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Customer accounts vs. guest checkout: How to use each

Customer accounts and guest checkout each have a place in the overall shopping experience in your online store. Offering consumers the option to choose between the two accommodates individual preferences. Each type of interaction has specific uses:

Guest checkouts

Anonymous checkouts are especially important for first-time customers. Online shopping requires trust in the merchant, and many customers don't feel comfortable saving their contact information during their first visit to a new store. Forcing users to sign up for an account on the website before they reach the checkout page has been shown to decrease conversion rates. Checking out as a guest is often quicker than creating an account, is viewed as a lesser "commitment," and erases the potential perception that you're after user data.

Requiring a registration also interrupts the shopping process. Once customers decide to buy, they want the checkout process to be easy - which should be the aim of merchants as well.

Although guest checkouts improve user experience for first-time customers, there are drawbacks for merchants. Email addresses can only be used for shipping notifications in this case, not for marketing purposes. This makes it more difficult to send customers your newsletter, promotional materials, and shopping cart notifications. Merchants also can't ask for feedback from shoppers to make improvements.

But these shortcomings are negated by the fact that a faster checkout equates to more sales; if you provide great value and intuitive user experience to customers, they will return.

Customer accounts

Registered accounts give customers an interactive experience and foster a relationship with the merchant. Accounts enable customers to leave reviews and get more involved in the brand's "community," which may also include forums. This relationship is a prime marketing opportunity for businesses to send out targeted product recommendations and promotional materials. Customer accounts allow online retailers to personalize the on-site experience for customers. Items they browsed in the past are easily stored for later, and logins pave the way for specific product recommendations on the website and via email.

User accounts also streamline the checkout process by saving customer billing information so it doesn't need to be entered for every purchase. Establishing a convenient shopping experience has been key to Amazon's rise, demonstrating how trust and ease of purchase can generate significant customer loyalty.

How to offer both options

Online merchants don't need to choose between guest checkouts and customer accounts. Since they both deliver results under certain circumstances, enabling both ensures a quality shopping experience.

When enabling guest checkout, one option is to give customers the choice to register for an account immediately after checkout. This way, their contact information and billing details are already stored, preventing customers from going through the process of filling out all their information again. Because this doesn't disrupt the checkout process, it is an effective option. Many people will choose to enroll this way. In addition, a one-page checkout process creates a streamlined experience for both groups.

For more information about optimizing the checkout experience, read our blog post about Abandoned Cart Recovery.

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