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Guest Checkout vs Customer Accounts: What Performs Better?

February 27, 2019
3 Min Read
Guest Checkout vs Customer Accounts: What Performs Better?

Checkout is arguably the most important step in the eCommerce process. After all, it's where you seal the deal and make the sale.

Although many online retailers consider factors like checkout page design, some overlook customer accounts and guest checkout during the purchase process. This factor is one of our eCommerce checkout best practices and brands should consider it when designing their checkout experiences.

Deciding whether to include customer accounts and guest checkout on your online store is a big decision, so let's start with the basics.

What is Guest Checkout?

Guest checkout allows a customer to purchase without logging into or creating a store account. This means that brands do not retain any information that customers enter during the checkout process.

Benefits of Guest Checkout

Faster First-Time Purchases

One of the best benefits for consumers: it takes less time. Since they aren't required to create store accounts, this omission reduces friction in the purchase process and helps users convert faster.

Reduced Abandoned Carts

According to BigCommerce, forcing customers to create store accounts results in increased cart abandonment. As such, allowing customers to bypass accounts and checkout faster will help them breeze through purchases.

Lower Level of Commitment

Many online shoppers still remain hesitant to trust retailers with their credit card information. As a result, these users may be more likely to convert if they aren't required to create accounts before they purchase.

Overall, guest checkouts make the process simple for consumers and help them get what they're looking to purchase, faster.

Problems with Guest Checkout

Limited Information

Limited information primarily introduces challenges for companies more than consumers, and first-time customers will appreciate it more than returning customers will.

As a result, your company won't be able to customize your outreach and marketing efforts for these users. As with any form of marketing, the more information your company has, the better you can target your prospects. 

Benefits of Customer Accounts

Repeat Purchases with Ease

Customers who create accounts can maintain and store their shipping addresses, email addresses and phone numbers within their online profiles. Therefore, when they make their next purchases, this information will automatically enter in the appropriate fields.

Although account setup takes more time upfront, this allows for future reuse and will speed up checkouts over time. Customer accounts are ideal for returning customers who regularly visit and interact with your site.

Automatic Loyalty Program Enrollment

Customer accounts save order history, tracking numbers and loyalty accounts. Yes, that’s right, loyalty accounts.

Often times, having a customer account can automatically enroll users into loyalty accounts. Not only does this encourage repeat customers, but it also encourages customers to make an account. We count that as a win for both businesses and their customers. 

If you're looking for a customer loyalty program software, we highly recommend checking out our related blog.

Saved Order History

Saving order history removes problems with reordering, exchanges and returns for consumers. This also links tracking numbers and order history for added convenience. 

As a result, there is no need to hunt down an original email that contained the tracking number. Users can simply log into their accounts and track their orders.

Drawbacks of Customer Accounts

Account Fatigue

Account fatigue refers to the feeling of having to remember a username and password for multiple accounts. Requiring customers to create accounts can often lead to this feeling and result in cart abandonment.

Lengthy Purchase Process

Although not every process is complicated, requiring customers to sign up before purchasing can make checkout feel like a burden.

Unfortunately, this is a required step associated with implementing customer accounts for your business, so you will need to weigh the pros and cons.

Which is Right for Your Business?

First off, we want to preface this section by saying that every business is different and your needs will vary based on your customers. However, it's always wise to consider how often customers return to your website.

You may have loyal customers, but maybe they only need to purchase your product once or twice a year. This may not be enough to warrant customer accounts. Guest checkout is beneficial to those customers who do not frequent your site. If you are looking to create more frequent customers, there are better tactics than forcing account creation.

We also recommend that you consider if account creation will improve the function of your site. As we previously mentioned, accounts can serve more purposes than just keeping track of order history.

The payment gateway which you choose may affect the user interface and user experience of your checkout process as well. For a deeper dive into the world of eCommerce payment gateways, read our blog on Shopify payment gateways.

Approaches to Checkout Design

There are several different ways to incorporate both guest and account checkout into your site. One of the most common designs is presenting three options: guest checkout, returning customer, or new customer. This way customers can create an account if they want, login, or checkout as a guest.

These options are presented upfront as the first step of the checkout process. Another popular choice is presenting the option to create an account after the customer has entered this information.

This was mentioned above but is an excellent choice because it seems like less work for your customer. The less work for your customer, the better. However, we challenge you to evaluate your business, customers, and needs to identify what will truly help you reach your goals. When in doubt, test and improve.

Have any questions or want to learn more? Feel free to reach out using the form below and we'll be happy to help!

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About the author
Internal Marketing Manager

Spencer Flaherty is an eCommerce blogger who loves exploring the latest trends and technologies in the industry. From chatbots to virtual reality, they cover it all.

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