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Monday 28th March 2011Our Shopping Cart Development Story

I've been prompted to write this blog post as we have just completely overhauled the shopping cart that comes with our ecommerce store solution. Our previous shopping cart worked perfectly well, and had all of the features and functions required to get customers from a-to-b, and paying for products, however there is always room for improvement and development.
The Shorter, The Better
We like to keep a keen eye on what is trending on the web, and how website design and programming is evolving to meet customer needs, and we have especially monitored the airwaves for talk about ecommerce shopping carts. The trend in this case seems to be that people want to spend less time in the cart than ever. They want to be able to see what they're buying, pick a payment option, fill in their details and be out of there. The fewer steps the better.
Shorter shopping carts have always worked best, simply because people are easily dissuaded from completing processes online if it seems too complex, or it is taking too long. It's an odd phenomenon, wherein we expect things to be more or less instant online. It's not like we would spend time shopping at Tesco, get to the checkouts and ditch a trolley full of food because the checkout line required that we wait more than a couple of minutes. 
Our last shopping cart process had 6 pages overall, those were:
  • Basket page with order summary
  • Details page where you sign in if you're already a member, or fill in your details if you're new
  • Shipping page where you make your shipping choices and review the cost of that
  • Final order summary page and payment choice page
  • Payment page
  • Order confirmation page
We based that shopping cart on the Amazon model, because that was obviously working very well for Amazon, given it's rate of growth and market dominance. 
Our new shopping cart process is now much more streamline:
  • Basket summary, with shipping choices and choice of payment methods
  • Express checkout / log in page
  • Your details
  • Payment page where you fill in credit card details etc
  • Order confirmation
We have already found that, by shortening the cart to fewer pages, that our clients have seen drastic increases in the number of shopping cart conversions. Increased conversions means increased profits, which is the aim of the game where ecommerce is concerned.
Clean, Clear and Comfortable
As well as shortening our shopping cart solution, we also completely changed the design of it. We reviewed what was 100% necessary for people to see during the cart process, and what could be classed as extraneous information that either crowded the cart, or caused people's attention to be diverted from the goal of checking out. 
The first thing that we did was clean the cart up and clarify the order status at all times throughout the cart. For the most part, that meant creating the cart in a split screen view, meaning that you can see your order, and the cart total at each stage so that you can see exactly how much you are going to be spending, and perhaps alter your choices accordingly.  We found that this meant that people didn't feel the need to use the back button, or to move back in the cart at all for any reason, which is good as the aim is to keep them moving forward. 
Another major change that we made was to offer an Express Checkout, meaning that existing users could log in if they wanted to, or they could just use the express checkout to quickly make their payment and complete their order. The same for new users, they weren't required to create an account. They could use the express checkout, and if they wanted to, those details could be used to create an account at the end of the process. We find that most people use the Express Checkout regardless of whether they have used the site before or not. 
Something which we've always considered important, is allowing customers to pay on the website pages where they are making their purchase, rather than re-directing to the payment processors site (such as Paypal). This became a more complex process with the introduction of stringent PCI DSS compliance rules, but this was something we were able to overcome with the new cart by offering iFrame integration. This means that our clients can allow their customers to pay on-site, using various payment options, but for the transactions to be processed through the payment processors systems, meaning that no credit card data is stored or transfered on our clients sites. 
Lessons Learned
Throughout the development process, we have learned a great deal about how customers interact with shopping carts when dealing with an ecommerce website, and have been able to apply this to the ecommerce solution that we offer our clients. 
We know that shorter shopping carts perform much better,  so it became a case of learning just how short a cart needed to be to perform well, while retaining all of the features that a good shopping cart needs. 
We know that on-site payments are better for conversion, so we learned how to make that happen in the most efficient, and hassle-free way for our clients.
We learned which features of a shopping cart pull customers through to the end, and what may potentially halt or slow down their progress. We then built the cart around removing these features. 
Overall we feel that we have achieved a lot in developing our new cart, with clients reporting increases in shopping cart conversions, and a drop in shopping cart abandonment. 

Posted on March 28th 2011 on 01:48pm

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