Mobile Commerce

Should Retailers Require Mobile Shoppers To Log In?

The seamless path to purchase has become the new Holy Grail of mobile commerce. In many ways, this has become a race to see who can bend over backwards the furthest to meet consumers on the level that they seem most comfortable buying at.

And it’s consumer-centric policies like this that have given rise to a stark divide in the burgeoning mobile commerce space: Should retailers force customers to register accounts and log in for purchases and the personalization that comes with it? Or do the ironclad principles of the frictionless path to purchase dictate guest checkout options wherever possible?

That was the focus of Moovweb’s latest study, and while conventional mobile commerce wisdom might point to flexibility as the ultimate tool in a retailer’s bag of cart abandonment avoidance tricks, the answer might not be so simple. Among the top 500 online retailers, just over a third require customers to log in to complete their orders, but analysis of 1.8 million browsing and eventual purchasing sessions on mobile revealed that conversion rates hardly differed between logged-in shoppers and those who opted to stay anonymous via guest checkout.

Where the two paths to purchase did differ was in average order value. Mobile shoppers who either registered their accounts at the point of sale or logged into existing ones generated 10 percent higher average order values than their counterparts. The logic seems simple enough: With access to customers’ purchasing histories and preferences, mobile retailers have more data to pull on when recommending add-on products and other upsells.

Nothing is that simple in retail, though, and that’s doubly so for mobile. While logged-in users might spend more per order, the average mobile shopper is 1.2 times more likely to choose guest checkout, and overall revenue split decidedly (53 percent to 47 percent) in favor of those who placed orders without registering accounts.

It all seems counterintuitive: Guest checkouts require users to enter payment and shipping information every time, an onerous task on mobile, but not only do customers prefer this to giving retailers access to their personal information and shopping history but the sheer number of them avoiding registered purchases comprises the lion’s share of the profit to be had on mobile.

But what if the experience of logging in on mobile isn’t quite as frictionless as its ideal would suggest? While the average conversion rate for both logged-in and guest checkouts are comparable, the latter experience is more uniform for most retailers by its inherent uninvolved nature. Registered transactions, however, are subject to the whims and Web design of individual brands, and Moovweb found that, among retailers with lower-than-average conversion rates for logged-in shoppers, shoppers were still forced to progress through shipping and payment pages, whether their information was already saved and pre-filled into the appropriate slots or not.

It’s a dynamic that desktop commerce is all too familiar with: If consumers are going to sign over access to their personal information, the implicit agreement is that they’re getting something back — be it discounts, early-bird deals or just a more convenient checkout process. If logged-in mobile shoppers are still made to put up with the drudgery of clicking through multiple checkout pages, it’s an unwelcome and conversion-lowering reminder that they’ve given away something for next to nothing.

Why wouldn’t mobile shoppers opt to maintain what privacy they can with guest checkout instead?

Whenever possible, mobile retailers need to eliminate the small but frustrating need for customers to click through pre-filled shipping and payment pages. For giants like Amazon and Walmart that have the inertia and standing to require all shoppers to log in before checking out, access to saved personal information is nearly ubiquitous. But what about for the smaller retailers that have no choice but to offer flexible checkout options and put themselves at the mercy of varying conversion rates lest customers start abandoning carts en masse?

It might be a situation where retailers need to bend over backwards even further for a checkout process that provides as few speedbumps for either type of shopper, though targeted interventions, like hosted payment forms, can take some of the heavy lifting off merchants’ digital shoulders. This was a point of emphasis for BlueSnap CEO Ralph Dangelmaier at PYMNTS’ Innovation Project 2016, in that merchants can preserve the optimized user interface of a checkout process that shepherds mobile shoppers briskly along without compromising on security.

And if mobile shoppers who prefer guest checkout are weighing the disclosure of personal information against the convenience they’re delivered during the process, a tokenized hosted payments solution with protected yet retrievable information might be just the trick for providing a seamless experience for whichever checkout process mobile consumers choose.

Especially if it seems like digital conversion rates seem to be heading in the opposite direction.


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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

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