Guest checkouts work great.
They reduce friction in signups and make first-time purchases go faster.
Almost 60% of all online retailers offer guest checkout as an option.
However, there’s a catch:
Shoppers don’t leave behind vital information.
This means you don’t get sufficient data to personalize and connect with shoppers.
In this piece, we’ve attempted to weigh out the problem on both sides, and with extensive research have compiled 16 guest checkout alternatives (examples) you can work with to make your eCommerce business thrive.
Here's a quick glimpse of what's to come:
What is Guest Checkout?
When shoppers can checkout with their purchases without having to create an account, it’s c
alled guest checkout.
In a typical guest checkout process, shoppers have to fill in only name, payment and shipping details.
How this differs from account creation is that in this case, your business’ database doesn’t capture any of the information that any preferring guest checkout enters—this information is used only for the current purchase and nothing beyond.
What are the Cons of Guest Checkout?
1. No access to vital customer information
In a guest checkout scenario, details like name, email, phone number, or even postcode don’t get stored in your database.
This directly impacts how you can segment these customers or engage with them in the future.
Take the instance of brands offering online checkout options as guest through Paypal.
If you’re asked to segment these customers based on certain characteristics, this being a third-party option won’t give you access to the data.
2. No access to abandoned carts
Since you don’t know their information, you have no clue what guest shoppers 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 get that information ONLY if they’ve already entered their email address on your create account page.
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 through guest checkout, the percentage of people who would interact with your loyalty programs goes down.
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.
4. No access to order history for 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. No clarity on 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, 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.
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 you have ZERO control over how their on-site experience will pan out.
7. Not as many opportunities for long-term engagement efforts
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.
16 SMART ALTERNATIVES to Guest Checkout
The good news is that you don’t have to eliminate guest checkout to get information that’ll positively impact your marketing and customer experience.
1. Offer social account signups
Social account signup options like Google and Facebook are excellent alternatives.
- shoppers don’t have to fill out any forms or create any passwords
- there’s an alternative when other guest checkout options like Amazon and Paypal don’t work
- you 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.
WHY IT WORKS:
Since it captures real email addresses, it’s very easy to send highly targeted messages
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. Opt password-free online checkout methods
A handy guest checkout alternative is a password-free option like using OTP or biometrics.
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 shoppers to input them within a specific window of time.
Biometrics and facial recognition are faster but we recommend giving your customers the option to choose their preferred option.
WHY IT WORKS:
Password-free methods like OTP and biometrics get rid of data breach possibilities.
With these options friction reduces and security improves.
.As a business, you also spend less on password recovery and maintaining a password database.
3. Offer delayed account creation
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.
It’s also important to share why you think they should sign up for an account at this stage.
This is 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.
Pro Tip: Create a new flow that notifies users at the beginning of the checkout that they might have to create an account after completing the online checkout process. You can add this to your breadcrumbs.
WHY IT WORKS:
Asking customers to sign up at the order confirmation stage usually works better because they’re more receptive—given that your system worked seamlessly to confirm the order.
4. Sign up after checkout
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.
Understand that this also falls under improved checkout design—given that conversions see a rise of 35.26% with a better checkout design flow.
Pro Tip: You can request their full details in exchange for something else—like a free sample or on-the-spot discount.
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.
WHY IT WORKS:
There’s no way shoppers can ditch the checkout process at this stage, if you choose to ask them to create an account.
And like we said, if you can offer an immediate incentive, they see every reason to create that account and leave you with more valuable data.
5. Highlight returns, exchanges, and refunds
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.
WHY IT WORKS:
Shoppers can track the status & progress of their refunds or exchanges when they have an account.
So try to constantly reiterate this as a perk when you’re asking them to create an account.
6. Offer a reward
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.
Before checkout: Make the offer right before you will show the signup form. Tie the offer to the CTA that takes shoppers into the signup process.
After checkout: If you’re asking them to create an account after checkout, you can make the reward applicable on the return—offer a discounted rate or a shorter return window, for example.
WHY IT WORKS:
The basis is the reciprocity principle—a phenomenon is social psychology where people feel the need to do something positive in exchange of something positive being done for them.
A timely reward/offer nudges shoppers towards more reciprocity—this further nudges them to create an account.
You might also like: Multi-step vs single page checkout, which is better for your eCommerce store?
7. Seek sign-ups for loyalty programs
Rather than asking your customers to create an account to checkout, ask them to sign up for a loyalty program.
Since loyalty programs are exclusive membership, they wouldn’t view giving out information as a favor.
Rather, it’ll seem 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 the loyalty program signup.
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.
WHY IT WORKS:
FOMO is real for eCommerce shoppers—as long as you can tell them they’re missing out on something really great!
8. Let customers sign up for reorders and subscriptions
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.
Pro Tip: Leverage a lower subscription price by positioning it as an account sign-up offer.
When customers have to constantly find the same bulk order over their next purchase, it can be time-consuming.
With intelligent microcopy, you can also make sure they understand that account creation would bring them several benefits apart from a better long-term price.
WHY IT WORKS:
You’re redirecting the account sign-up message through a message that has immediately to do with how your shoppers buy & the benefits they can enjoy.
9. Prompt for wish list signups
When you’re trying to avoid the guest checkout option on one hand and ensure shoppers don’t abandon their carts, you’ll have to look at the wishlisting option more closely.
Google has already made it clear that 40% of shoppers admit their shopping experience would instantly improve if they could access a wishlist.
This way, people have an alternative way to save items they want.
However, the only blocker to using this feature is creating an account.
Pro Tip: 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.
Positioning your wishlisting feature smartly will help you convey to shoppers that you’re not making their lives easy just for a few extra sales—that they can always come back to revisit what they felt interested in.
WHY IT WORKS:
By focusing on the wishlisting feature, you put the shopper at the center of all attention—when they feel attended to, it’s likely they won’t mind going an additional step to create an account.
You might also like: Order Wishlist Page: 9 Ways to boost conversions (and lessons from Amazon)
10. Offer free, express, or multiple shipping options
66% of customers expect free shipping on an order they place.
However, instead of offering free shipping for placing an order, give it up for creating an account.
Also, since your customers cannot enjoy free shipping without making a purchase, they’ll be compelled to carry out a transaction to access the feature.
Pro Tip: If you’re skeptical about offering free shipping, you could consider providing express shipping instead.
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.
WHY IT WORKS:
Shoppers love freebies—and free shipping makes all the sense to them especially if they feel it’ll be good to buy from your brand every now and then.
11. Prompt sign ups for an easy checkout
The best way to get a shopper to register with your brand is to assure them of a checkout process that's quick and painless.
Pro Tip: Talk about a faster checkout, easier tracking for orders or more recurring payment options like being able to save their card for future transactions or being able to pay COD.
Think about ways to offer personalization and reduce friction across your store. Then present your customers with an option to enjoy this by registering.
WHY IT WORKS:
Shoppers are okay to make an effort as long as you're able to assure them it's one-time!
12. Give customers first dibs on new products
Are you an eCommerce store that offers exclusive products or rates that competitors don’t?
Then take advantage of it by asking shoppers to give away their email in exchange for some early access news & offers—this isn’t as heavy duty as account creation, but isn’t as low profile as guest checkout.
Here are some ideas:
- Tell them they’ll get notified when a product comes back in stock
- Clarify what kind of new deals they’ll get to know about
- Tell them they’ll be first to know about new products—especially low-stock ones.
WHY IT WORKS:
First dibs carries the psychological component of exclusivity—when shoppers are let in on the open secret that those who share their email get more inside information, magic happens.
Just ensure that you promise not to spam them with irrelevant deals.
13. Encourage Shoppers to leave a feedback
A great way to receive customer information is by requesting feedback.
This could be through prompts during or after purchase.
Pro Tip: Simply design a very short survey or rating field and ask for their email address.
Here’s another idea: Ask 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.
WHY IT WORKS:
Shoppers (read: human beings) love to be heard for the opinions that they individually carry—this is why when you’re looking for a guest checkout alternative, seeking customer feedback in exchange for their email can be a good idea.
14. Request for signups through referrals
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 will probably tell their network about you.
After all 88% of American shoppers are clear that they want incentives when they talk about products on social media (looping their friends and family in.)
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.
Pro Tip: One of the criteria for this kind of referral signup should be that they use a unique link which can only be gotten when they create an account.
WHY IT WORKS:
Most shoppers love a sense of community & sharing within close circles—this is the sense you can activate through this strategy, which can make them feel like it’s absolutely okay to part with their email. Plus, a good reward is always welcome.
15. Ask for newsletters and text signups
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.
Pro Tip: What we 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.
WHY IT WORKS:
Shoppers want to learn more about and from a brand they like or care about—tactfully tell them why signing up to your newsletter will help them, and they’ll be ready to share their email.
16. Place site-wide signup forms
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 a different pitch.
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 reason 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.
Pro Tip: Keep this form short so it's easy to fill and move on. Even if you have multiple fields, keep them in a single column.
WHY IT WORKS:
With site-wide sign up forms pitched differently across the user journey, you’re meeting the shopper wherever they are!
You can also read: Email Capture: 45 high-converting examples & what makes them great
How to Reduce Sign-up Friction?: 13 Hacks That Work
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 load 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.
Pro Tip: Stick to the fields absolutely essential to the action that you expect from the shopper—for example if you’re offering a birthday discount in exchange for their email, make sure not to ask for their address.
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.
Pro Tip: 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.
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.
Pro Tip: 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 at 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.
Pro Tip: 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.
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.
Pro Tip: if an acceptable password requires a symbol, upper case, and number, you should add some 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.
6. Use navigational cues and error notifications
Research has proven that navigational cues have everything to do with site traffic, customer involvement and purchase intent.
While filling out your form, it’s expected that shoppers will enter 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.
Pro Tip: 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 so that the friction doesn’t continue.
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.
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?
Pro Tip: You can do this by making your sections collapsible. This 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.
Pro Tip: Start by placing trust badges across your checkout page. Use verified badges people can immediately trust 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.
Pro Tip: Use regular form fields, feature applicable rules through microcopy 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.
Pro Tip: 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 shoppers 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
Since most times shoppers 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—for the reduced price to register for the shopper.
Pro Tip: Use 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 allow 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.
Pro Tip: 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.
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.
Pro Tip: Ask 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 lost accounts.
Account Creation: Here’s Why Shoppers Don’t Like It
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:
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. This becomes an irritant and leads to drop-offs.
Reluctance to sign up for another eCommerce account
The thing is, they’ve probably registered on multiple other eCommerce sites.
Whether the experience was favorable or not, they might see account creation as a way in which the business is pulling them in for more transactions.
Resistance to receive marketing emails
Let’s face it, emails can be overwhelming to read through and most eCommerce businesses bombard customers over this channel.
So, when you ask shoppers to enter their email address, they automatically assume you’d send them emails.
To reduce the number of abandonments, stores began to introduce guest checkouts—to engage more readily with first-time shoppers and impulse buyers.
However, guest checkouts aren’t usually a win-win.
What are the Best Guest Checkout Optimization Best Practices?
If you’re offering guest checkout on your eCommerce site, here are some best practices to implement:
Offer multiple checkout options
No one checkout option is completely perfect. It’s because you have various segments of customers and each of them would want to interact with you differently at the checkout stage.
For example, it makes sense to the returning customer to be able to log in to their account—just a guest checkout option won’t help them.
So consider featuring checkout options for all kinds of customers— for new customers who’d like to create an account, new customers who would rather opt for guest checkout and a “login” option for returning/existing customers.
Feature a form that’s over in a scroll
Limited form fields asking for just as much info as is required for the current transaction, is the hallmark of a good checkout process.
Remember, the very reason some shoppers opt for this is to reduce the time they need to spend on filling longer, detailed forms.
Showcase a number of popular payment methods
From more established methods such as Paypal to more modern e-wallets, make sure your guest checkout actually enables the kind of speed it promises.
Featuring express payment options alongside your guest checkout form is also a good idea.
2X Your Online Store Revenue
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.
98% of visitors still drop off without buying anything.
Why: user experience issues that cause friction for visitors.
And this is the problem ConvertCart solves.
We've helped 500+ eCommerce stores (in the US) improve user experience—and 2X their conversions.
How we can help you:
Our conversion experts can audit your site—identify UX issues, and suggest changes to improve conversions.