of commitment, and waste a lot of time.

Best Practices for Guest Checkout

Once you have finally decided to have a guest checkout option in your store, remember some of these best practices.

  1. An ideal checkout is limited to one page –all necessary information such as payment, billing, contact and delivery address information should fit into that page. 87% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they think that the checkout process is too complicated – and nearly 55% will abandon the retailer after a bad checkout experience.
  2. A slow-loading site, especially during the checkout, can make the customer pull out of the sale – it makes them question the site’s credibility.
  3. Keep the CTA buttons clear and specific. Make sure CTA buttons are action-oriented and that nothing is left ambiguous.
  4. Help users’ auto-fill details they have already provided instead of having to type in everything. At the end of each purchase, ask your users whether they would be interested in saving their details for the next time. Be careful with the terminology, as words like ‘register’ can seem very rigid.
  5. Keep the forms as simple as possible. Remove unnecessary questions such as home and work address or titles.
  6. Show off your store’s trust icons – and try to keep these symbols as close to the payment page as possible.
  7. Finally, offer a range of payment options.

We had an impromptu survey at the office the other day. We were listing out the things that frustrate shoppers the most when it comes to online shopping. And after what seemed like a good ten minutes of heated discussions, our group came to a unanimous decision. It is – being forced to create an online account to buy products instead of simply having the freedom of guest checkout.

John Ahya
John Ahya

John is the President and Co-Founder of WebDesk Solution, LLC. Living the digital agency life for over 10 years, he explores an extensive eCommerce world. He has immense experience in all major e-commerce platforms. Being a nature lover, he likes to breathe the fresh air on the hill stations during vacations.

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