Last year's holiday season alone brought in $188.2 billion in online sales and retailers are already gearing up for another surge of orders for the upcoming 2021 season. Although preparing for this influx of orders may be top of mind for retailers, there's an often overlooked area that should be of equal importance: Turning first-time holiday shoppers into account-holding customers that keep coming back long after seasonal shopping has subsided.
Retailers have prioritized providing a fast and seamless one-click checkout experience to shoppers to help combat the rush and stress of holiday shopping. However, expanding this one-click functionality to one-click account registrations is often a huge missed opportunity, because turning guest shoppers into account-holding customers positively impacts nearly every facet of your business.
Most first-time shoppers will again opt for guest checkout this holiday season. Why? Because today's account registration process is flawed for multiple reasons. First, most require so much time, information, and effort from shoppers that they view creating an account as an obstacle to completing their purchase rather than an asset. Second, many account registration processes are done upfront and prompt shoppers to create an account before they initiate checkout rather than when they complete their purchase. By seamlessly integrating account registrations into the checkout process, retailers can ask their shoppers to simply save the information they've already inputted without creating any additional friction. Now, creating a store account will feel more like an additional perk, because not only will the shopper soon get the item they just purchased, they can also start earning rewards, get member discounts and more.
Accounts open up endless possibilities for retailers. From knowing who is browsing the site and surfacing personalized product recommendations based on their past order history to having more customer contacts through email campaigns, increasing customer accounts only increases opportunities. Plus, there is now an added sense of urgency around driving account registrations, considering that Google announced it would phase out support for third-party cookies by 2023.
In that post-cookie world, accounts will become even more critical as retailers need to replace third-party data with first-party data. Recent browser updates—such as Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), Firefox's Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP), and Google's Privacy Sandbox—change how cookies are managed and make it difficult to track a user's actions (i.e., third-party data) without the shopper explicitly being logged in. By creating more accounts (i.e., first-party data) retailers can use that information on sites that support first-party advertising and continue reaching their customers and promoting their brand when shoppers have left their site.
The benefits of turning guest shoppers into account holders are clear, but what makes accounts truly invaluable is being part of a larger network. In today's ecommerce landscape where marketplace giants like Amazon dominate, independent retailers are automatically at a disadvantage because it's almost impossible for their network of account holders to compare to these behemoths. But what if any independent retailer is able to join and share a network of shoppers, all of which have access to the same one-click checkout across any of the sites in the network? That's leveling the playing field.
Network accounts not only benefit shoppers who get a one-click checkout on any site in the network; they also bring immense value to retailers. Account holders convert at a 75% higher rate and spend 41% more than guest shoppers—a huge advantage for retailers on the network.
Whether it's Google's pending updates to third-party data management or leveling the network playing field of giant marketplaces, during the 2021 holiday season it's more critical than ever for independent retailers to prioritize customer accounts and develop long-lasting relationships with shoppers. Nevertheless, shoppers may come to your site for the first time this holiday season because of great holiday deals or because they received a personalized ad that caught their eye. But regardless of how they got there, you want to wow them with a fast and seamless experience that makes them want to come back and shop again and again.