10 Commandments of Quality Shopping Cart and Its Checkout

When tasked with optimizing ecommerce site, many of efforts will be included in the entire project. At the same time, if we start with the main objective of the site, which is to sell, it pays off to start with laying the foundation – optimizing the shopping cart and checkout flow. So what are the basics to adhere to or run a diagnostics on?

While sifting through abundant expert advice available online, these 10 principles stuck in my mind and became a valuable framework:

1. Shopping cart as an icon - must be visible at all times to help users go smoothly throughout the shopping experience. It should provide the customers with options to make a decision at any moment they are ready, at a search page, at a product page and more.

2. Action to add to cart – must be visible too. But make sure that action will not send your customer away from the current page (be that search or other), you want them be “on the same journey”. Usually, AJAX allows that to happen. It also helps to somehow visibly note that the addition just took place and it was successful. The more the experience resembles in-store shopping the better your users’ online shopping experience.

3. Always disclose costs – as those are the key information a shopper needs throughout the evaluation process of other items to add. If not shown, you cart might trigger confusion and proclivity to be abandoned. You do not want that, do you? This one especially relates to shipping costs and tax details that might very much change the shoppers’ desire to have the item.

4. Provide control to your online shoppers, with tools for “save for later”, “wishlist”, “email a friend”, “share’ and “print” to prevent the abandonment caused by the total high price or unexpected shipping costs (# 1 reason of abandonment) or some other reason. You can even add options of color change, functionality upgrade right at that moment. It would also pay off if you enable them with multiple shipping and billing functions, email the order confirmation themselves, split the order into multiple shipment groups and on.

5. Show any loyalty programs benefits and build the relationship. Re-assure your shoppers on the future benefits they will get while buying from you. Who would ever want to leave your cart after that?

6. Make customer help obvious, prominent, and usable – if you have a “click to chat” option – make sure it works flawlessly and there is someone there to be for the customer 24/7. Show other alternatives to answer last minute questions that could be so minor, but so influential to contribute to your sale. Explain within the UI (ability to hover over as an example) the shipping charges and return policies. Be generous with service and information upfront.

7. Throughout the checkout experience, make sure your customers know at all times where they are – make sure the visual cues are consistent in the main navigation and in the checkout pages. Imagine yourself in the real store, where top signs say “Bedding” and you find yourself clearly in the “Cleaning Supplies” aisle.

8. Provide “smart” links, popups with clear messaging on free shipping, gift cards, coupons and ways to save before shoppers confirm the order. Make the online experience thrilling and enjoyable when users see that they can save and get a deal. Promotions are highly effective in driving order completion. Place those properly at various points. Make them easily visible (above the fold).  Make sure that users can also go back and change the coupon codes. Do not deactivate that option once they added one coupon and it appeared incorrect. This pet peeve of mine sent me away from the sale so many times!

9. Use conventional user-friendly icons and nomenclature – make it easy for us to shop. Do not teach us a new way of online shopping even if you have the coolest site built on the latest technology.

10. Welcome new users without getting personal upfront – if you able to fulfill the sales without registration, please do so. First time and casual shoppers will be more inclined to complete a sale if you make it fast and low commitment for them right there. You can still capture their email (openly) by communicating future incentives if the cart was abandoned.

Wish to go beyond the top 10? Check out these great publications “eCommerce Roadmap” by Palmer Web Marketing and “20 Surefire Ways to Increase Sales Using Zen Cart” by Eric Leuenberger. Both are very worthwhile reads!