Web tip: anonymous checkout

Imagine going to a grocery store and being forced to sign up for the chain’s Super Saver Card before you purchase your items.  Don’t want to give your personal information? Too bad. You’ll have to find another retailer.

This scenario seems laughable in a brick-and-mortar store; however, it happens on e-commerce websites every day. By requiring customers to register accounts and login each time they want to make a purchase, many websites ignore key human characteristics: impatience and cautiousness. Requiring a password for checkout invites a moment of pause, bringing with it the inevitable questions:

  • “Do I have an account?”
  • “Do I remember my password?”
  • “Do I want to give my information?”
  • “Do I even have time to do these things?”

Each of these steps presents another opportunity for a customer to decide that no, they do not want to proceed with the sale. By inviting inquiry, you’ve lost a sale.

How to combat this problem?

It would seem that retailers are left with the inadequate options of either a) requiring customers to register before check-out in the hopes of gathering information or b) allowing completely anonymous checkout, enabling customers to forgo registration completely. Some companies, however, have chosen to go for a middle ground approach, offering ‘anonymous’ checkout with only an email address necessary for the transaction receipt. Even back in 2007, some sites were seeing as much as a 20-30% increase in conversion-to-sale rates after adding an anonymous checkout option. With increased online security concerns in recent years, that number is likely to be even higher now.

From a consumer perspective, anonymous checkout may allow for a speedy transaction and tight control over personal information, but there is the added downfall of not being able to keep track of purchases or shipping status. In this middle-ground approach, the company could send a follow-up email with a temporary password and generic account information. In this way, they’ve gotten the best of both worlds: customers who do not feel hassled and are therefore more likely to return, and hopefully a number of customers who log in again with the generic account information.

The Bottom Line

Whichever method you choose to offer your customers at checkout, it’s important to keep in mind that one of the main reasons e-commerce has been so successful is due to its convenience for harried shoppers. Whether you create that convenience by allowing customers to purchase as guests, or opt for the middle ground of automatically generating user accounts to follow up anonymous checkout is up to you. Just remember that when shoppers have pleasant and hassle-free experiences on your website, they are much more likely to patronize your company in the future, leading to increased revenue and a positive reputation.