Is an Account needed when checking out in osCommerce

By | August 22, 2008

Amy asks;

I’ve been trying to find out if it is necessary to have a customer create an account in order to purchase through the shopping cart.

With standard osCommerce, the answer is “yes, an account needs to be created”. However, it is simple to wrap this up as part of the checkout procedure by not mentioning the word “account”. You can remove all references of “account” in the language files – call it “profile” or somesuch instead.

In the actual checkout procedure, remove the need for the buyer to insert passwords, and instead have a checkbox saying “remember my details”. If they check the box, then send a random password by email. Streamline the checkout process by removing the “create account success” page.

So, to sum up;

Yes, an account is needed. But it is easy to make it LOOK LIKE an account is not needed.

Other Options

Of course, there are a number of contributions that address this, and they are all rubbish and pointless. I know of one that is called “Fast Easy Checkout”, which is a complete dogs dinner of code. Avoid them all, and just streamline the usual osCommerce checkout process would be my advice.

26 thoughts on “Is an Account needed when checking out in osCommerce

  1. Michael

    i know this is an oooold thread.. but this feature would also be good to consider on oscommerce 2.3.1 – since the pwa add-on is also quite messy 🙂

  2. Xpajun

    I think I would get very annoyed if I had to enter all my details every time I bought something from the same store…

    Having said that removal of having to think up passwords removal of some of the details required (do we really need to know the age and the sex of our customers (unless we’re selling adult matter, of course)

    Michael, Gary wrote a article back in July time 2009 here about tweaking your account page.

    I’m currently in the first stages of a flow chart to revamp my own customer buying experience, with my limited time to write code I might even ask the old boy here to do it 😉

  3. Steph

    I’ve had Gary redesign the checkout procedure for me, and i am really please with all the work.
    Seems like my customers are happy with it too..

    I agree with Gary that the ready made contributions are not worth it. I have tried a couple of single page checkouts that allow to order without an account, and none of them worked propperly… During the few days i tested them live, they ended up costing me more in lost sales that i’d have to pay Gary to code it from scratch.. actually several times!

  4. Michael

    Well – im agree you do not want customer to enter details every time – check the 1 page feature i have on – im not at all saying this is perfect, but i really like the way that you are made aware, that you have an account (BUT – you can still checkout without creating an account / or you can log ing).
    Something like this would be great for my oscommerce store.

    Steph – can you show me your checkout? Im really looking into the different options – i did also successfully install one of the commercial 1p checkouts available (dynamo) – updated december 2010, but in that checkout, i’d also need some improvements for it to match my needs. Oh – do you have a link to the article to which you are refering?
    Is it here on the blog?


  5. Steph

    Dynamo is ok if it worked.. and if the support was what they promised it to be..
    but still it feels like an add-on, and kind of “different” than the shop..

    I’d go with reading alot of articles about usability (simmilar to the one Michael posted) and designing a checkout procedure from scratch..
    Then have Gary make it work 😉

  6. Gary Post author

    My idea for a checkout is this;

    1. grab shipping details (create_account) – removal of un-necessary code like “date of birth”, “newsletter”, “password”, “confirmation” and so on.
    2. choose shipping method
    3. choose payment method
    4. confirm

    That’s 4 pages, 4 clicks. Nice bite size chunks of info that your customer has to give you…

    All these 1 page checkouts are great in theory, but present too much information on one page. They are intimidating.

    I -believe- though I am not sure, that a consumer has to be given the choice to back out of an order. Do the 1 page checkout systems give a confirmation page that submits the order after the client is 100% happy?

  7. Michael

    Gary –
    I like that its only 4 steps, and i think, if you in the first step asked visitor (customer):
    Email (so we can send you update when your order is shipped bla bla)

    And then IF customer already is registered, they should be asked if they want to login or not.
    This is were i am a bit stuck in regard to osc and doing something like this.

    What to do if customer chooses not to login – do we use a standard osc customer id, like the pwa contribution uses 0 or 1 for all pwa orders?
    the reason i really want to give the ability to order without login, is that sometimes customers cant remember their password..
    They dont want to wait for a temp password to be sent etc..

    Also – read your post from july 09 – about removing the password.
    What about rethinking this a little.. so instead when customer has finished his order, we then ask – “like to save your details with us, so you can checkout fast next time, and track order status etc…?”
    and then give the customer a button or something to click, which then creates an account for the customer.

    this idea could also be used for things such as newsletter etc.. so we are not distracting customer / putting obstacles in the way for completing the order.

  8. Paul

    Some nice ideas here.

    We may well keep the DoB as we do send out birthday cards and could add in to that discount codes although not sure we’re in the right business for that.

    We currently have a terms and conditions checkbox which needs to be checked to place the order. This just makes sure we’re in control in case a price is errornous etc.

    I do like the idea of minimising as much as possible as people are soo lazy! Giving the option at the end to remember them/create an account is nice too.

    With the newsletter, I feel that is quite a useful tool as email addresses are worth money, not to sell but for marketing purposes of your own goods. If you have a sale on you can tell the customer. You may be able to match up discounts on common products they buy and inform them to boost sales.

  9. Michael

    Here is my rethink of the checkout in osc 2.3.1 – let me hear your comments please.

    after click checkout->

    Send customer to a merged “your order details” page (a merge of create account and login).

    First input field will be Email adress
    first and last name
    zip, city
    possibly country

    IF customer has not shopped before, we do as Gary has suggested, and autocreate a password and send customer on email (i’d like us to wait with sending this for 5-10mins, so customer is not disturbed in the checkout process, by an email send from us).

    IF Customer has already shopped, as soon as email is entered and leaving the email input field (Through tab or mouse to new input field – we will tell customer “hey – you shopped here before, would you care to log in or do you want to buy as a guest? click here to login… (which would reveal the password input field and a login/update button).

    IF customer does not want to login they can proceede as before, but instead now the order will be completed like a “guest order” – and no email with password will be send, nor will the customer be able to see this order in their order history if they choose to login later on.

    After this – the order steps are as allways shipping and payment(i’d like these in 1 page), and order confirmation page with terms and conditions, finsihed (or send to payment processor).

    What do you all think?

  10. Michael

    right -this is exactly what i was thinking.. doing it like that would be great!
    of course you would need some fallback if java is disabled, but i guess that goes without saying 🙂

  11. Bill

    What is the latest on guest checkout in OSC 2.3? Does anyone actually have the code to allow a guest to purchase without login?

    I’ve spent hours today trying add-ons.

  12. Gary Post author

    Does not exist. What is a “guest checkout” anyway? You need to collect information from the customer in order to facilitate their order. Why not just do that, but make the wording of the usual oscommerce checkout a little less intimidating.

  13. Isa

    Very interesting thread and I like some of the ideas to simplify checkout. 🙂
    I have one particular customer who absolutely refuses to enter her details into any online form, nothing I may say will make her change her mind. Talking to people here in Switzerland I realize quite a few share the same view and are generally scared of ordering online.
    I can only take this kind of order by phone/fax, so I was thinking, after customer adds something to the cart they hit “checkout” and are taken to login.php and see “new customer…create an account, etc” or “existing customer…please log in, etc”, so what about adding a table underneath there with text that says “I want to order by fax” or similar, and the link takes them to a printable page with the product details and the shop’s details, and blank spaces for their details, they print that page, fill it in by hand and fax it. I hope I make sense, lol.
    What do you think of that option and is it doable?

  14. enigma1

    There are many ways to facilitate a no-account checkout. For instance if you use paypal, google etc gateways you could ask the client to enter the country/state only, so you can calculate shipping and then redirect them to the gateway with the total amount.

    The api of the payment processors usually includes methods to include callback handlers thus recording the order in the osc database. Google in particular sends a callback message to your server after the client enters his info on the google server to retrieve shipping costs.

    There are also various single page checkout modules I am sure some are in the contributions although most of the time hard to integrate, they can be customized and simplify the checkout.

  15. Isa

    thanks for the suggestions.
    I forgot to mention that this particular customer not only refuses to fill in any online form, she also refuses all online payment options and is against credit cards and paypal.
    What she wants is to look at the shop, choose her products, fax or phone her order and pay with a bank transfer (though not online but by going to the bank herself). If those reading think this is a joke, trust me, it isn’t. 🙁
    She has already placed her orders by phone or fax, so that’s fine, but in view of other customers that might be scared by the online shopping experience, the login.php page, etc, I was thinking of having a printable page that they can then fax me, rather than risk losing them.

  16. enigma1

    I believe the cod or moneyorder payment modules do just that. The moneyorder has an input box to place instructions how the customer can pay.

    You still need the code to give an option for a no-account checkout though. That could be accomplished by changing the checkout process to accept the order even if someone isn’t logged in. That’s the main part. The rest are layout mods but straight forward to show a button/description for this checkout option.

    I believe there are some contributions like shipping estimators that can retrieve the shipping costs, you have the cart’s total and then any discount, coupon, tax etc, could be displayed in a separate checkout page that can serve this purpose.

    Because even if you display a single static page for them to fax there may be problems with the total amount.

    (for shipping, tax, discount etc to be calculated the customer needs to do some selections).

  17. Isa

    You’re right, I hadn’t considered the shipping problem. This is giving me a headache lol.
    How can the shop estimate a shipping cost if they won’t enter any shipping address to start with?
    I guess the only way to deal with it is they contact me with what product they want through phone/fax and I get back to them with shipping costs and total.

  18. enigma1

    You can calculate the shipping because the customer will select the country and state and perhaps enter a zipcode. Almost all carriers need just that, and you get accurate real-time shipping quotes. If you don’t use an external carrier then it’s even easier as you know the shipping cost from the store’s dependencies (static, table-driven etc).

  19. Isa

    I see, that takes care of calculating a shipping cost, but then I still need to get hold of their shipping address so they are still gonna have to contact me in another way, unless I’m missing something.
    I only use flat rate shipping.
    So I’m thinking if they have a printable page that pops up, can that page be made to already contain shipping (provided they can enter a destination country before that stage), or, could that page contain a drop down or similar so they select shipping themselves?
    Still very unsure how best to tackle this problem.

  20. enigma1

    Yes obviously at some point they need to provide the street address, name etc details. But that’s the easy part if they just fax the info or call you up.

    The whole idea behind it is to have a mechanism of binding order details to a potential customer for later use along with the various totals. Since the order will be recorded in the database it will have an identifier therefore you could ask the customer to provide it as a reference, when they send you the fax or snail-mail with the check.

    When recorded, the order itself could be set with a default customer name like “new customer” and the order status to something like “awaiting info” so you it’s a special type of order. The address street details and names will be missing initially, but with an order editor you could set them up once you get the customer details (if that is required).

  21. Isa

    Trying to see it from the customer’s viewpoint, I assume someone who refuses to enter their details online supposedly doesn’t want their details stored in any database, so I wonder how ethical it is to store their details anyway.
    I’m just trying to take into account everybody’s wishes (mine as the seller and the customer’s) and see what the best solution is for all parties involved. The whole thing proves to be more complicated than I had anticipated :D.

  22. Tarah Wolff

    Hi guys, I noticed this thread and thought I might pose an inquiry? I have a client with an oscommerce site which I just set up. The reason I chose OSC is simple: my client has an insane, ridiculous and totally obscene shipping cost calculation for her products that I have had to translate into table based shipping (it is the only shipping module I’ve found that will work with her calculations…). If not for her insistence on shipping costs I would probably just be using paypal checkout buttons for her website. She doesn’t have very many products and using something like OSCommerce is just plain silly (so far above the call of duty its just insane), very few customers will be coming back for more purchases and almost none of them want to setup an account on my client’s website (my client is claiming their losing “all of their” business right now because customers have to make an account).

    My question is, how feasible is it to bypass customer registration and just move them on to paypal? (paypal is the only payment gateway we will be using) I tried doing it with an earlier version of my client’s site where I bypassed all of the customer registration crap and moved customers directly on to Paypal Express, that all worked great except Paypal didn’t get any of the order details so my client was having to login to her OSC website to get the order details and then log back in to her paypal account to print out the shipping labels because all paypal received was the order total amount.

    I found an add on that sends the order details when using paypal standard but just couldn’t wrap my brain around getting those mods to work for paypal express. On top of that it seems paypal express will only work if customers sign up for a paypal account, something my client also doesn’t want to be happening. Does anyone here have any ideas? If I could just figure out how to get paypal express to send the order details to paypal that might be my best solution. Thanks guys!

  23. Gary Post author

    Hi Tarah, they need to take customer details to process the order. I suggest therefore that you remove all the unnecessary stuff from the create_account form, and rename the “account” things to something like “profile” or such. In other words, make it less in your face.

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