How-To Optimize the Shopping Cart Experience

Optimize shopping cart experienceIf you have an ecommerce site, you know how important conversion rates are to your bottom line. Getting qualified visitors to your site is hard enough, so here are some tips to help you both improve your ecommerce site’s checkout process and decrease the number of customer exits.

Keep the Checkout Process Simple and Painless. Make things easy for people who want to buy from you.  Consider the following:

  1. Include a step-by-step update of the checkout process at the top of each page of your cart (“Sign in,” “Shipping/Payment,” “Gift Wrap,” “Review Order,” “Place Order,” etc.).  Make sure people can move back and forth between these steps and edit whatever information they want and the other information is not lost.
  2. Don’t use a third party shopping cart unless you have to.
  3. Make error messages easy to find.  If someone makes a mistake on your checkout form, easily flag and prominently display the error.
  4. Give shoppers the option to register or to continue as a guest purchaser.  If you want them to register, ask again after they complete their order.  If you insist on shoppers registering before they make a purchase, don’t make them create one of those CIA level passwords with uppercase, lowercase, a number, a special character, etc. They want to buy something so don’t discourage them. Alternatively, use Facebook Connect so customers can log in with their Facebook profiles. Then they won’t need another username and password.
  5. Billing/Payment Screen:
    • Keep it simple. Allow customers to click a box so that their ship to and bill to addresses are the same. That way they don’t have to type in the same information twice.
    • If they do submit an error, keep the information they just keyed in so that they don’t have to re-input the entire screen of data again.
  6. Shopping Cart:
    • Anyone can make a mistake when ordering. Show customers what step of the process they are in, make it easy for them to edit any screen during the process and be sure the form retains information they have already entered.
    • If you can, add a small icon to the shopping cart on all the pages of your site, maybe in the global header, showing how many items are in the cart. Make it easy for customers to edit the cart from any page of the site.
  7. Web Analytics:
    • There are several great analytics tools on the market to help you measure your ecommerce site performance and, in particular, your shopping cart metrics. Google analytics, for example, has wonderful features in this regard. You can set up a funnel visualization report and see the exit rate at different steps in your process. You can also use their “In-Page” analytics report to study, on each page of your cart, what features were clicked on the most and least and make adjustments accordingly.

Above all, keep the process simple and easy for your customers. It may be more work for you to get everything set up properly but, by focusing on your customers and their experience, you will end up with happy customers who return again and again to your site.

Jay Wilner is managing partner at Out of Bounds Communications, a digital marketing agency specializing in ecommerce marketing for small and medium sized online retailers. Jay has helped numerous companies grow their online businesses with strategically designed digital marketing programs. He previously started and ran a venture capital backed ecommerce agency, partnering closely with IBM and other large companies on ecommerce projects during the 1990′s dot com boom. Jay has an MBA from the University of Kansas and an M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Missouri. Follow Jay and Out of Bounds on Twitter, Facebook, and the company’s digital marketing blog.