5 Tips to Optimize Your Shopping Cart

Nov 27, 2012 9:18 PM  By

Nearly 65% of ecommerce shopping carts go unclaimed for various reasons: high shipping costs, confused messaging, distracting pop-ups, repetitive forms, or perhaps merely a desire to virtually “window shop” or price-check.

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What you really need is a streamlined and efficient shopping cart funnel that does away with errors, distractions and confusion, allowing visitors to do precisely what they came to do (and what you want them to do): make a purchase. In short, you must get out of their way, and make it as easy as possible for them to convert.

Use the onslaught of holiday traffic as an excuse to address the following five key elements of your shopping cart, which will serve you well beyond seasonal spikes:

Show them progress
Your customers have to know where they are at every step of the checkout process, and what they need to do to complete the order. Give them the instructions and information they need at the very start of the checkout process, and they’ll be more likely to stay the course.

A clean, concise progress bar at the top of the page, showing each checkout stage and highlighting which stage the shopper is currently at, is a great way to do this. Calls to action should also be as clear as possible; there should be no question as to what the next step in the process is. Aside from a link to the homepage, there should be nothing that distracts or takes shoppers away from the checkout page.

It’s all about the shipping
If you offer free or discounted shipping, make sure that’s strongly emphasized throughout the site, not just in the shopping cart. You can also set a dollar amount needed in the cart to activate free shipping—27% of shoppers are willing to add extra items to their cart just to reach free shipping thresholds. If you go this route, include messaging that tells shoppers how much more they’ll need to spend in order to qualify.

Let your customers decide how soon they want to receive their order by providing multiple shipping options. Holiday delivery schedules should be prominently displayed in the cart, so buyers can make sure their gifts arrive on time—even for those last-minute procrastinators.

Go for the upsell
By adding upsell and customization options to the checkout section, you can increase cart sizes and provide added value while keeping shoppers focused on their purchase. For example, if you are selling a laptop, offer add-ons such as pre-installed software, keyboard, a mouse, and a carrying case. Don’t, however, offer another laptop after they’ve already made their choice. You don’t want to compete with the purchases they’ve already made; you want to complement them.

Gift cards are an effective and massively popular upsell, while giftwrap and messaging options provide a nice holiday touch (According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, 81% of shoppers will purchase at least one gift card this holiday season.). For more complex or high-end items that require installation, setup, or special care, offering things like access to tech support or insurance options is another smart move.

Be in good form
Forms are an unavoidable part of the checkout process, but they often become a source of customer frustration. If a form is too long, too confusing, too invasive or insists on compulsory registration, you’re simply going to lose customers—at the very point where you could have gained them.

Guiding language and validation lets shoppers know exactly what information you need—they’re more likely to provide that info if you tell them why you’re asking. (However, too many questions that don’t pertain to the purchase may cause shoppers to bounce.) Allow for guest checkouts, auto-fill capabilities, or the option to create an account after the order is placed.

Safety in spending
When it comes to site security and pricing, never leave shoppers in doubt—especially this year when it’s said that up to 33% of online shoppers will be first-timers. They should know exactly how much they’re paying at all times, and be constantly reminded that their personal and financial information is safe with you.

Displaying a security logo or seal throughout the checkout process will reassure visitors that your site is trusted. Visual aids such as a lock or a checkmark, as well as words like “safe” and “secure”, should be prominently displayed.

Also, allow for other payment methods besides credit cards, such as Paypal, Amazon Payments or Google Checkout. And if you use promo codes, keep the information on the checkout page—if customers have to bounce around the site to go hunting for promo codes, they might not come back.

Mark Simpson is president of ecommerce personalization company Maxymiser.