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Conversion Optimization

Guest checkout: Still a good choice? (+16 way BETTER alternatives)

Guest checkouts work great. But what's the catch? No customer information and no way to personalize the shopping experience. Explore alternatives that are way BETTER than the usual guest checkout.

Guest checkout: Still a good choice? (+16 way BETTER alternatives)

Let’s get to the point. 

Guest checkouts work great. They reduce friction in signups and make first-time purchases go faster 

Shoppers like to browse, add to cart, and checkout as quickly as possible. 

The catch? The eCommerce store requires account creation before checkout. 

The result? Account creation = cart abandonment. 

Here’s why customers DON’T like creating accounts

Creating an account often proves a negative reaction from many online shoppers. 

Most times they tend to drop off and abandon their carts. Research shows that sites that make account creation optional see a 10-30% increase in conversions. 

There are three major reasons why customers don’t like creating accounts on eCommerce stores:

1. Longer checkouts: When shoppers have to pause their shopping experience to create an account, there’s a preconceived notion that they have to spend valuable time filling out long forms. Instead, they’d just postpone the shopping experience. 

2. Reluctance to sign up for another eCommerce account: The thing is, they’ve probably registered on a couple of other eCommerce sites. Whether the experience was favorable or not, they might not be willing to commit fully to another store.

3. They don’t want to receive marketing emails: Let’s face it, emails can be overwhelming to read through and they aren’t ready to subscribe to another series of marketing emails. So, when you ask them to enter their email address in your sign-up form,  they automatically assume you’d send them emails. 

Enabling a guest checkout might not be the best move especially if you’re looking to improve the subsequent purchase experience and increase your retention rates. 

To reduce the number of abandonments, stores began to introduce guest checkouts - a way for customers to purchase from stores without leaving any extra information about themselves like shipping/billing address.

Let’s take a look at how guest checkouts are designed to hurt your store sales in the long-term and how you can maximize other alternatives to guest checkouts 

Why enabling guest checkouts does NOT help your store

While guest checkouts are one way to ensure that your first-time customers don’t abandon their transaction, the question is - do they help? Unfortunately, guest checkouts hurt your sales in the long term, and here’s why:

1. No customer information

The most obvious issue of guest checkout is that you have no source to get customer information. 

There’s no name, email, phone number, or even postcode to help streamline future marketing or segmentation. While the guest checkout option might have this information due to the account your customers have with them, they aren’t stored in your database. 

Many brands offer guest checkout through Paypal. This means that you don’t know who your customers are. If you’re asked to segment your customers based on certain characteristics, you wouldn’t be able to. Since the majority of your actual-paying customers use the guest checkout option, chances are - the data you get might be incorrect. 

2. No access to abandoned carts

Looking for best-selling items or what a prospective client wanted to purchase on your site? Well, with guest checkouts, there’s no way of finding out. Since you don’t know their information, you have no clue what they left behind in their carts - which can dampen your abandoned cart email strategy.

Some plugins offer you the option of capturing abandoned carts from guest users. Unfortunately, you can only get that information if they’ve already entered their email address on your create account page. Sadly, not all guest customers will give you that information. 

3. Low engagements in loyalty programs 

Loyalty programs are a way to retain your users through incentives, discounts, and other special promos. However, if more and more users are opting to purchase anonymously, it reduces the number of people who would interact with your loyalty programs. 

This is because, if only a few people create an account with you, the percentage of those who sign up for your loyalty program will continue to dwindle. Sadly, the chances of getting loyal customers might be slim if they can’t find an incentive to stick with your business.  

4. No order history or analysis 

Since you don’t get customer information and their abandoned carts, it also means that there’s no way for you to track customer order history. While it’s possible to track your stock inventory to know what items are running low, you cannot track if a particular customer purchased one item or ten. 

So even if you know that someone recently placed a bulk order, if they did that with the guest checkout, there’s no way to identify them in the future. It’s also the same way you cannot analyze their preferences or shopping behavior. 

5. Can’t tell whether a customer will return

Let’s assume you got an interesting purchase from a guest shopper. There’s no way you can track their satisfaction. While signed in customers can leave a review or rate a product, and guest shoppers will always return like it’s the first time. From a review, you can deduce whether this customer is satisfied enough to return or quite appalled to the point where they wouldn’t do business with you. 

With a guest checkout, you’d simply hope that they return. And even if they do, there’s no way to know that they did. 

6. No ability to personalize future visits

Usually, when you return to an eCommerce store for the second visit, you see hints of personalization across your user experience. For example, you can see your browsing history, items you recently viewed/purchased, and more importantly recommendations. These recommendations could be based on what other customers similar to you are buying or simply based on your previous purchase. 

Unfortunately with guest checkouts, every returning customer is still treated like a first-time customer. This means they get to repeat the same shopping frictions or experiences they had. 

7. Fewer opportunities for marketing

If you cannot offer tailored recommendations to your guest shoppers, it means that there’s a very small segment of users you can market to. While ordinarily, you’d be able to cross-sell and up-sell to your shoppers based on their purchase/behavioral history, now it’s limited to a segment. 

There’s also the option of email marketing, in-app notifications, or push along with other promotional strategies. You cannot get your guest shoppers to purchase during discounts, or holiday sales because there would be no way to reach them. 

8. Fewer opportunities for long-term engagement

Quite similar to not being able to market further, you also cannot engage your entire audience segment if they purchase your stock anonymously. Because they don’t leave any contact information behind, there’s no way to engage them. You cannot send an SMS for example because there’s no phone number. And so, the people you can engage in the long-term are your signed-in customers. 

While there are still engagement opportunities through pop-ups and banners, it’s for a very limited time. Because, once the guest shoppers drop off, everything else comes to a halt - which means they’ve automatically disengaged.

9. No ability to improve the overall customer experience

Unfortunately, since you cannot ask guest shoppers about their experience on your website, it means there’s limited to no room for user experience improvement. No reviews, no ratings, no email address for follow-up conversations. You can only work with assumptions and the data of those who have created an account.

How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

The good news is that you don’t have to eliminate the guest checkout to get information that’ll influence your marketing and customer experience. A few measures you can incorporate include;

1. Offer social account signups

social account sign up - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

Social account signup options like Google and Facebook are excellent alternatives. 

This way; 

  • shoppers don’t have to fill out any forms or create any passwords
  • helps when other guest checkout options like Amazon and Paypal don’t work, and 
  • get genuine information. 

They offer easy registration and consequently increase customer signups. Social sign-ups eliminate the friction to get to the checkout. 

Customers will also find it easy to return as registered customers because they don’t have to remember any passwords. They simply have to sign in with one click. So, you’d also eliminate login failures with this option.

Since it captures real email addresses, it’s very easy to send highly targeted messages as you also have their names without recording bounce rates. Use a popular social login that you think a majority of your customers use. We also recommend adding a disclaimer to show that you wouldn’t violate their privacy by posting or accessing their contacts. 

2. Go the password-less route

Go the password-less route - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

A unique way to sign in, your shoppers do not have to sign up through the regular username and password form method. You might already experience this with websites that require you to enter an OTP or use your biometrics to sign in. 

With biometrics, you have to physically enter your fingerprint or scan your face through a facial recognition system. One-time passwords are codes shared through SMS or emails and they require you to input them within a specific period. Biometrics and facial recognition are faster but we recommend giving your customers the option to choose their preferred option

This is perhaps one of the most secure methods of signing in because your shoppers cannot share sensitive information over a phishing email or call. With this option, you’ve reduced friction and increased security. As a business, you also spend less on password recovery and maintaining the password database.

3. Offer delayed account creation

Offer delayed account creation - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

In Baymard's research on checkout usability, 38% of eCommerce sites don’t offer their customers an optional account creation step at the confirmation stage. Since asking customers to sign up while they’re still shopping can be quite disruptive, at this stage, they’d be more receptive to your requests. 

It’s also important to share why you think they should signup for an account at this stage.  This is also where the incentives come in. For example, they could qualify for a discount on their returning purchase. When you properly nudge your customers at this stage, they’d see the benefits of creating an account and even return if they didn’t plan to.

Create a new flow that notifies users at the beginning of the checkout that they might have to create an account after completing the checkout process. You can add this to your breadcrumbs.

4. Sign up after checkout

Sign up after checkout - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

While this is quite similar to an account creation nudge at the confirmation step, the difference is that at this point, they don’t need to confirm any order. Plus here, you can request their full details in exchange for something else.

However, what we recommend is that you ask for one important piece of information at the checkout stage and then let them know that they can create an account afterward. With this, it doesn’t feel like too much commitment and they know that it’s optional.

You can then choose to ask for more detailed information at the account creation step. Because there’s no way they can abandon the checkout process at this stage. So why not ask for what you truly need?

5. Highlight returns, exchanges, and refunds

Highlight returns, exchanges, and refunds - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

One of the most under-utilized perks of creating an eCommerce account is seamlessly processing returns, refunds, or exchanges. If your customers check out as a guest, it’s hard to track their website returns or satisfaction. They cannot leave a review on your store or even seamlessly process a refund.

However, if they have an account with you, if the product doesn’t match their expectations, they can easily send it back. With this account, they can also track the status of their refunds or exchange which would have been nearly impossible as a guest. So try to constantly reiterate this as a perk when you’re asking them to create an account.

6. Give customers a reward 

Give customers a reward - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

As we’ve stated above, customers want to know why you need their contact information. If they can checkout without any friction or offer up their details - why should they go through the longer route? This is why you should offer a reward they cannot resist. So for example, if you’re offering them a discount, you have to tie it to their user journey. 

A customer who hasn’t checked out would want to apply this discount to their purchase. And so when you tell them that they can apply for it on their checkout, there’s a reason to sign up at this point. 

On the other hand, if you’re asking them to create an account after checkout, you can switch it to be applicable on their return. This not only nudges them to create an account but to also come back for another purchase.

7. Prompt sign-ups for loyalty programs

Prompt sign-ups for loyalty programs - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

Rather than asking your customers to create an account to checkout, ask them to signup for a loyalty program instead. Since loyalty programs are exclusive membership, they wouldn’t view giving out information as a favor. Rather, it’ll be that they are subscribing to a more premium version of your service. 

In the example above from Swarovski, there’s a regular login and then an opportunity to join a loyalty program by creating an account. This offering is all about exclusivity and VIP events. If customers wouldn’t want to create an account, the fear of missing out would drive them to explore this said club. 

So offer a tinge of exclusivity and show the perks your loyalty program is offering. Ensure the process is also seamless. In this case, they offer social signups and an instant 10% discount as an incentive. 

8. Let customers sign up for reorders and subscriptions

Sign up for reorders and subscriptions - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

Another way to get your customers to create an account is by offering them an easier way to reorder an item. If you sell items that you’re sure people would want to repeatedly purchase over a while like skincare, makeup, or even food, you can offer long-term convenience. When customers have to constantly find the same bulk order over their next purchase, it can be time-consuming.

However, if they have an account with you, they can simply reorder their last purchase in one click. Some websites also offer subscriptions so you can subscribe to receive that same order over the next couple of weeks or months. So consider implementing this strategy to get more signups.

9. Prompt for wish list signups

Prompt for wish list signups - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

While a lot of customers tend to use their carts to save what they like when they have to check out they can’t keep everything in it - except they want to buy it all. This then leads to them missing out on items they’d have previously wanted to get. There’s also the issue of having a high number of abandoned carts because people use them as a wish list. 

This is why you should implement a wish list feature if you don’t have one. This way, people have an alternative way to save items they want. However, the only blocker to using this feature is creating an account. Fortunately, you can let your customers know that the items left in their cart will be cleared out after a couple of hours or days. This will motivate them to immediately purchase the item or create an account so they can save it to their wish list. 

10. Offer free, express, or multiple shipping options

Offer free, express, or multiple shipping options - guest checkout alternatives

66% of customers expect free shipping on an order they place. So make it conditional because they’d want to use it. However, instead of offering free shipping for placing an order, give it up for creating an account. That way, they’d be willing to create a customer profile on your eCommerce store. 

Also, since your customers cannot ship anything without making a purchase, they’ll be compelled to carry out a transaction to access their free shipping. If you’re skeptical about offering free shipping, you could consider providing express shipping instead. This is also something eCommerce shoppers love. 

Alternatively, you could offer multiple shipping addresses. Since people tend to order things for their friends and loved ones, allow them to add as many addresses as they want in exchange for creating an account.

11. Prompt signups for better customer service

Prompt signups for better customer service - How to CONVERT guest checkout shoppers into registered customers

The best way to offer excellent customer service is to understand your customer’s needs. Do they want a new feature? Would they prefer a phone call over text? These questions can only be answered based on their interaction with your site.

So pitch an unrivaled customer service to nudge them into creating an account. You could either ask them to do this for faster checkout, easier tracking for orders or even a chance to rate an item.

You could also offer more recurring payment options like being able to save their card for future transactions or being able to pay on delivery. Think about ways to offer personalization and reduce friction across your store. Then present your customers with an option to enjoy this by registering. 

12. Give customers first dibs on new products

Give customers first dibs on new products - guest checkout alternative

Are you an eCommerce store that offers exclusive products? Then take advantage of it by offering some set of user notifications before sharing it on your website. 

So once a customer lands on your website, offer them access to get notified when a product comes back in stock. Also let them know that if they create an account, they’ll learn about new deals, and be the first to know about new products - especially low-stock ones. 

Since people ordinarily don’t like to miss out on stuff, they’d be more inclined to create an account on your eCommerce website. Just ensure that you promise not to spam them with irrelevant deals. For example, if a customer opts to get notified for a single product, don’t send them monthly bills so they don’t unsubscribe from your notifications and messages. 

13. Gather feedback 

gather feedback  guest checkout alternative

A great way to receive customer information is by requesting feedback. This could be through prompts during or after their purchase. Simply design a very short survey or rating field and ask for their email address. 

Another example is by asking if they want to see any item in the store or if they’d want a different variation. After they fill out their interests, ask them if they’d want to be notified immediately this option is available. If yes, they’d be willing to offer up their email address for further communication. Plus at this point, they already have a reason to look out for your messages. 

14. Request for signups through referrals

Request for signups through referrals - guest checkout alternative

Asking for referrals might seem like a far-fetched thing to do especially if a customer is a first-time shopper. However, there might be returning customers you don’t know about. Especially since they checkout as a guest. And if they return, they probably tell their network about you. 

So instead of simply leaving it to chance, ask your shoppers to refer to your eCommerce store in exchange for either a voucher or discount. However, one of the criteria for this referral should be that they use a unique link which can only be gotten when they create an account. 

15. Ask for newsletters and text signups

Ask for newsletters and text signups - guest checkout alternative

One way to get your customers to sign up or share their contact information is to offer updates through newsletters or texts. Since most people would not want to sign up for newsletters, you can convert it to order status. What this means is that you’d ask for this information on the order status page and then request for their information there. 

What we can recommend you do differently is to by default, check the disclaimer box. That way only shoppers who don’t want any form of communication can uncheck it. You can also choose which field to leave as required and which to leave as optional.

16. Place site-wide signup forms

Place site-wide signup forms - guest checkout

Site-wide signup forms are forms that are identical and typically appear on almost every page of your eCommerce store. They are usually subtle and not so disruptive. While they are popular for newsletters and discount coupons, you can use this to your advantage. 

By asking for your customer’s information in exchange for an offer or service at every point in their user journey, they’d find the one that resonates with them at a stage. With this, you’d have an idea of what their interests are and who they are once they share their contact information. We, however, recommend that you keep this form short so it's easy to fill and move on. 

How to remove guest checkouts and still reduce sign up friction

While all the strategies discussed above will help you further convert your guest checkout users into registered users, at the end of the day, your sign-up forms are still vital. Since we’ve established that offering guest checkouts will not help your CRO, we recommend reducing the friction on your sign-up forms. Here are a few ways you can do that;

1. Decrease the input fields

Research shows that shortening your form links from 11 to 4 can increase your conversions by 120%. This is why it’s important to reevaluate your form sign-up fields. Because it takes a lot of cognitive loads to manually type in an answer for every form field, people are likely to abandon the form when it seems too long. 

With shorter relevant fields, you stand a chance to get more account signups because it’ll seem faster to complete. So think about what fields will be beneficial to you in the long run. Do you need their emails or phone numbers or both? Decide on these important fields and then add them to your forms. 

2. Ditch the dedicated sign-up page

Many eCommerce stores spend time creating different pages for sign-in and sign-up. However, they tend to cause friction by first taking users to the login page before redirecting them to sign up from a button or CTA.

Rather than creating a signup page your users would be redirected to, allow them to either signup or sign in from the ‘Account’ drop down. The ‘Account’ in this context, can also be the profile icon. This way, it takes fewer steps for them to create an account and subsequently log back in. 

3. Speed up site load speed

Nearly 70% of customers admitted that page speed is a crucial factor in their willingness to purchase from an eCommerce store. And this is understandable. No one wants to spend at least 7 seconds waiting for every single page to load. Especially since they’d want to view multiple items before making a purchase. But the downside is that it’ll affect your sales and revenue.

So working on your site speed is essential - both for desktop and mobile shoppers. A good load time for an eCommerce store should be anywhere between 0-3 seconds. While many people would advise that you optimize images and carry out other known site optimization tips, we recommend finding out where your site falls short. 

Start by running your site through Google PageSpeed Insights. From here, you can get specific recommendations to improve your eCommerce site store speed as opposed to testing based on assumptions.

4. Ask for more information later

The truth is, you don’t need to collect all your customer information in one go. Since it’s tedious to fill out a ton of information, you can break the process. This way, you can collect the most important data first, and then request the rest after checkout or during subsequent purchases. 

Request an email and password on this page. And while we don’t encourage the skip button, it’s a great way to ask for minimal information before checkout.

You may have experienced something similar when you get a nudge to complete a profile you created. However, the most common fields eCommerce store owners collect are the name and email fields. So you can start with this and then request other customer data like DOB and others later on. 

5. Use microcopy as guides

When filling out form fields, your customers should know what to do at every given stage. That’s why your placeholders are very effective in conversions - because they help guide the customer. When it comes to sensitive fields like addresses, passwords, and the like, you can add a copy to help them know what you expect them to type in. So if an acceptable password requires a symbol, upper case, and number, you should add a copy telling them about it. 

Not only does your microcopy help reduce friction, but it also sets expectations and helps create a good customer experience. So consider adding a convincing copy that’ll not only encourage your users to opt for an account but also complete the registration form. 

6. Use navigational cues and error notifications

While filling out your form, it’s expected that shoppers will enter the wrong information like an invalid email address due to a typo. However, it becomes a terrible user experience, when they cannot immediately know what the problem is. Instead of constantly bouncing them off with a red error field, state what you expect them to do. If they are missing an @ symbol, immediately tell them that so the friction isn’t continuous. 

A user filling out this password field immediately knows what to do to get accepted. And so rather than throwing errors when they don’t meet the criteria, they show what the acceptance criteria are. 

Navigational cues also help with prompting your users on what to do next. If there’s an arrow, for example, they know to immediately follow it to proceed. In the example above, you’d also see eye symbols that allow you to see what you’re typing in these sensitive fields. 

7. Ensure your pages are mobile-friendly

If your customers constantly have to scroll to access certain fields across your page, they’ll get tired mid-way and abandon it. And while most people would recommend that you move the important stuff above the fold, what happens to the other relevant items on your page? 

This is why in addition to page speed, we recommend optimizing your mobile pages for easy scrolling. You can do this by making your sections collapsible. That way, a user can just easily scroll to a section and expand it for further reading.

Also, since mobile forms tend to have this annoying zoom when you tap on a field, you must ensure that your forms are responsive on mobile. This will make typing on mobile very easy and less prone to errors. Start by getting the right theme for your needs. 

8. Offer secure transactions

Another reason people typically prefer to sign out as a guest is because they feel safe using third-party payment processors like Paypal and Amazon pay. While offering these popular guest checkout options will help you record more conversions, you can also show your customers that all payments are safe. 

Since most customer accounts ask for direct debits or card payments, they are seen as riskier. However, by showing that you offer secure transactions and offering them, you can reduce the friction at this point. So, if they choose to pay with a credit or debit card, they don’t have to worry about their details being compromised. 

Simply start by placing trust badges across your checkout page. Use verified badges people can immediately understand and believe in. Some include SSL encryption, Visa secure, safe and guaranteed checkout, amongst others. 

9. Don’t apply strict restrictions 

While you want to reduce the chances of their accounts being hacked, you typically don’t want to make the process harder. For passwords, you don’t want to impose criteria like having at least four symbols because that’ll be hard to remember. They’d also be hard to come up with, so people would just choose to do it later. And this applies to your other fields. 

The more restrictive you make these fields, the more cognitive load it’ll take to complete them. And as such, you have people interested in creating an account, abandoning it because it feels like a quiz.

Instead, make your criteria easy and faster to complete. Use regular form fields and ask direct simple questions. 

10. Enable auto-fill

Constantly filling out fields like shipping or billing address fields on every order can feel exhausting. This is why it’s important to collect and store this information for future use cases. If you realize that you do need more than four fields, across your checkout forms, consider using auto-fill to reduce the need for manually inputting details. This way they can use the information entered from previous forms to complete your sign-up form. 

A great way to do this with consent is to add a disclaimer or checkmark to save whatever billing address they are typing in for future transactions. Subsequently, when checking out, they’d have an option to choose an existing shipping/billing address. 

11. Auto apply discount codes

If you’ve offered a customer a unique discount code through promotional messages, referrals, and other marketing campaigns, this is an excellent way to improve their user experience. Since most times they have to either copy and paste or manually type in the discount code when you need to verify it, automating it will remove that friction. 

Automatically apply discount and show a price anchor. Once a shopper goes back to your eCommerce store to complete a purchase, the discount is automatically applied to their account. You can achieve this with plugins that are compatible with other popular eCommerce stores like Amazon. If you’ve also set up a Shopify store, this will be easy to implement. 

12. Remember to sign in on different devices

Usually, when there’s inactivity for a couple of minutes, by default, users automatically get logged out of their accounts.

However, most times they just get carried away with other tabs that when they get back to shopping, they have to re-enter their emails and passwords. While this doesn’t seem like much of a deal, it can cause serious friction and negatively influence the user experience.

So instead of allowing this, offer users an option to ‘Remember this device’ or ‘remember me’. And although this wouldn’t mean that they’d never sign in manually again over about two weeks, they wouldn’t have to reenter their sign-in details on your eCommerce store.

Rather, they’d be automatically logged in when they visit your website. Which offers more freedom to add as many items to the cart, wish list, and checkout seamlessly. 

13. Confirm email instead of passwords at sign up stage

A lot of websites, at the point of sign-ups, ask that users reenter their password to be sure it's correct. And while that might be efficient in converting long-term users, it’s much safer to request this in the email field. This is because a customer can always request a password change if they forget it.

However, if they enter an invalid or wrong email address, they stand to lose that account forever. Especially since password reset links are sent to email addresses.

As a business, emails are not just important for your deliverability rates, but also in offering tailored messages for long-term retention.

So we recommend asking your users to verify their email addresses on the signup page. That way you get correct emails sent to your database and lower chances of recording lost accounts.

The Bottom Line

Guest checkouts are just one way to reduce the friction of your sign-up process. However, they aren’t the best approach as they don’t collect customer information for conversions and retention strategies.

So use any of the alternative methods discussed in this article to receive customer information and reduce the challenges on your current sign-up page. 

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