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Full Knowledgebase Listing

Can customers order without creating an account?

[#57] Last update 29 Sep 2014

We are often asked if it is possible to checkout without creating an account, or without giving an email address, or without providing other personal information. Unfortunately it isn't quite as simple as it might seem in practice.

Faster checkout?

The reason given for wanting account-free checkout is usually that it will make the checkout faster.

But nearly all of the information we ask for during checkout is required in order to process an order. The only extra information requested that is specifically used just to create an account is the password - and in Kartris you can set it so that if this is left blank, Kartris will create one itself.

We require the following information:

- Email address
- Name
- Billing address (street, town, county, postcode, country)
- Shipping address (street, town, county, postcode, country)
- Telephone number

'Company' is optional, so can be skipped if the user wants to.

Even if it was possible to conduct your business without some of this information, the user would still be required to give it when they get to the payment gateway because virtually all payment gateways require all this information in order to process a credit card payment. So there is no time saving at all.

Another reason that is sometimes given (often as a come-back to the above) is that customers wish to avoid having accounts for privacy reasons. Yet in most jurisdictions, businesses are obliged by law to retain details of purchases for several years, regardless. Whether an account is created or not is of no consequence. If you use the internet to purchase goods, the site must record this, and the company running the site must retain this information.

The exception is payment with Bitcoin - if you sell downloads so do not need a delivery street address, then Bitcoin does not require personal details to process transactions. In this case, you can therefore set your store up to not require anything other than an email address (and password) from the user.

Despite the above, we do still find cases where people insist regardless on 'guest' or 'account free' checkouts. This seems perhaps to be based on a misunderstanding - some e-commerce sites force you to sign in or create an account in order to add items to the basket, start the checkout process or even just view the products for sale, so the process does get in the way of the user. But as detailed above, in Kartris the process would really be no different whether an account is created or not, because the same information would be required at the same point regardless.

In practice, the information normally collected is vital to smooth operation of a store. Collecting both email and phone number gives you alternative methods of contact; very useful if mail to a customer bounces because their mailbox is full (it happens to us all the time), or because customers quite often manage to give incorrect email addresses (twice!).

Of course, returning customers do get the benefit of the customer account - they don't need to rekey most of their information, only select shipping options.

Reducing checkout steps?

Another request to speed up or streamline the checkout process is to change the order of the steps in the checkout, or combine them into a single page, or sometimes to move fields from one step to another.

The checkout process is broken up in the way it is because subsequent steps rely on information from previous steps. For example, on the first stage we ask for an email address - this is done so we can check whether an account exists or not.

On the next step, we collect the billing country, the shipping country and the shipping postcode, as well as EU VAT number if applicable. Only with this information can we determine which types of shipping are available and the prices for it (postcode is used by real-time shipping systems, although not the banded system).

With all this information, we can price an order, determine the tax on it, and then collect the final information from the user.

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