Elements of people-friendly shopping carts

Last October, I wrote an essay on how not lose a customer in your e-commerce website and promised to follow it up with my shopping cart wishlist.

Prefer ‘Add to cart’ over an icon

In your product listing page, make sure that you have clear instruction on how to get an item into the shopping cart. If you assume customers understand the icon beside the item, think again. It is better to use a text ‘Add to Cart’ because some people may not readily recognize the purpose of the shopping cart icon.

If you are using an actual text as opposed to a graphic with a text, customers can even enlarge the size of the font — a boon to customers with difficulty reading online. Popular browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox provide this feature.

Make the ‘Add to Cart’ prominent

Don’t be shy to put a prominent ‘Add to Cart’ in your webpage. If visitors are just browsing, they would happily ignore it but if they want to buy, the last thing you want to happen is your visitors wondering where is the ‘Add to Cart’. In the VMV Hypoallergenics website, the ‘Add to Cart’ (in their case, it’s “Add to Bag”) is located far down the webpage. Not only you need to scroll, the ‘Add to Bag’ is not obvious. There is not enough contrast between the ‘Add to Bag’ and the rest of the text. In my opinion, VMV is not working hard enough to make the sale.

Do not require a username and password to use the shopping cart

In general, customers don’t like to remember another unique username and password. Requiring your customers to go through a registration process before using a shopping cart is annoying and most likely cause them to leave. How many times have you abandon a website because it requires you to register just to read an article?

I recommend you let customers use a shopping cart without asking them to create an account or of any personal information. If you want your customers to maintain an account, invite and convince them of the value of having an account. Offering discounts and free gifts are an effective way of motivating your customers to register. Don’t just tell them registration is needed before they can shop. In a supermarket, nobody asks for your ID to use a shopping cart.

As a general rule, make the account creation as painless as possible and only ask for absolutely needed information to create the account, for example an email address and a password.

When the customer is done creating the account, say thank you and provide a link back to the shopping cart.

Show shopping cart information on every relevant page

Regardless of whether your customer has signed in or not, show shopping cart information on every relevant page. Your ecommerce site may display the names of the items in the shopping cart but if there are too many items, it can consume so much precious screen space. At the minimum, show the number of items in the shopping cart.

Give an assurance

Customers use a shopping cart to keep track of what they want before they make a purchase. In a supermarket, you can use a shopping cart without a commitment to buy anything you put into it. In the early days of Amazon, customers wonder if they are required to pay for the items they put in the shopping cart. Visitors are reluctant to use the shopping cart. When Amazon later added the text “You can remove it later”, shopping cart usage increased.

Observe local customs

Before reading the book Design of Sites, I didn’t know Amazon UK uses shopping baskets instead of shopping carts. So next time you build an e-commerce website find out the object your audience commonly uses in the brick-and-mortar world. If you are selling clothes, I think it is better to use a shopping bag. Though I am not a frequent visitor to the mall as my wife is, I have never seen a customer used a shopping cart in a Giordano or Gap store.

Provide links to other relevant information

In my last essay on e-commerce, I mentioned there are questions circling around in your customers’ head that are stopping them from making the purchase. In your shopping cart page, provide links to the following information:

  1. Shipping and handling costs or how they will be calculated.
  2. Acceptable shipping destinations and the associated cost.
  3. Applicable taxes if known.
  4. Other charges that can contribute to the cost like gift-wrapping.
  5. Your policy and procedure on returning items.

While writing this article, I got too immersed in the problems customers may face when using a shopping cart I forgot the basics. Before you forget it too, here are the basic information you need to provide in a shopping cart:

  1. Name of the item and a link to a detailed description.
  2. The size, color, and other appropriate information.
  3. Price of each item.
  4. Quantity to be purchased and a way to change it.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!!!

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