The online shopping cart is the most important piece of an e-commerce website. Optimizing your website is also important, but fine tuning your shopping cart and checkout pages should be an ongoing process that you should devote time to each week.
Many of the sales are lost or captured based on what happens when online shoppers reach the shopping cart. Their features make the difference and convert a shopper into a customer.
There are different types of conversions. A conversion is a goal you have set up for your website. For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on an e-commerce sale conversion. However, many of these tips can be used to assist you in optimizing other types of conversions or goals you have for your website such as an email capture, newsletter sign up, in-store visit, reservation or appointment made, or even a white paper download.
Online Reputation Plays a Big Part in Increasing Conversions
Your company’s online reputation can help your shopping cart conversions. Unless you are a big name brand that is well-known, your online shoppers will likely need some convincing. How can you convince them that you are a reputable company that they should feel comfortable doing business with? Social media and online reviews can help reassure online shoppers that your company is legitimate. Building your online reputation through social channels has been shown to help with conversions.
A study by Sitepoint proved that 69% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a small business if that business has a social media presence. Of course, online reviews help as well because shoppers believe online reviews even if they don’t know the reviewer. A survey from Econsultancy says that 61% of customer read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and they are now essential for e-commerce sites.
Where Should You Start the Shopping Cart Optimization Process?
Where should you start when it comes to optimizing your shopping cart and checkout process? The answer is simple, start with your analytics program. If you don’t have one in place already, we suggest Google Analytics. It is free, easy to implement, and works with any and every type of website. You can also integrate it into Google’s other free services like Webmaster Tools, Google My Business, and Google Adwords.
Once you have analytics in place and start receiving data, analyze the shopping cart funnel. If you are losing more customers to abandonment at a specific point, that will alert you to the first thing that needs fixing. The next step is to ask 5 friends or co-workers not familiar with the website to place an order. Do not talk to them during the process, just observe. Do they get stuck? Do they have questions? Do they know what you want them to do? We will get more into usability testing later, but this first informal test is a great place to start so that you can have some immediate insight into any major problems.
One of the most important things that will help your conversion rate is very important and often ignored even though it is very easy, and that is performing your own test orders. I can’t stress how important this step is. It will alert you immediately to any problem, yet it is overlooked and almost never done. It is so important to check your own shopping cart, a test order (or series of test orders using different scenarios) should be performed weekly, if not daily. The reason for this is that so many things can go wrong with billing, credit cards, Paypal, banks, shipping companies, algorithms, SSL certificates, and many other technical aspects. If one thing breaks, it can interfere with and even prevent conversions from happening.
10 Shopping Cart and Checkout Optimization Tips
There are a few recurring themes that you will see in my shopping cart and online checkout optimization tips. The first theme is that each website and each set of customers is different, so you must test out how you can make these tips work for your website. The second theme is finding a balance. What I mean by finding a balance for your shopping cart and checkout process has to do with what works for your website and your customers but takes it one step further and means that it is important to find a balance between having a fast and simple checkout process and adding details to help instill security, safety, and peace of mind to the online shopper.
These 10 tips will help serve as a guideline and also are areas that need continual attention to detail.
- 1. Consistency between Website and Shopping Cart: One of the first places you can lose a potential customer is right after they click on that “add to cart” button. If your shopping cart looks nothing like the rest of your website, they can become confused or feel uncomfortable. Make sure that your shopping cart and checkout pages look like they are part of your website. Shoppers need to trust that they know where they are putting their personal and private information and who it is going to. If all of the sudden, the site looks different, they have a much less likely chance of trusting it.
- 2. Do Not Require a Registration: I know that you want to be able to save customers in your database, but this is a big mistake during the checkout process. If they are just shopping and not ready to buy, they may not want to take the time to enter their information in and register with your website. Most shoppers become annoyed and mistrusting when you require them to enter their information. Even if they were just shopping, they will never convert into buyers if they are put off. Disable this feature and allow shoppers to check out as a guest. Once they are your customer, you can incentivize them to sign up as a registered customer by offering them a coupon, discount, or free gift with their next order.
- 4. Use Simple Language: Use simple language; do not use any specific jargon relating to your industry that the average shopper would not know. Avoid being cutesy because it can get you into trouble by confusing shoppers. If you have an area that might be confusing to shoppers, add a “What’s This?” link that opens to a new window with an explanation or directions.
- 5. Guide Shoppers through Each Step: There is a saying in design, and the same applies to your online shopping cart, you must design for the lowest common denominator. What this means, is that your shopping cart and checkout process must be simple enough for the least experienced shopper. You must design your shopping cart so that the person who knows nothing about shopping online and hardly knows how to use a computer can still get through it. Your checkout process should be as simple as possible and you should guide shoppers through the process. Label the steps, or tell them what is next. Other ways of guiding shoppers is by color coding the “next” or “continue” buttons and have them be interactive so they turn green (or whatever color you choose) when you want them to click on it to take them to the next step.
- 6. List Shipping Prices and Options Right Away: Shipping is another important area of your shopping cart that can make or break it for a conversion. List the shipping prices right away. Many customers that shop online are looking for a bargain and no one likes to pay shipping costs. However, as you know, they are a necessary part of online e-commerce and cannot be avoided. Whether you roll them into your product costs and offer free shipping or charge for shipping, online shoppers want to know right away. They can abandon the cart in search of pricing, or they can become angered when they finally see the pricing and then they never complete the sale either. You can also increase conversions by offering different types of shipping speeds and prices. Some shoppers are in a hurry and need delivery right away. Others will forego quick delivery for a lower price. This is another area where testing comes into play because you have find a balance of the right options to offer. If you have too many shipping options, some shoppers can become paralyzed with confusion or indecision trying to make a decision, others want to have many different options. Finding the balance for your customers will lead to a higher rate of conversions.
- 7. Link Out to Policies: Return and exchange policies are an important part of the checkout process. Shoppers want to know if they can return something or exchange something and often will not purchase unless they know they will have that option. If you have a “no hassles return policy”, then you should definitely list that. If your return or exchange policy is more complex, then you should just link out to it and have it open in a new window so as to not interrupt the shopping cart process. If you have other policies, find two or three words to represent them and make the text linkable to open in a new window as well.
- 8. Mention Guarantees and Warranties: If your products or services come with a guarantee or warranty, you will definitely want to mention this. It helps boost shoppers’ confidence levels and helps to convert into sales. If there are specific details, again have the text or badge link out to open in a new window.
- 9. Add a Step for Order Review: Having a review step is one of the few things that I recommend that adds to the checkout process. The reason for this is because shoppers like to be able to review their order and can often abandon the cart in search of a price or other detail that you can include on the review order page. This also helps shoppers feel confident that they can review the order and click the next button without all of the sudden finishing the order when they weren’t ready.
- 10. Confirmation Page & Email: Even though the customer has completed the order, the purchase should not be the last step in your checkout process. Customers will still seek confirmation and want to be assured that they didn’t just give their money away. They also want to know what the next step will be. Your shopping cart should end in a clear confirmation page. The confirmation page should detail their order information, how much they were charged and what method they used to pay. It should also tell them what to expect next, such as an email, shipment notification, or tracking details. If your credit card processor also sends an email, let them know they will receive 2 emails; this will prevent them from thinking they are charged twice. In addition to the confirmation page, you should also email the customer the same information that is on the confirmation page.
The Importance of Multivariate, A/B and Usability Testing
As I mentioned before, each website and each set of customers is different. The way to account for that is by conducting testing on your website. There are three types of testing that you should try, multivariate, A/B testing, and usability testing. There are tools, applications, and also companies that specialize in each of these types of testing. Each type will help you identify which colors, what wording, and which elements convert best for your website with your customers. Once you conduct testing never means you are done, continual testing is necessary for an ever-changing environment with new technology and other elements that are constantly in flux.
Follow Up and Retargeting
Let’s face it, customer targeting helps, but even the best designed website cannot convert every shopper. However, retargeting and following up with shoppers can definitely close the gap and help convert more shoppers post visit. There are different ways to follow up. If shoppers did supply you with information, you can contact them and offer them a discount, just remind them about your website, or even ask them why they didn’t make a purchase. Surveying online shoppers and getting into their heads can really help give you insights into your business. Retargeting is an advertising method that has been growing in popularity, even if somewhat controversial in some circles. Retargeting is when you cookie your visitors and then serve them ads on other websites they visit. It is not an invasion of privacy since no one knows who the visitor is, and is a great way to remind shoppers about your site, you can even display to them the items they added to the shopping cart with some retargeting programs. The bottom line with this technology is that it does not identify any particular person, so their privacy is intact, and it works. Retargeting is used to help convert sales after the initial visit and if it didn’t work, then it wouldn’t be as popular and as widely used as it is today.
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