Retailers Should Put the Shopping Cart Before The Horse

There are any number of strategies retailers can employ to shape ideal shopping experiences that vary according to target markets and specific product categories; but regardless of what any particular shopping journey looks like, it ultimately lives and dies by the checkout process. Shopping carts are not simply tools for conversion. They can literally make or break a retailer.

Shopping carts are not commodities and are not all created equally. Just like their counterparts in the physical world, there are features that make some carts more user friendly and likely to convert than others.

Just think about the last time you went grocery shopping. If the shopping cart you were pushing around the store had a wobbly wheel or made an annoying squeak, you probably took it back and got a new one. But if there was a very similar grocery store right next door that had brand new carts that were lightweight, held more items, and rolled smoothly, you might have just said, “forget this whole joint!” and gone to the store with the good carts.

The same principle applies to ecommerce. A smooth checkout process is vital to keeping shoppers happy while a sluggish or otherwise annoying one presents an unnecessary hurdle to conversion. And if a cart is broken, you can’t just get a new one — but you can very easily go to a competing site.

When selecting an ecommerce platform, retailers may place shopping cart features and user experience below other considerations, but think about this: the vendor providing shopping cart technology is completely invisible to end users. Any hiccup that detracts from the shopping experience is a direct reflection of the retailer in the eyes of shoppers. Therefore, a wise retailer considers shopping cart experience a direct aspect of its own promised service level to customers.

Just like not every grocery store has the same type of needs for its carts, each online retailer may place a different importance on certain specific features. However, there are some universal truths that are good starting points to ensure that the shopping cart aids customers their journeys to conversion.

The following three shopping cart features provide excellent foundations to satisfy customer expectations and keep them spending with you.

Allow guest checkout

Shopping carts that force customers to create profiles add superfluous steps and provide ample abandonment opportunities. For a customer who wants to make a quick purchase, entering more information than absolutely necessary quickly becomes frustrating. When shoppers are forced to create profiles, come up with passwords that have complex requirements, await e-mail confirmation, and so on, they are more likely to simply give up and make the purchase from a less cumbersome site.

This is not to say that profiles are necessarily bad. For repeat customers, filling out information one time and having access to it on subsequent visits is a convenience. The solution is to offer both options to appeal to various types of shoppers.

Integrate with express checkout options

Third party checkout solutions like PayPal and Checkout by Amazon continue to increase in popularity with online shoppers because they offer two big advantages: convenience and security. Sites that integrate these services offer shoppers the opportunity to purchase any item using only the logins associated with them without having to enter credit card information. This simplifies online purchases by eliminating the need to remember multiple logins and passwords and recent high profile data breaches have spooked many consumers out of providing credit card information to more sources than necessary.

Used for years on sites like eBay and Amazon, these services have set convenience and security benchmarks that many online shoppers will not sacrifice, so failure to integrate them into your shopping cart can handicap conversion rates with savvy shoppers.

Abandoned cart monitoring

It happens even to shoppers with the best intentions — sometimes, something gets in the way of completing an online purchase. It could be due to a distraction, an internet service disruption, or a change of heart. No matter what causes shopping cart abandonment, a certain percentage of these instances are recoverable when proactive action is taken by the retailer.

Simple e-mail reminders or incentives like coupon codes can lure shoppers back to complete abandoned transactions — but shopping cart software must support abandonment data. One of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make is to assume an abandoned shopping cart is lost forever. Shopping carts that quickly alert retailers to abandonment are key, and many can even be set up to automatically take predetermined recovery action to bring customers back.

The humble shopping cart may be the last bit of technology to touch customers on shopping sites, but it is one of the most important. Have you ever left a cart full of items at a store because the lines to check out were too long and slow moving? A bad digital shopping cart can similarly negate an otherwise positive shopping experience and result in lost revenue, so it makes sense to consider it a vital aspect of your brand.

Michele Salerno is Director of Marketing at Celerant Technology

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