It was once common practice to ask customers to register before moving into checkout, but regularly some form of guest checkout is now offered by the majority of ecommerce sites.
Amazon is one of the exceptions here, just because it can, but it’s rare to see a major online retailer that forces registration.
This is because it’s viewed as a barrier to conversion, a point at which customers may decide it’s too much hassle to go ahead and complete the purchase.
The main argument against guest checkout from a retailer’s perspective is that it discourages people from creating accounts.
It allows them to build an email list for future marketing purposes, while customers who have registered can have address and payment details saved for future transactions. This should make it easier for retailers to drive repeat business from customers.
However, the arguments tend to lean towards guest checkout as the best way to reduce abandonment at this stage.
While the option is the same; entering checkout without having to register first, there are a variety of approaches to guest checkout from retailers.
Some push a bit harder for registration, others seem to be intent on removing as many barriers and the amount of ‘work’ customers need to do.
There’s no right or wrong approach, and many of these retailers will have arrived at their guest checkout design by testing variations and tweaking to find the design that works best for them.
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The classic approach is to show a page offering three options after the shopping basket page. These are normally to log in, create an account, or checkout as a guest.
This example from Lego presents all three of those options.
US retailer Lowe’s presents customers with the option of logging in if they already have an account or using guest checkout. It reassures people that they can create an account later if they want to.
The third option, Visa Checkout is an interesting one. It’s relatively new, but has been adopted by a few retailers so far and reached 20m registered users last year.
It allows Visa card holders to register with their address and payment details so they only need to login with a username and password to checkout. Like PayPal and similar methods, it’s another alternative to registration for retailers to offer.
Back to the registration issue, Lowe’s adds this option just before the payment step, selling the benefits of creating an account.
Bellroy calls this an express checkout. I suppose this is a guest checkout since there’s no registration before you enter checkout.
Instead of the usual pre-checkout pages, shoppers go straight from the cart drop-down into this page.
There’s no dedicated cart page and no guest checkout/registration option between cart and checkout.
I can’t find any way to register, so it looks like Bellroy has decided to remove any issues around registration in favour of moving shoppers into the checkout process as quickly as possible.
It’s also a single-page checkout so, with just one page to load, it’s an excellent way to optimise checkout for mobile shoppers.
Nixon sends shoppers to this checkout page straight from the shopping cart page. As with Bellroy, there’s no guest checkout choice, but there is a cart page to review order details.
Again, it’s fewer steps and no obstacles to checkout, but Nixon does offer the option to create an account during checkout.
Nike lays out the options clearly here, selling the benefits of the Nike+ account, but allowing guest checkout.
Urban Outfitters provides a guest checkout option on the checkout page itself. It removes one step from the process and makes it easy for customers to get started with entering payment details.
Crate & Barrel encourages new customers to use guest checkout, where they can later create an account if they want to.
It also offers plenty of other non-registration options. Masterpass and Amex are similar to Visa Checkout.
This is interesting as it doesn’t ask for an email as the first step into guest checkout, instead asking for this along with address details in the next step.
As with some of the other approaches here, it’s about reducing the amount of work required by customers to get into the checkout stage.
This pop-up appears when you go from the shopping basket page to checkout, sending new customers to guest checkout and promoting returning customers to log in.
No push to register here, Currys just requires an email address for customers to enter checkout.
Both new and returning customers are told they can either create an account or log in later in the process.
Another issue to consider when implementing guest checkout is that of forgotten passwords. I may have an account with a retailer already but can’t remember it along with the dozens of other passwords and pin numbers I need to know.
So, instead of going through what can be a bothersome reset process, I’ll just checkout as a guest.
The problem is, if retailers spot there’s an account using this email, then they’ll prevent you from checking out as a guest and make you reset the password. Then we have another possible barrier to checkout.
One option is just to allow customers to use an email address whether or not they already used it to register. Here, Sear’s spots I already have an account and gives me the option to login or reset password, but will also allow me to continue as a guest anyway.
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