eAnswers: Shopping Carts
Q: We use a third-party shopping cart because of the visibility it gives our products on the shopping cart’s site. But there are too many options they don’t support, so we also have our own cart. Our site is set up so that new visitors see the third-party shopping cart first, but also see an option to choose our own cart. However, if they’ve put anything into our cart, they see that first, with the option to choose the third-party cart. We also clearly identify the third-party cart in the header. Are there other things we can do, or things we can do differently, to make sure that offering two carts doesn’t confuse people or present an obstacle to buying? I know that giving unnecessary choices is a bad approach, but there are just too many reasons not to drop either option. — Ellen Craw, general manager, Ilium Software
A: The majority of users go online for one of three reasons: speed; self-service (we think we can track our packages at FedEx.com better than someone who has worked at FedEx for 20 years); and for evidence (verification that someone else just like us exists).
The challenge with most e-commerce sites isn’t the beginning, but the end — the checkout. Most users, even the most sophisticated online shoppers, have a physical reaction to checkouts. The minute they hit “proceed to checkout,” their blood pressures or their body temperatures increase, their nostrils flare (taking in little bursts of air), their feet move into a flight-or-fight position, or they experience some (or many) other physical responses.
Our limbic (emotional brain) goes into overdrive, trying to protect us from danger. Hey, shopping carts are scary places! If they weren’t, we’d all experience much better conversion.
Asking users to do anything other than get in and out of your cart as fast as possible is tricky and should be avoided at all costs. Users hate any question they feel is irrelevant to the ordering process. Relevancy is determined in the user’s mind, not the marketer’s. Users don’t want to tell you where they heard about you or what their catalog codes are. In fact, most users can’t even be bothered to tell you their middle initials, and statistically they’re not all that crazy about telling you job titles/positions either.
They want to get in and out of your checkout before their neocortexes (thinking brains) override their limbic systems and tell them to abandon ship, er, cart!
Many people in your situation develop two stores. That can be messy when it comes to search engine optimization though, so you need to make sure you have an SEO expert guide you through the process.
If the two stores option doesn’t work, look at separating your traffic and offering only one cart. Take control of what cart they get, and don’t allow them to choose the other one. For example, if they have complex purchases with many options and the third-party shopping cart won’t work (or won’t work well), don’t even offer it. If they have simple orders that can work with the third-party cart, give them that as the only option.
If developing that logic is too sophisticated, I would default to showing your cart the majority of time and showing the third-party cart only as many times as you need, to keep the deal you have with them.
Because you offer a choice, address security and privacy on every view. Make sure users know that both of your carts offer 100 percent secure shopping. You don’t want customers to think that one cart is less secure or private than the other.
Also make the first page of the carts look identical so if users switch back and forth between the carts, they won’t panic that they’d get something in one that they wouldn’t get in the other.
One of the most effective things you can do is to put a picture of a Wilford Brimley-type person in your cart (a friendly face you’d feel comfortable giving your money to) as well as complete contact information throughout the cart. Make sure to put your phone number at least once in the header, once at the bottom and once in the right-hand column on every view, on every page.
Lastly, you should consider pop-up cart savers on exit and a full abandoned cart e-mail program.
— eM+C eExpert Amy Africa is president of Eight by Eight, a Williston, Vt.-based Internet marketing solutions firm. Reach Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.