If you’re selling online, and you’re interested in Optimization, it simply makes sense to spend some time focusing on your shopping cart. It’s a key area of focus for a few reasons:
There’s a very wide spectrum of online selling solutions, from a PayPal button on a single sales page to a highly-customized checkout with a floating/sliding/shining interface and behaviorally-targeted cross-selling. Still, FutureNow’s clients tend to fall into 1 of 2 camps: those with a 3rd-party cart and those with a custom-built cart.
There are pros and cons to each, which I’ll touch on briefly, but please don’t consider this brief post the authoritative work on the subject–there’s lots of research and reviews out there on the various shopping cart investment options.
3rd Party Shopping Carts, also known as “canned”: Some of the pros are lower cost, quicker time to market, and the efficiencies/convenience gained when you buy a package that handles payment gateway, fraud protection, SSL encryption, etc. Some of the cons are lack of control over look and feel, lack of control over the user experience, and more difficulties encountered with testing and optimization. The tradeoffs seem pretty straightforward, but a lot depends on the IT resources you have at your disposal.
Custom Shopping Carts: Some of the pros are a user experience that’s more tightly integrated with the rest of your site, better tracking for better analytics, easier to make changes and add features, and easier integration with testing tools like Google Website Optimizer. The obvious cons are higher cost, more operational overhead, and slower time to market. Again, the tradeoffs are the same, and a lot depends on your company’s resources, budget, and business goals.
Those prospects we speak with who are interested in optimizing for a higher return on their eCommerce investments often ask questions like: Can I optimize my 3rd party shopping cart? The answer is a definitive “Yes!” even on the most restrictive 3rd party carts. One of our clients enjoyed a 38% increase month-over-month in their “funnel conversion rate” just by adding some reassuring copy and links only in the areas of their cart they had access to: the header and the footer!
That’s an extreme example, but with our guidance, clients can make the best of their current platform, whatever it happens to be. And many clients, after getting a few “wins,” decide they want to upgrade from a 3rd party cart to a partially or fully custom cart. In that situation, we often work to optimize their checkout before it goes live, saving them time and money, and then continue to refine the customer experience and persuasiveness of the live cart through more formal testing. We also work with several implementation partners who grok Persuasion Architecture and can build custom carts based on OnTarget recommendations.
The point of all of this is that you shouldn’t defer or avoid Optimization based on what type of checkout platform you have. Persuasion Architecture is “platform-agnostic,” and the best time for Optimization is always “Now.”