10 Steps to Better Shopping Cart Usability

How to keep smart shoppers happy and provide them with a thorough, yet user-friendly online shopping experience.

Normally, we don’t recommend shopping carts to our users, because we see the highest conversion rate on sales letter landing pages. However, we realize that many publishers have too large of an inventory and feel that shopping carts work for them. That’s why today we’re talking about shopping cart optimization.

Now, shopping carts have a reputation for high abandon rates (50-75%!), but that’s likely because the user is adding a product to the shopping cart for reasons other than to buy the product. For instance, if your price isn’t clearly stated, a user might add it to his cart to find out the price. Or perhaps a user is only adding a product to their cart for price comparison and research.

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What you need to focus on is how to keep actual customers in your order flow, so here is a list of shopping cart optimization guidelines to follow:

Keep it organized. Like you would anywhere else on your site, always let the user know where they are by using things like large headlines for shopping categories and breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs let users know how far they’ve gotten into your site as well as where they’ve come from and how to get back. Also, allow users to “view all results” if they choose, instead of sifting through your pages.

Keep everything important above the fold. This includes contact information, search function, and shopping cart button so that they can check the status and inventory of their cart.

Work on your buttons. Make an easily recognizable button with a shopping cart on it that does not imply that they need to immediately purchase the item, by saying “add to cart” or “add to order” instead of “Buy now”.

Don’t ask them to commit. Same thing… if you are the owner of a shoe store, do you require people to show a copy of their birth certificate and a lock of their hair before trying on shoes? Of course you don’t. So, asking people to register before they are able to use a shopping cart, whether they are comparison-shopping, or legitimately looking to buy is a big no-no.

Provide shopping cart content feedback. When someone adds something to your cart, make sure that they are seeing that it has been added. This can be achieved by showing users a “mini-cart” at the top of the page, or by bringing them to the cart. The trick with bringing them to the cart, though, is that you MUST provide them a link that brings them back to EXACTLY what they were doing before the add.

Tell them how much it costs to ship. The further a user gets into an order flow before they reach the total price including shipping, the more drop-offs you are going to get. Your best bet is to let them know BEFORE they are asked to enter all of their personal and billing information, because no one wants to do all that work before they know what they’re getting into. Users generally enjoy a good “free shipping” deal, but if you’re trying to cover costs, make sure that they know about it upfront.

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Don’t interrupt your customers. If you worked at a shoe store, would you run up to a customer in the middle of deciding to purchase a pair of size 12’s, and yell at them to buy socks? No, that’s confusing… and irritating. If you are offering to up sell accessories or complimentary products, wait until after the product has been added and acknowledged by the customer. Wait until they’re ready to do more browsing.

Let them experience buyer’s remorse. Removing an item from the shopping cart should be an easy, seamless process. According to a 2007 usability study by the Software Usability Research Lab at Wichita State University, the two most intuitive (and popular) methods for removing items from the card are “Remove/Delete” links (42%) under or next to the item on the shopping cart or a “Remove/Delete” button (33%) next to the item. Still, many shopping carts ask the user to update the item quantity to zero and then hit an “update” button, which is far less intuitive.

Be secure. Users can easily identify a secure or non-secure page on a website these days by the secure symbol up in the browser bar. Make sure that your payment processing is secure and if you are telling users that it is, make sure the symbol is showing up. Also, for added credibility, show users your SSL certificate information and security badge at the bottom or top of every page.

Follow up appropriately. On your confirmation page and follow-up email, make sure that you provide the user with as many details about the transaction as you can. This will give users the acknowledgement of the completed order as well as reducing follow-up customer service calls.

Overall, using tricks and blindsiding people with ways to get as much as you can from them before they make a purchase is not very user-friendly, and your main objective in shopping cart optimization should be to give your customer the easiest online shopping experience that you can.

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