I am trying to decide if I should allow customers to purchase products from my website without creating an account. Is this a good idea or common practice?
I do not require any "account" from my clients, and as a user I resent being required to do so. There's no benefit to me to "create" an account other than to become advertising fodder.
That said - it really depends on how much you need the information for your marketing purposes.
It is a good idea not to require a registration BEFORE people can view or select items to purchase.
Once someone decides to make a purchase, they will have to enter their credit card information and you can capture name and email by giving them the option of registering.
More ecommerce sites are using that "payment information" form as a means to capture login infomation... so the user does not have to complete a separate form.
I know a lot of people who get turned off to a site that requires preregistration. It's an obstacle that can chase people away from a site.
No, I wouldn't require registration before buying, but you can always put an opt-in form on your site for people who are interested in receiving updates on any upcoming specials you have to offer.
That way you maintain a list who volunteers to receive information from you, and you build a long term relationship with these customers who come back for more.
I a gree with gowriter.
Have it as an option. If the customer wants to be a repeat customer, it's easier for them so they don't have to keep entering their information. They also might want to sign up to a newsletter or mailing list. Most people will close the site if it requires them to signup. I know I would.
This new checkout system has, one page for the gathering of the shipping/billing info (login if an account already) creates the account and sends the user to the shipping/payment page. Here they are allowed to edit the addresses for billing and shipping and select the shipping method and payment method, third page is the standard confirmation page. click it and complete.