Virtual shopping carts and real squeaky wheels: How to keep things rolling smoothly

Shopping carts have been around since 1937, and have not changed that much since. Even with online shopping, the basic concept of the shopping cart remains unchanged; it’s a place to put your merchandise as you go through the store, allowing you to shop for more items at once.

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A challenge that’s unique to the online shopping cart is what should happen when a customer adds an item. In a brick and mortar store, the customer is in full control of the shopping experience and will continue to shop until they are ready to pay. In an online store, leaving the shopping experience in full control of your shoppers can result in abandoned shopping carts. According to Baymard Institute, the abandonment rate for online shopping carts is 67% (data is based on a cumulative average of 22 studies on abandonment rates). Website design and your shopping cart interface will play a critical role in what your abandonment rate looks like.

What can you be doing to reduce your abandonment rates? It’s all in the details. There is no single aspect that will cause a dramatic shift but we have outlined some points below that will help.

  • Think like your customers to focus on the shopping experience and what part the cart plays, or does not play.
  • In a brick and mortar store, you can always glance down at your cart to see what’s in there – that type of functionality can and should be built into your digital shopping cart as well.  Something along the lines of a popup listing that appears when you hover over the cart can go a long way toward making the shopping experience smoother and easier for your customers.
  • When you add an item to your cart in a brick and mortar store, you continue shopping where you left off – there is no instant prompt to checkout. With online shopping, on many websites, adding an item to your cart will shift you to a checkout page. Pushing your shoppers to a checkout page when they have not completed their shopping is a sure way to get them to leave. Let your shoppers shop. That is not to say you shouldn’t have a prompt or notification system for checking out, but it should take place from where the shopper is currently located, not by shifting them to a checkout section right away.
  • While it may be tempting to offer deals where the price is only viewable once the item is added to the shopping cart, there is little conclusive data that such tactics result in increased sales. This tactic may result in more items placed in your shopping cart, but unless you are prepared to offer a truly astounding price, do not expect a measureable decrease in your abandonment rates or an increase in sales. This can actually push abandonment rates up as people may add the item, see the price, decide against a purchase and abandon the cart.
  • Make your checkout process as simple and short as possible. Bear in mind, many shoppers will be accessing your online store from a mobile device and no one likes filling out a lengthy form on a small screen.
  • The second time is the charm. An abandoned cart does not always mean a lost sale. A study by Forrester indicated that 41% of shopping carts abandonment is a result of the customer not being prepared to make a purchase at this time. Providing a means for your shoppers to return to their carts at a later time or actively reaching out to them via an email reminder can go a long way to boosting your bottom line (and lowering your abandonment rate to boot).
  •  Keep your product catalog up to date. In today’s world, shoppers expect to have access to all the information about a product from one place. If you’re not providing it, don’t expect them to stick around (WiseMatch is a great tool to ensure your product catalog is always up to date).

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Arie Shpanya

Arie is the COO, Executive Chairman, and Co-Founder of Wiser, a dynamic pricing and merchandising engine for online retailers and brands. He has extensive experience in business development with a focus on eCommerce (eBay and Amazon), and is a guest blogger on Econsultancy, VentureBeat, and more.