Forcing users to register their details before they checkout is one of the quickest ways to lower your conversion rate. 

Once a customer is ready to buy something from your store, presenting them with page after page of forms in which they need to fill out the most unnecessary of personal details is a sure fire way to litter your site with abandoned baskets and disgruntled customers.

That’s why guest checkout is a must-have feature for almost every online retail experience.

As I mentioned in my best practice guide to guest checkouts having a guest checkout doesn’t necessarily mean losing out on valuable customer data, it means adopting practices that put the customer experience first. 

Using guest checkout as the default option, then offering to ‘save the customer details’ after purchase can help lower cart abandonment.

Saving customer details implies convenience, it puts customer experience as the primary focus. ‘Registering’ implies future marketing spam.

Also, if your site automatically fills in any details that the customer has already given you, such as name, address and email, all your customer needs to do is choose a password.

Boom! Conversion achieved. Customer satisfaction achieved. Data achieved. Easy.

So let’s take a look at some of the top ecommerce sites according to Digital Strategy Consultancy and see how many offer a guest checkout or equivalent.

Please note, there is also a US version of this post featuring 25 different ecommerce brands from the ones featured here: Guest checkout test - which of these 25 US retailers force users to register?

Amazon UK

For the first time in possibly over a decade I signed out of my Amazon account today, just so I can test the guest checkout.

It doesn’t have one. The next screen asks you to choose a password and type in your email again. I suppose what Amazon lacks in customer experience here, it makes up for in its 1-Click service once you’ve registered.

Here’s a bizarre anomaly, pointed out by James Gurd:

It’s possible for me to disable anybody’s Amazon account just by using their email. I’m not sure what purpose this serves being as it’s very easy to access any forgotten passwords.

Perhaps it’s for those who have lost access to that particular email account. Then again, why would you want to sign-in with an unusable email account? My head hurts.

Apple UK

Very clear page with options to sign-in if returning or to use guest checkout. Note the lack of forced registration. Creating an Apple ID is presented as an option.

Unfortunately the form that follows has ‘auto-fill’ turned off, therefore creating a lot of wasted time.

Argos

Not a great effort from Argos here. If you click ‘I don’t have an account’ you only have to enter your email, however you then have to choose a password on the next screen, therefore before you’ve purchased anything you’ve registered an account.

ASDA Direct

Straight away you are asked for an email address, there is no guest checkout and the timeline across the top showing you how many pages that are left looks quite tiring. 

ASOS

ASOS doesn't have a guest checkout, however you may be forgiven for thinking differently.

asos checkout

ASOS has managed to halve its abandonment rate at the registration page simply by removing any mention of creating an account. However, you do then have to go through a fairly lengthy process of creating an account, so more fool us.

B&Q

B&Q gives you the choice of sign-in if you’re an existing customer or guest checkout. Further pages are notable for their clarity and ease of use.

Boohoo.com

Boohoo forces you to register your details right from the start. ‘You will be asked to create a password later’ suggests there will be no option.

At least Boohoo does state the benefits of registering on this initial page.

Boots

You are forced to register your details straight away at Boots. The following screen asks you to choose a password.

Boots also has one of the most unpleasantly cluttered baskets I’ve ever encountered.

Cineworld

I’ve never had the most fun booking cinema tickets online, as this cinema UX comparison attests, and things have only worsened as far as Cineworld is concerned.

This pop-up may tease you into believing you don’t have to register your details, but you’d be wrong. Here is one of the many pages to come...

Does it really need all of this information? Surely it just needs my card details to complete my booking, as this is what I’ll need to pick my tickets up. 

By the time you get to the end, you realise you might as well have registered with the MyCineworld scheme in the first place because then at least you would have saved a couple of quid.

Currys

Currys asks for an email straight away then takes you through to a delivery address page. 

To Currys’ credit, at the bottom of this page it states that the marketing options (which are opt-in) will not create you an account. 

Perhaps the fact that you don’t have to create an account could have been made clearer from the start.

Debenhams

Guest checkout in full effect, with the ability to register an account as a choice. 

Also the rest of the checkout is a user experience dream.

Halfords

Halfords does offer a guest checkout, however it doesn’t make this abundantly clear from the start. The again, not an awful lot is clear from the start anyway.

However the above postcode checker is a good way to begin the process of form-filling without it feeling quite so arduous.

Once through to the delivery details page, you’re offered the choice to register and there are opt-in marketing options.

However this is all prior to purchase. Right now these are just lost amongst the rest of the noise of the page. A customer will be much more inclined to engage with these call-to-actions once the sale is completed.

H&M

H&M has never been one of my favourite sites as far as user experience is concerned and this austere solitary button that forces customers to register is one of the more unfriendly features.

Homebase

Although I like its user friendly, flat design, I am still forced to register an account on the next page.

Again though, at least Homebase lists the benefits of registration.

House of Fraser

I’ve never been told so plainly that I can sign in as a guest.

Also note the subtle messaging at the bottom which states the benefits to its loyalty scheme.

IKEA

Perfectly clear, minimalist option for guest checkout. As you might expect.

John Lewis

John Lewis offers a simple page that doubles as a guest checkout (with a note that you can create an account later) and as a sign in page.

Littlewoods

The calls-to-action couldn’t be clearer, unfortunately you have to register an account first (or ‘join’ to use its wording).

Hang on... I have to enter my postcode as well as an email and password!? Not sure about that.

Marks and Spencer

Despite a heavily promoted site redesign, M&S has neglected guest checkout and new users are forced to register all their details and choose a password prior to purchase.

New Look

One of the few fashion retailers here to offer guest checkout. 

The option to create a password is stated as being optional and the grey background reinforces this. Benefits are also stated, replete with little persuasive ‘ticks’.

Next

True to fashion retailer form, there’s no guest checkout. This is topped off with a rather bizarre layout.

Odeon

I was expecting the worst, but Odeon has come up trumps here. For a start you can sign in using Facebook, which is one of the only sites here that includes this option.

Secondly, you don’t have to register an account and then when you get to the ‘my details’ page, you only have to fill in the barest amount of details. 

There’s no need for an address, and if you click on the question mark next to mobile number the pop-up says Odeon promises only to call you if there’s a problem with the booking.

River Island

No guest checkout here either. Although by this point I’m just happy to see that you don’t need to enter a postcode to log in.

ScrewFix

Taking a leaf out of the ASOS book, ScrewFix mentions nothing about registering, but then asks you to choose a password on the next page.

Sports Direct

Guest checkout, with options to create an account later and the benefits explained.

Tesco

You have to register your details with Tesco prior to shopping and picking a timeslot for delivery.

Although I’m going to give it a free pass. Most shoppers here aren’t going to be in a rush as this tends to be a fairly large task, and address details will of course be necessary.

Ticketmaster UK

No guest checkout for Ticketmaster and forced registration, mixed with some minuscule text makes this a UX nightmare.

Topshop

So many options and yet guest checkout isn’t one of them. The only example here that asks you to create a password right off the bat.

The Trainline

A quick buy option is offered once a ticket is selected, but it’s rather ‘blink and you’ll miss it’.

Then you end up having to register your details anyway if you’re not a previous customer.

If you go through the normal booking procedure, you’re asked for a password right at the end and it’s unclear whether this is optional or not. I don’t dare click ‘confirm’ as this will purchase me a one-way ticket to my mum and dad’s house.

You’re also asked for an address, which seems utterly pointless if you’ve already agreed to pick up your tickets from the station.

QVC

No guest checkout for QVC customers. Although it does operate a pin-number-enabled fast checkout function which warrants further investigation.

It's like 1-Click but without the threat of your children wreaking havoc on your credit card.

Very

And finally, Very operates on exactly the same guest-checkout-less platform as Littlewoods which is disappointing.

Results...

According to my own users tests it looks as if only 11 out of the 30 top UK ecommerce sites offer a guest checkout (and even then a couple of them are a bit touch and go).

This is a huge shame. Guest checkouts offer convenience and speed for the customer and a quick route to conversion. If you provide customers with the minimum amount of barriers and distractions they will likely come back to your site. They may also be in less of a rush next time and may even have time to 'save their details' with you.

Guest checkout doesn't have to mean losing valuable customer data, as long as registration options are provided at the end of checkout and the details are already filled out.

As a side note, my punishment for writing this article and leaving 30 abandoned trolleys in my wake will be to receive 30 different retargeted emails and display ads for the forseeable future.

For more on ecommerce from the blog check out these 11 world's best checkouts.

Come to our Festival of Marketing event in November. A two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 18 September, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (5)

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Hi Christopher, Do you know how many of the guest checkouts allowed you to continue if you had an existing account? It's something that was highlighted that we don't allow, and my impression is that we're far from alone.

We're planning to improve this soon.

about 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Stuart - Hi Stuart... Time constraints meant that I couldn't dig that deeply. I would have had to have signed up to each one, and then gone back out try the guest checkout... Although I will certainly investigate that further next week. Cheers!

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Stuart I've haven't found one that does allow it.

about 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Sounds like an opportunity to me...

about 3 years ago

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee, Web Analytics Manager at Evans Cycles

I wonder at which point forcing users to do anything will improve UX...

Choice is often better!

about 3 years ago

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