Boost Sales with an Optimised Shopping Cart

Paul Bullock

Published Tue 12 Aug by Paul Bullock in Perfecting Your Website's Design

E-commerce is a growing online phenomenon showing no signs of slowing down. What seems like a simple linear process to the checkout to purchase items is actually full of user experience pitfalls - avoid the those pitfalls.

E-commerce is a growing online phenomenon showing no signs of slowing down. What seems like a simple linear process to the checkout to purchase items is actually full of user experience pitfalls. 

Research conducted by Nielsen Norman Group has shown that even the humble e-commerce shopping cart is not used as traditionally intended by developers. NNG found that "Many shoppers use the cart as a holding area, to collect items they’re considering, but aren’t yet convinced they want or need to buy. The cart often acts like a dressing room in a clothing store - a spot where users consider items and make final decisions. " The shopping cart therefore needs to be more than a list of collected items. It needs to assist shoppers in making their final decisions.

Four of the most important features your shopping cart needs to ensure maximum conversion rates are:

1. Have Access To A Full Shopping Cart

Ensure there is a page leading up to the checkout that displays the full cart. This helps users with their final purchase decisions. They can review their selections, compare items and details and even use this page to try to qualify for discounts.

Many sites will include minicarts. However these are a poor substitute for a full page cart display, being smaller with fewer items visible to the user at one time. This means the user has to work harder to make comparisons between items as they will have to scroll the small area. 

2. Clear Product Image And List Details

As customers will make their final purchase decisions in the cart it is important to give them a good visual summary of the items they have chosen. Product images should be large enough to differentiate items that are similar. All product details such as size, colour and price should be clearly visible. This allows for easy comparison shopping.

3. Clear Links To Product Page

Customers frequently want to review their purchase decisions in more detail. For this reason it's important to allow customers easy access to the product page from the cart. Including a link from both the product name and image in the cart to the product page is the most intuitive way to achieve this. Ensure that customers are aware that the links exist by using a different colour or text presentation for the links.

4. Easy To Remove Items

As we have already covered, many customers use the cart as a holding area for items they are still considering or simply to compare. With this in mind, customers should always be able to easily remove items from the cart. This may seem counter-intuitive to the goal of an E-commerce site but not including such a vital feature will only result in frustrated customers leaving without a purchase. 

Ensure customers understand how to remove unwanted items with a clear button or link. Using something like "Remove Item" is more effective than "Delete" as delete doesn't usually refer to shopping. Some customers also want to set the quantity to 0 as a way of removing items. Many sites don't allow this and return an error message. E-commerce sites should allow users to set the quantity to 0 as an alternate method.

The shopping cart is a frequently overlooked part of an E-commerce site. However it's only one part of a site where all aspects should be considered on a site devoted to selling.

Got a question or a comment to make about this article? Use the comments section below, or visit our ask an expert page!

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