Most online retailers of age-restricted products know that they need to verify the age of their customers in order to complete a sale. But many don’t do it in a way that reduces the risk of selling to underage customers significantly enough to be reliable. Simply put, most people use an age gate rather than actually verifying the age of their customers at checkout. In this article, we’ll review what an age gate is, what age verification is, how they differ, and evaluate which is better for these online retailers to utilize.
What is an “Age Gate?”
An “Age Gate” is a simple yes-or-no-style click-through, typically found when a customer first reaches a website selling age-restricted products. It may ask, “Are you 21 or more years old?” and have a button for “Yes” or a button for “No.” It could also ask, “How old are you?” with one button stating “I am 21 or older” and the other stating “I am under 21.” The number could vary depending on the products being sold and the regulations applicable to those products, but the point is this: it is way too easy to click the affirmative button and proceed to the online store. The Age Gate relies entirely on the honesty policy and - let’s be honest - no underage customer seeking to purchase age-restricted products has been honest about being underage. The Age Gate alone has no method of actually verifying the age of the customer.
What is “Age Verification?”
Comparably, “Age Verification” is a process by which customer information is securely reviewed against reliable data sources (like governmental identity data) - sometimes in conjunction with government identification documentation and biometric scans - to better understand who your customer is and that they are of legal age to purchase age-restricted products. While this does require the customer to make a few extra clicks to complete their order, this process usually takes place within the checkout experience, reducing the likelihood of cart abandonment. Additionally, it is typically performed by a third-party that makes their branding, data privacy, and other policies transparent to reduce customer concern. Overall, “Age Verification” significantly reduces the risk of selling to underage customers and does not negatively impact the performance of the online store.
Which Should You Use and Why?
Trick Question! The answer is both!
Whether you are selling hemp-based products (e.g. CBD or Delta-8), vaporizers, and/or nicotine products, alcohol, or other age-regulated products, there are various requirements that must be met regarding the age of your customers. In all cases, you are required to have an Age Gate whenever a customer first arrives on your website. In most cases, some additional form of Age Verification is required. And, in some cases, the Age Verification must be performed by a third-party (e.g. selling vapes online to Michigan, Mississippi, and more).
In the cases where Age Verification requirements are not explicitly identified by a governing body, the penalties for selling to underage customers are so severe they can shut down a business immediately and for good. In extreme cases, Owners and Operators can even serve jail time and gain a criminal record. Compared to the few hundred dollars you may spend a month on an Age Verification service from a third-party, the choice becomes obvious - partner with an Age Verification service provider that knows your industry well and is dedicated to continuously improving their service to fit the changing legal landscape and additional needs of your business.
Check out Token of Trust to learn more about our Age Verification at Checkout Service, as well as our other beneficial offerings.