Guest Checkout vs. Customer Checkout, Part 2: The Best Approach

In Guest Checkout vs. Customer Checkout, Part 1: The Best Approach, we looked at some factors to consider when determining whether a guest checkout option is right for your ecommerce site.

The nature of your business and your customers’ order frequency both play a role in determining your checkout strategy. A guest checkout is ideal for reducing conversion friction, especially for first-time customers. It’s also a great way to circumvent the account fatigue that’s plaguing online consumers.

But even if you decide to offer shoppers the option of a guest checkout, there’s still a solid argument to be made for a customer checkout option.

THE BENEFITS OF CUSTOMER CHECKOUT

There are plenty of benefits to asking customers to register for an account. It creates better shopping, customer service and checkout experiences.

Storing shipping addresses and credit card info reduces checkout times, for example. That’s why repeat shoppers benefit the most from account creation. Having an account also allows customers to track their purchases and loyalty benefits, if you offer them (coincidentally, loyalty programs are a great way to incentivize customers to sign up for an account).

From a merchant’s perspective, accounts have advantages as well. Having a customer’s account information makes it easier for you to:

  • Request product reviews post-purchase
  • Link a customer’s order history
  • Cross-sell to existing customers

Customers who create accounts are also more likely to come back to make a purchase.

So how do you satisfy your needs as an e-tailer and reduce friction for your customers?

THE SENSIBLE APPROACH

The key is in the execution of your registration process: don’t make account creation a separate feature from your checkout.

According to web usability experts at the Baymard Institute, account creation shouldn’t get in the way of users’ checkout efficiency. Their usability tests confirmed that offering optional registration on the “Thank You” order confirmation page is the best place to ask users to create an account.

“Delayed Account Creation,” as it’s called, simply gives guest shoppers the convenient option of saving the information they’ve just entered for future orders, aka an account.

The bottom line: get rid of the “sign up” barrier by offering guest checkout, but implement it in a convenient way to convert those guests into registered accounts. Do it at the end of the transaction process once customers have already shared their shipping and payment information.

While every design aspect of your ecommerce site is important, the checkout page is particularly so. See our Checkout Process Design Checklist for more tips.

Guest Checkout vs. Customer Checkout, Part 1: The Best Approach

Whether or not to offer guest checkout as an option for customers is a decision every ecommerce business has to consider at some point. And while there’s no right or wrong answer, there are some factors you should consider to help you determine which option is best for your business.

YOUR CUSTOMERS’ PURCHASE FREQUENCY

The nature of your business and your customers’ order frequency should play a role in determining your checkout strategy.

If you sell beauty products, for example, there’s a good chance your customers are repeat buyers. You sell items they will need to replenish, and you work hard to earn and retain their loyalty. You’ll probably want to encourage your customers to create an account.

On the other hand, if you sell mattresses, your sales from a single customer are likely to be occasional at best. It might not make sense, in this case, to ask people to create an account considering they’ll be returning to your site infrequently.
Problem solved, right? If only.    

THE BENEFITS OF GUEST CHECKOUT

Even if your ecommerce business caters to repeat customers, you still need to give shoppers the option of a guest checkout. Here’s why.

First-time customers: When a shopper purchases something from your site for the first time, it is vital their initial interaction with your brand go smoothly. Since this is their first experience with your site, and the process of handing over personal information can be tedious (especially for mobile users), guest checkout options lets users “try out” your customer experience before committing to setting up an account.

Friction: Checkout friction is the enemy of conversions. If a shopper has spent time selecting products on your site, you want to minimize obstacles and distractions during the checkout process. And for a new customer, a request to create an account could be enough to cause them to abandon their cart. The last thing you want is to make the checkout process longer and give shoppers more time to reconsider their purchase.

Account Fatigue: It’s a thing, and it’s real. According to Understanding eCommerce, creating a new user account is the second-most popular reason for cart abandonment after extra costs. Many shoppers are turned off at the thought of having to create yet another account, thinking of a new password, and filling out their profile just so they can make a purchase. A guest checkout option circumvents all that.

With all the benefits of guest checkout, what are the advantages to asking visitors to create an account, if any?

Having a customer’s account information makes it easier for you to cross-sell to existing customers and request product reviews. Customers who create accounts are also more likely to come back to make a purchase. We’ll cover that, and more, in our next post - Guest Checkout vs. Customer Checkout, Part 2: The Best Approach.

Checkout Changes that can help Lower Abandonment Rates

When it comes to customer acquisition in ecommerce, checkout pages are the great equalizer. No matter how incredible your products are – if your checkout process isn't as fast and convenient as it possibly could be, your cart abandonment rates will be unnecessarily high. It’s a pervasive issue that even big sites have to deal with. Fortunately, any changes you can make to bolster your checkout's functionality (even small ones) will pay dividends over the long term. In this post, we'll cover some of the most effective changes you can make to your checkout pages to reduce cart abandonment.

Clarity

Cluttering your checkout with multiple pop-ups, pages, and hyperlinks distracts customers from actually completing the process. While its fine to have pages on your site with more than one call-to-action, the checkout should only focus on checking out. If possible, condense the checkout into a single page that is structured to clearly guide shoppers through the process of finalizing their order. Save other CTAs for the "Thank You" page instead. If your checkout process must be more than one page, adding a simple progress indicator to the top of each page can proactively address a customer’s frustrations with a longer or more complex checkout.

Cost transparency

Many ecommerce sites notice an increase in abandonment rates among customers who start the checkout process and see the cost of their order change – especially if it has increased because of shipping, taxes, and other necessary charges. To keep these "surprise" fees from eroding the trust of would-be customers, include an estimate of the total/final cost as early as possible in the checkout process.

Convenient payment options

Collecting payment info is usually the most tedious part of the checkout process – especially for mobile users who are likely trying to tap in 16 digits with only one thumb. Alternative payment options like Google Wallet, PayPal, and Apple Pay are designed to securely store users’ information and drastically speed up the checkout process by autofilling all the necessary payment fields. Additionally, the more payment options you can accept, the more customers you can serve.

Top Causes of Abandoned Carts, and How to Fix Them

There are several reasons why shoppers choose to abandon carts. But in most cases, the reason boils down to checkout pages with poorly designed user experiences. In a behavioral survey of 1,300 online shoppers conducted by ecommerce technology company, Namogoo, 75% cited the importance of an "easy checkout process" for a desirable shopping experience. According to the survey, the following UX issues had the greatest influence on cart abandonment rates. Are you addressing these on your ecommerce site?
    

Form Fields

More than half of those surveyed (63% of mobile and 53% of desktop users) said that excessive or repetitive form fields at the checkout stage were the most frustrating part of shopping online. With this in mind, think about ways you can streamline the process of submitting information during checkout. For example: incorporating autofill features into your delivery/billing address forms. Or if your ecommerce site requires account creation to complete a purchase, consider alternatives like Guest Checkout or social media login functionality.

Site Stability

If your checkout process loads too slowly or crashes, that’s definitely going to cost you sales. Make sure to test your site's checkout thoroughly by accounting for as many user actions as possible, like using the browser’s back button (in the above mentioned survey, 36% of mobile shoppers abandoned their carts when the back button didn't work as intended, requiring them to re-enter all of their purchase confirmation information). Additionally, look for ways to proactively help users avoid checkout errors. For example, you can automate error messages so they appear dynamically as each form field is filled out, rather than after the user attempts to submit the info.

Distractions and Clutter

Shoppers are more likely to abandon their carts if any of the steps for finalizing the purchase are unclear. The Namogoo survey found that 46% of users consider website navigation to be a deciding factor for whether to purchase from that site. Similarly, 29% of users said that pop-ups and interstitials on the checkout page distracted them from completing their purchases and negatively affected their perception of the website. Keep the checkout flow as clean as possible by saving non-checkout CTAs (e.g. "Sign up for our Newsletter" or "Other products you may like") for the "Thank You" page, and adding features that help users progress with checkout rather than pause it – for example, adding options to change the quantity, color, size, and other attributes of the items in their order without having to leave checkout.

Tactics for Sealing the Deal at Checkout

From the perspective of customers, the checkout process is the most tedious part of shopping online. With that mindset, it's no wonder that many ecommerce sites struggle with cart abandonment.

The less time and actions your checkout requires, the more likely users will be to complete their orders. While looking for ways to streamline the design of your cart and checkout pages can be very effective in this regard, there are other strategies you can deploy to improve your checkout process to make it more convenient for customers, such as:

Alternatives to account creation

If your ecommerce site requires account creation to complete a purchase, you may want to consider alternatives like Guest Checkout and/or social media login functionality. While account creation helps you collect information about your customer base, the process adds more steps to what should be the simplest part of your ecommerce site.

More convenient payment options

Alternative payment options are designed to shorten the checkout process by eliminating the multiple form fields required for credit card payments. Additionally, the more payment options you can accept, the more customers you can serve. However, there are many systems to choose from – so consider surveying your customers to find out which alternative payment options are most popular for your target audience.

Autofill form fields (even for coupons)

By streamlining the process of inputting information, you can speed up your checkout while demanding less effort from your customers. Incorporating autofill features into your forms accomplishes this while also reducing the amount of errors that come from manual user input. By autofilling the coupon field with your latest promotion, you instantly show customers your best deal so they don't have to shop around – perhaps the most common motivation for abandoning the cart.