E-commerce: How your peers optimize shopping carts and product pages
How often have you placed an item in your shopping cart in a bricks and mortar store, a can of green beans for example, and then changed your mind before you forked over the cash and put those green beans back on the shelf without buying?
How about online? Ever drop something in the ol’ virtual shopping cart, but change your mind and decide not to buy?
If you’re like me, it’s very rare for you to change your mind in a physical store, but I do it online all the time. Why? And how can you reduce shopping cart abandonment and improve product pages on your own site? There is no one right answer to these very difficult questions, but we’re going to be sharing our latest research discoveries today at 4 p.m. EDT in our latest free Web clinic – Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire e-commerce website.
But first, we asked your peers these vexing questions. Below are a few of our favorite responses…
Five factors to optimize
Shopping cart conversion rates and success of the order checkout process depends on many business-specific factors, such as type of products, overall e-commerce site quality, maturity of the business, and transparency and visibility of shipping, return and security policies.
There are requirements which are de facto standard for any e-commerce web site, such as overall performance (order checkout forms must load under 10 seconds and a shopping cart that should work when cookies are disabled.
But there are also some tricks which can improve shopping cart conversion rates, such as:
1. Keep promoting items in the basket list
Always display an image thumbnail of the product/service in the basket list. That alone can cut the cart abandonment rate in half. Display the time and date when an item is added. In the case of price reduction or promotion/discount – always display how much money will be saved.
2. Security, Payment, Shipping.
Answers to four main questions are critical:
- How secure and private is the order checkout?
- What payment methods are accepted?
- Where can the items can be shipped?
- What is the cost of the shipping?
These answers must be clearly and visually presented on every page of the e-commerce site (in the footer) and in the basket page next to the order checkout button (icons of the SSL certificate provider, accepted payment methods, and shipping carriers with pop-up shipping rate cards usually does the trick).
3. Keep your basket and order checkout simple.
Avoid AJAX, Flash, etc. You have already impressed a visitor to the extent that he or she wants to buy something from you. Don’t risk losing the sale, because your visitor might be using an older browser or specific device, which doesn’t support your “cool” features.
4. Less distraction – prompt to action.
Show cross- or up-sell products in the basket with enough information to make a purchase decision and add them to the basket without the need to leave the page. Form input for voucher/discount/gift card codes should be located on top of the “total” line of the basket.
5. Shadow account registration
Make the visitor feel that the registration is a value-added benefit, even though it is mandatory. Collect all necessary data from the order checkout and ask to create a password in order to track the order progress at the order confirmation stage.
– Andrei Vesselovski, CEO, Netcomposite
Optimize and test the product page
The greatest difficulty with product page design is that these pages have to cater to different informational needs. Primarily, those of a person who has already decided to buy and wants to be fully supported through a simple transparent shopping cart transaction and those of a person who is undecided and needs to have their feelings satisfied and questions answered.
In the absence of being able to touch products, customers need to have greater access to substitute sensory experiences. This includes having an extensive photo library that allows the item to be viewed from every angle as well as macro views [for very close inspection of manufacture and details]. Consideration also needs to be given to whether adding audio or video recordings that demonstrate actual use of the product (for example, giving proof on things such as silent running[noise generated], ease of use or installation etc.) is of value for decision makers.
Whilst these additional ways of interacting aren’t necessarily essential for making the sale, and in many cases will remain unused, they add significantly to the overall value of credibility and trust attributed to the website and business (also great for market differentiation) based on visitor feedback.
In terms of the design of your product page, the trick is to balance the two information needs and keep the focus on what your outcome is supposed to be – that means having a clean simple design and providing access into these additional experiential resources on demand (through clicks) so that you aren’t detracting from the buying message.
How much you display in the product page view and what can be made an additional click away is absolutely dependent on your product/market combination and must be tested.
Testing is also required to ensure that additional links on your page don’t detract from your call to action (add to cart). So the manner in which they are designed and displayed (as links, icons, buttons or clickable images) must be tested (I’m often surprised how the outcomes of testing are diametrically opposed to what I’d expect.
When it comes to the shopping cart part of the buying experience, my tip is to ensure you maintain state across multiple browser window sessions, so that when they open previews in new windows (or tabs) whatever they do impacts on the cart. That means when they close that preview window and go to another page/window/tab, the cart has been update/refreshed with their action from the just closed window. Basically, maintaining consistency in expectation from the visitor’s perspective.
– Indra Chandon, Manager, Solutions Answers Results
Don’t overlook great content
Two items are extremely important:
1. Customer reviews and ratings. Consumers look at other people’s experiences with a product and this can have a great impact on your sales. Amazon proves this point.
2. Great product descriptions. People come to the Web looking for information, so give it to them! Provide enough detail that they can make a buying decision. Provide complete specifications, videos, etc. Look at TigerDirect.com as an example. But remember, you are the salesperson, so don’t just repeat the manufacturer’s canned description – tell the customer why you personally recommend this product and let them know how it will help them.
Basically, these two things boil down to content! Provide great content and everything else is just icing on the cake.