At the dawning of the new millennium, online commerce was still very much in its infancy. Over the course of the last thirteen years, however, technology has revolutionized ecommerce. The majority of internet users are now extremely tech savvy when it comes to shopping. Consumers know what to expect from a legitimate online store, and the quality of a site’s shopping cart is a key factor in determining their buying habits.
Usability and the Online Shopping Cart
Of all the things to consider when designing your online store, the smoothness and efficiency of its shopping cart should always take precedence. Although all designers strive for it, the importance of usability is amplified tenfold on ecommerce sites. A small glitch or the absence of a common feature is enough to cause a visitor to hit the back button.
Sadly, many businesses fail to realize the importance of a streamlined shopping cart. It’s been reported that nearly 60% of online shoppers abandon their cart before making a purchase. Although virtual window shopping can be blamed for some of this, the inability to keep visitors engaged throughout the browsing experience is also a huge culprit.
The Importance of Email
Tech savvy users expect their shopping cart to be secure, but they don’t want to be hassled with complicated user names. As far as customers are concerned, it’s just one more thing they have to remember. A much better solution is to replace usernames with email addresses. This avoids frustrating consumers with a needless drain on their mental resources.
You can also have customers login with their Facebook account to securely access their shopping cart. This streamlines the login process even more, but still provides security. Groupon is a great example of a website that uses a streamlined Facebook login.
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Credibility, Order Review and Returns
Establishing credibility in the mind of a visitor is the goal of all successful ecommerce sites. Although online business is booming, many customers still remain wary of trusting strangers with sensitive information. Every detail of your site should radiate legitimacy, and this is especially true for a shopping cart. If you have a new ecommerce business that customers aren’t familiar with yet, you should use trusted payment sites like PayPal.
Another option is to use Amazon’s ecommerce platform, which gives users the option of “checkout with Amazon,” as you can see in the example below. You can read Amazon’s case studies for more information about how you can implement Amazon checkout in your shopping cart.
The order confirmation page tends to be where most users get cold feet and abandon their shopping cart. For this reason, it’s important to place high quality copy that reassures buyers of the safety and credibility of the transaction.
Ensure all items in the cart are clearly listed for the customer to review. This allows customers to feel secure in knowing exactly what is being purchased. Once a visitor decides to make a purchase, your shopping cart needs to gently guide them along every step of the way.
Buyer’s remorse is something many consumers are familiar with. People hate being stuck with a bad decision, and this is why a clear return policy should be prominently displayed on the shopping cart page. Failure to have a visible link to your return policy will result in decreased legitimacy and higher abandonment rates.
Zappos does a great job of incorporating all of these elements:
• On-page copy that assures customers of Zappos’ trustworthiness
• All items are listed for review and can be easily removed from the cart
• The return policy and shipping information is listed, as well as a link customers can click to learn more about Zappos’ policies.
Transparency, Free Shipping and Returns
Transparency is a key ingredient of all good ecommerce sites. Surprising a visitor with unexpected charges is the quickest way to lose a customer for life. A survey conducted in 2010 revealed that last minute additional charges caused 49% of respondents to abandon their shopping cart. This demonstrates why it is crucial to provide an accurate estimate of charges.
All taxes and additional fees must be fully explained and understood by shoppers. For example, Amazon handles this by making available a convenient tool for calculating sales tax and shipping costs. This is great for avoiding nasty surprises that lead to negative reviews and angry calls to customer service.
Excessive shipping costs are responsible for up to 44% of purchase abandonment. For this reason, free shipping has become a permanent option for many ecommerce sites, as you can see in the Amazon example above. In fact, 73% of online consumers are under the expectation of free or flat shipping rates. In a survey of shoppers, 93% of respondents said they are likely to make repeat purchases if free shipping is made available.
Your shopping cart is the lifeblood of your ecommerce site. The way it is designed and implemented will greatly affect the shopping habits of your visitors. You would be wise to avoid throwing one together haphazardly.