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Friday, Nov. 14, 2008 at 9:26 am

Don’t Overlook These Common Cart Mistakes

By Brendan Regan
November 14th, 2008

shopping cartI’ve seen a few big shopping cart no-nos lately, so I just want to alert Grok readers to them–they’re pretty easy to avoid:

  1. The Homepage Dump: You add an item to your cart and are thrown into the checkout process.  You’ve got another item on your shopping list, so you click the little link that says “Continue Shopping.”  You’re dumped on the homepage.  This is especially bad when you’ve done a lot of searching and results-filtering, and now it’s all gone.  It really does feel like you’ve just been dumped!  I can’t think of any good reason why the homepage is the proper place to land a visitor to continue shopping.
  2. The Painful Multi-Item Purchase: Many shopping carts make no distinction between adding to cart and checking out.  As soon as you add to cart, the website assumes that you want to checkout and sends you down that path.  But what if you’re not ready?  We all know from the offline world that putting a bag of chips in a real shopping cart, and standing in the checkout line secretly reading tabloid headlines are two very different things, right? More robust shopping carts allow an item to be added to the cart without interrupting the browsing process.  When visitors are ready to checkout, they intuitively know how to initiate that process from any page with one click.  Threadless.com and Amazon.com both do decent jobs of this in their own unique ways.  A good test for this one is to go through a multi-item purchase on your site without using any of your cross-selling or up-selling elements.  It should still be easy to browse >> add to cart >> browse again >> add to cart again >> check out.

Hopefully, you’ve skimmed these two issues and they don’t apply.  Pat yourself on the back and maybe focus on testing and optimizing your cart instead.

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Comments (41)

  1. I am guilty of the ‘add to cart’ and then sending them to the shopping cart page, instead of allowing them to keep browsing. I think I will work on this one, after Christmas.

  2. I’m still amazed that I find companies who spend lots of money getting me to visit their site, optimise everything for the perfect experience, then ruin it by trying to coerce me into letting them spam me with email. the sort of sites where they say:

    Uncheck this box if you do not want to be contacted by us.

    Dont tick this box if do not want to receive mailings.

    I still cant believe Companies do this.

    They should let me decide whether you have something worthwhile that I’d like to hear about in the future.

    So desperate are they to add me to their CRM database they forget they might actually lose sales because of this tactic.

    Mike Ashworth
    Marketing Coach and Consultant
    Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK
    Boosting Sales for Small and Medium Sized Businesses by
    helping them find, attract and keep Customers.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeashworth
    http://MichaelAshworth.wordpress.com

  3. And add to this the cardinal sin of asking to log in or create an account (arrgh!) as soon as you click checkout, and before you have an idea of all costs involved in the transaction!

  4. You are 100% spot on here Brendan, but honestly it’s almost a toss up as to who to blame. We a few exceptions big companies don’t “get ecommerce” so they pay no attention to the “customer experience.”

    If you own your own ecommerce site, it’s really important to find out what your cart software can and can’t do BEFORE you commit to them.

  5. The “continue shopping” issue is a very interesting one, and one that is being tackled in many different ways. Some are better than others. Get Elastic did a great blog post on this topic back in February, http://www.getelastic.com/continue-shopping-usability/
    (it seems that their blog post was motivated by “Grok’s Biggest Gripes”)

    I agree with you that just dumping the visitor back on the homepage is not an optimal choice for someone who wants to continue shopping. However I’m not a huge fan of what Amazon does either. When I have been shopping there in the past and added an item to my cart, it reloads the page with a floating cart on the right side of a cross sell page. This leaves me wondering, “what has happened”. I was expecting to see a cart page that would allow me to prevue shipping cost before I continue shopping. I have been conditioned to expect a shopping cart page and have been confused and frustrated by not landing on one. I personally find it a little presumptuous that they expect that I want to buy more than one item. They could accomplish a similar goal by trying to cross sell me in a shopping cart, and provide a “multiple links” strategy that Get Elastic illustrated in their blog with Drs Foster & Smith and J Crew.

  6. Yeah it is unfortunate when large e-commerce sites just get over complicated and turn off the visitor so much they just leave or get in their car and buy it at the mall.

  7. I would agree with your comment on multi-item purchase, BUT if you are a site with a Units Per Order around 1 – 1.5, it might not be optimal to not dump the customer in the cart.

    The continue shopping button point is very valid. How many customers actually came in through the homepage, and why would they want to end up back there? Additionally, most site logos already link back to the homepage.

  8. I advise people that often their are some useful learnings to be drawn from shopping in the real world.

    Imagine you are in Wal Mart or Tesco and after placing every item in your shoping basket you find yourself deposited at the entrance to the store. Or perhaps find yourself at the checkout as they think you’ve finished shopping?

    wouldn’t happen in real life….

    Mike Ashworth
    Marketing Coach and Consultant
    Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK
    Boosting Sales for Small and Medium Sized Businesses by
    helping them find, attract and keep Customers.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeashworth
    http://MichaelAshworth.wordpress.com

  9. It’s strange to see this sort of post (so basic) but it’s true, it really is necessary. As a shopper it amazes me how many sites miss the “basics” despite having wonderful ajax checkout processes and great interfaces.

    In relation to the add to basket/ checkout item, I’ve also seen a few major sites immediately changing their interface on the cart page to look like that of their checkout process (i.e. no navigation, no promotions). This strikes me as a similar and huge mistake as well. Afterall, if there’s no navigation it doesn’t matter what you call the page or what’s on it, people shouldn’t have to click “back” to get back to browsing.

  10. My Yahoo store does this and theirs no way to change it that i can see. Looks like i need to find another service or wait years for them to fix it.

  11. I think people are often led by the tools / technology (witness all the talk around social media this, social media that) rather than taking a deep interest in the behaviours of people.

  12. In the era of AJAX and other dynamic presentation technologies, I’d argue a visit to the shopping cart is outdated. Why take a user from their shopping results to show them what they know they just did? you could just pop a layer right over the top of the page they added to the cart from that lets the user manage, close it or select a checkout option. If they close it, they’re right where they left off, with no complex results caching solutions required.

    Getting rid of the cart as page can really improve the ecommerce experience, IMO. It’s more like a cart since it follows you through the store.

  13. thats a very good point.

    In a real shop you don’t pick something up, think “thats what i need” then suddenly get trasnported to the checkout.

    “oh sorry sir, we didn’t realise you still wanted to buy other stuff. Good luck finding your way back to where you just came from”.

  14. Good post.
    The cross-sell and up-sell elements in the buy-flow process are extremely important, but they’re flawed.

    The consumer will never be fully happy with the online shopping experience until the shopping cart issue is addressed.

    Check out my recent blog post that dives further into this topic: http://lunchpail.knotice.com/2008/07/23/5-mistakes-that-promote-cart-abandonment/

  15. [...] the homepage; as Brendan Regan points out on GrokDotCom, the ‘homepage dump’ is [...]

  16. [...] the homepage; as Brendan Regan points out on GrokDotCom, the ‘homepage dump’ is a user experience mistake to avoid, so where should they be [...]

  17. Great Article. I got some points to work on. Also comments provide some good inputs too.

  18. Great comments, all! Lots to think about, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic again.

  19. [...] Don’t Overlook These Common Cart Mistakes (FutureNow) [...]

  20. hi all,
    It’s also very helpful to over inventory because you can choose your products inventory according to the consumption.
    in my opinion its best online software for your business. every item in your shopping basket you find yourself deposited at the entrance to the store. Or perhaps find yourself at the checkout as they think you’ve finished shopping?

  21. The continue shopping button is an important page element on shopping cart pages. Potentially, a good design can increase the average order value of websites (or decrease it J ). Therefore choosing the name of the button, the position and the selection of colors and size may affect the defined KPI of the page displaying it. We analyzed 102 continue shopping buttons from well know websites and we put the collection on our blog. Have a look and leave a comment.

  22. re: #2.. why do sites do this.. c’mon!! =)

  23. As a website developer I can say that there are a lot of things wrong with many ecommerce sites. However, the problem usually resides in the software used. Coding an ecommerce site from scratch would take a very large budget, so most developers start with an open source application like zen cart or magento.

    Seeing better ecommerce sites really has to begin with the communities that create the platforms.

  24. My site have shoping cart and I alway try check bug on it. thank

  25. # My site have shoping cart and I alway try check bug on it. thank

    Me Too

  26. I agree with idea.

  27. #

    I agree with idea.

  28. I advise people that often their are some useful learnings to be drawn from shopping in the real world.

  29. Thanks for the “testing and optimizing your cart” link.

  30. I absolutely hate the “homepage dump!” That has to be the most disruptive thing you can do to a buyer.

  31. Great Article. I have do some improvement to one of my site. But developing from the int ital stage it will take time. Thanks for sharing thought.

  32. Thank you for your suggestion. I am trying to practice it when I start to run affiliate business. All the best.

  33. I completely agree on these mistakes. I bet they’re ruining their conversions by making shopping online so arduous. Such a shame…

  34. 1 and a half years later, and i have been on websites that still make these mistakes~

  35. we have a blank column on the left hand side of the page under the menu which is always empty for some reason … because the page on the right is longer than the menu on the left i have found a use for it now :-) we’ll make it the on-page gumballs shopping cart :-) so people can stay on the same page… thanks.

  36. I think it is one of the hardest things to create the perfect shop, there are many more mistakes one can make. I am still working on the perfect shop desin. What is important for you guys in a simple shop design?

  37. It’s hard to focus on testing and optimizing your cart when the link is broken. Perhaps, a common blog posting mistake overlooked?

  38. @Mike: thanks! the link is now fixed.

  39. I believe we could just pop a layer right over the top of the page they added to the cart from that lets the user manage, close it or select a checkout option. If they close it, they’re right where they left off, with no complex results caching solutions required. With the help of Ajax, I don’t think it will be difficult.

  40. Good article,
    But it will be depend on customer it self.Some of the potential buyer don’t bother with the chart.
    In my experience , amazon and shopping.com is the best place to shop.

  41. This is very helpful. I think so many conversions are left in abandoned carts! Why go get more traffic when you haven’t cleaned up your conversion process? Good post!

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