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Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Good Cart Design vs. Costly Credibility Indicators

By Brendan Regan
February 26th, 2010

I love to analyze shopping carts because of the immense variety of designs and design elements that different companies and clients employ to try to “get the cash.”  Some elements work better than others, and proper testing can lead the way to optimization.

But, I believe that conversion is cumulative, and every pixel of design you employ in your shopping cart contributes to the semi-conscious feelings of comfort and confidence that prospects get when they decide that your cart is safe and credible enough to do business with.

Many Conversion Rate Optimization practitioners would start by recommending that you run out and buy what is called a “credibility indicator“–some sort of flag or badge that indicates to prospects that you’re credible.  Some of the more popular credibility indicators are the McAfee certification and the Verisign security symbol.  This is not a bad approach, and some of our testing has proven that it can have a positive effect on conversion rate, but last I checked, it costs money to get this type of badge to place on your site.

groupon.cartI encountered a shopping cart today that didn’t have any security/credibility badges in the active window, yet I still felt perfectly comfortable converting on their website.  I’d like to use them as example (click screenshot to enlarge).

Groupon.com has quickly become one of the “darlings” of the FutureNow team.  We like their deals, we enjoy their copywriting, and now we like the design of their cart.

Let’s look at the reasons why this cart is so well designed that it doesn’t even need a security badge:

Reason #1: “I was a Late Stage buyer…” I’d already signed up with Groupon to receive coupons.  I’d already read several of their emails, and I’d clicked through to “learn more” about a particular deal.  I’d read the details, and I’d taken the call to action.  Late Stage buyers are always more primed to convert, and need less reassurance about your security or credibility.  Invert that statement and it reads “Early and Middle Stage buyers are less primed to convert, and need more reassurance about your credibility and security.”

Reason #2: Clean form design. The page I screencaptured has some really nice elements of form design, including large, legible fonts, field labels above the fields, clean and roomy layout, and a high-contrast call to action button.

Reason #3: Capture of Security Code. The form asks for my credit card security code, also called as the “CCV” number.  Whether it actually improves security or not, I always feel more comfortable when an eCommerce site captures this piece of data.  It probably helps them avoid fraud, too!  Does your cart capture this?  Hint: it should.

Reason #4: Fantastic Point of Action Assurances. All the FAQs in the right column are a tad wordy, but they absolutely reflect the “voice” of the overall Groupon experience, and they do a great job of avoiding “legalese.”  Check out the questions they address: What happens next? What about gifting?  Change/cancel?  Is this safe? Each question is answered clearly and confidently, and that builds my confidence.

Reason #5: Custom guarantee. Readers of my posts already know that I’m not a fan of “copycat credibility,” so you know I’m loving the “Groupon Promise” custom graphic and text.

The two key points here are:

1) Good design increases the persuasiveness of your website. Bad design does the opposite.

2) You don’t necessarily have to “pay out” for credibility. And if you pay for a badge of some sort, it’s not a guarantee that your conversion rate will go up.  As long as you overcome the challenge that sits between your prospect and a conversion, it doesn’t matter what approach you take.

Add Your Comments

Comments (100)

  1. You’re absolutely correct about the influence design has on trust and conversions, Brendan.

    I would call those Security Indicators, which is a subset of Credibility Indicators. Others include Reviews, Testimonials, Case Studies, etc.

    We even observed in one case that adding the McAfee logo *decreased* e-commerce purchases.

    Website owners should definitely test where and if using each type of credibility indicator will help conversions.

  2. Very helpful analysis, thanks. I especially liked the first key point about the design impact on persuasiveness.

  3. I’m not so sure… I am personally more inclined to shop at places that have undergone a professional security audit. A site may look nice, but that is no indicator of security.

  4. While I’ve been blogging successfully for over 3 years, I’ve not yet ventured into selling product. That’s about to change, and I’m beginning to teach myself about shopping carts.

    I find this article both interesting and daunting. I previously thought one just searched around and then download or link to the best ‘off-the-shelf” shopping carts.

    Now I’m wondering: should one build one’s own shopping cart from scratch? Or can one customize existing shopping carts to meet your criteria?

  5. [...] Good Cart Design vs. Costly Credibility Indicators Published: February 27, 2010 Source: Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc I love to analyze shopping carts because of the immense variety of designs and design elements that different companies and clients employ to try to “get the cash.” Some elements work better than others, and… [...]

  6. I agree with everything you said, A good cart design really says it all.One doesn’t always need to pay more to get what you want to achieve.

  7. Customers obviously need to be confident when they buy from you and I certainly think that the checkout process is an important part of this.

  8. @Tom Colvin: you may wish to read a past post of mine about “Canned vs. Custom” shopping carts at http://www.grokdotcom.com/2009/11/06/shopping-cart-optimization-canned-vs-custom/

  9. good article and system when its have got good useage maybe using all the designer

  10. [...] recent post on the FutureNow blog makes this point, and argues that the need for ‘costly’ security [...]

  11. I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  12. Customers obviously need to be confident when they buy from you and I certainly think that the checkout process is an important part of this.

  13. This is good knowledge to have. I am always looking for ways to ensure customer satisfaction and security. Good tips.

  14. thanks for the referral to your post re canned vs custom carts. Just what I was looking for! You’ve given me lots to think about.

  15. Customer satisfaction is always a high priority for our business. Goot tips :)

  16. David has a good point there, scam sites thrive on this thing.

  17. Cool analysis. I did get something out of this.

    Thank you – and a really great job!

  18. Very interesting article!
    I agree that sometimes you don’t need to pay as to gain credibility from your customers.

  19. great article, david has a good point there

  20. Make customer eyes comfortable with chart design. Need a talented designer to do that job.
    But some people don’t understand or even don’t care about the principle of design. So, they never hire some designer to boost their business.

    I’m absolutely agree with this theory.

  21. We are an e-commerce store continuously trying to improve our site. We’ll keep your suggestion in mind as we modify our website.

    Thanks for the ideas.

  22. When it comes to monetary transaction, it is great that the Groupon example gave users a clear explanation of the payment procedure and certain elevates the comfort of the users in submitting payment information.

  23. Really a great cart design. It was so nice to quote the reasons together and it was so informative that way.
    Nice sharing of good tips here.

  24. You’re absolutely correct about the influence design has on trust and conversions , is what I agree with totally , ppl dont see security procedures they only see your design … and how easy it is to use.

  25. This is a timely post. I’m in the middle of working with two separate e-commerce providers for my website to decide the direction of the shopping cart.

    One provider has given me the choice of canned software integrated and customized slightly by a programmer.

    The other provider, at 3 times the cost, will only provide custom carts based on a huge back engine that offers CMS/CRM along with the ecommerce services. They build the custom front end to the engine.

    Just finished a long review checking all the sites both providers referenced and the ones they did not! (I recommend you check ALL providers work in this area, it is important).

    The custom provider markets very expensive sites and because of their relationship with the ecommerce engine company had upfront creditability. However, when I went test shopped on their client’s sites I was sorely disappointed. The carts were missing basic information (“continue shopping” button”, no shipping cost information, etc.). Several carts had the address omitted as a required field!! I guess you just give your name and credit card number and they guess where to bill and send it. I was shocked. You can have the best back engine in the world but if your developers can’t maximize the features or don’t understand business processes you are in trouble. This was a high end company that presented VERY well….until I dug deeper.

    The canned solution had about 90% of what I needed and I think for my business a hybrid solution was best. Simply take a tried and true reputable software with open code and buy a block of hours of a programmer recommended by the software company. It is middle ground in term of costs.

    In terms of “badge” security I would suggest you also talk to your vendors who will be supplying your merchant accounts. As a client, many will let you leverage their security badges with no cost to you. Nice value add from the merchant company.

    I’m curious what others are finding.

  26. The post is really amazing as it points out ideas about a business. It is definitely true that consumer’s satisfaction is what business means.

  27. Credibility at a site that requires you to immediately sign up for a newsletter? This site has .. no site. One must immediately sign up for a newsletter to gain access to anything. Not very inviting (nor credible) for anyone who not familiar with their business offerings (as you mention – a coupon a day from London England).

    Throwing “newsroom logos” “as seen on” isn’t very credibility building, in my opinion. It’s like adding a “ssl approved” image without it linking anywhere.

    Caveat emptor online.

  28. @Alan Schneider: LOL, good stuff. While I don’t agree, I applaud your for dissenting in an interesting way. The conversation has gained value!

  29. Groupon is awesome, I’m glad to see you cover them. I would give anything for a look behind-the-scenes at their system of how they develop all the direct-response copy & offers for so many local mom & pop merchants, many of whom have probably never marketed like that before. The amount of copy they pump out daily for so many different businesses I’ve never heard about here in Baltimore is just amazing. Dentists, chiro, bars, gyms, yoga, cooking classes, it’s crazy! Awesome company, they deserve every bit of success they get.

  30. a good design is so important.a well designed professionaly website will gain more trust

  31. Very interesting article!
    I agree that sometimes you don’t need to pay as to gain credibility from your customers.

  32. Really appreciate this article, i am weighing up cart options now for my vbulletin 4 styles website, but as i have digital goods it’s a little harder to make a choice.

  33. Credibility on the shopping cart is everything. Those people that are finally coming around to shopping online are still very wary of identity theft. Well, all of us are. We all know somebody who has dealt with this. That Icon “secured” or whatever it may say is huge!

  34. I agree with Andrew that credibilty on the shoppping cart is everything.
    You may get away with not paying for popular credibility indicators, but surely that is subjective and based on a lot of other factors.
    When making online transactions I like to see a visible sign that the company I am paying has invested in their online security.

  35. yeah, very good article. and I just got useful tips here, hoho.

    thanks.

  36. Very interesting you site!
    I agree that sometimes can you give me more traffic

  37. Good shopping cart needs to be perfectly designed. It cannot has any mistakes and errors. Even small things could put buyers trust back. For example I usually can’t find any information about shipping prices and times. Most of the small carts forget about this.

  38. Interesting article. Often we in position have to choose between appearance or performance. I’ll choose the last one.

  39. CodeIn,

    Appearance affects performance, don’t forget that! A landing page needs to be easy to navigate, use, and establishes credibility immediately!

  40. good design is so important.a well designed professionaly website will gain more trust

  41. That is a sweet cart setup on Groupon.com! Excellent points here cart design credibility, thanks.

  42. Very good information, thank you very much by the article and the quality of your Web site. A greeting from Chile.

  43. good post. I am a fan of groupon.com. I am especially liking their /welcome_to_groupon landing page.
    Very well done

  44. I was enlighten by your article because it really works. I gained a lot from your blog. Keep going!

  45. There is one issue I have to object straight away.

    Their homepage sucks. I just went there too find out what a Groupon is.

    The only thing I can do is to give my email to find out more.

    I can remember and old post on Grok that remembered us all that a lot of poeple don’t want to be forced into a relationship.

    I just want to find out how the deals really look like and how it all happens.

    Zero info. They lost me on page one.

    Edward

  46. @ Leandro

    Greetings from the States. Our prayers go out to Chile after hearing about the horrible quake down there.

  47. I totaly agree with you. Design is clean, nice and simple, that is fist step to a good shooping cart!

  48. the important point is the chart must be easy to use. not make the buyer confused… moreover, if buyer cancel their order due to the procedure using the chart :D

  49. I think the best way to increase conversion rate is to actually build relationships with the people that visit your site. One easy way to do this is having social media badges on your site (which are free) and actively communicating on those sites.

    I personally would trust my intuition after checking out a company’s Facebook comments than I would a Verisign logo.

  50. some people don’t understand or even don’t care about the principle of design. So, they never hire some designer to boost their business.

  51. Design is a huge part in shopping carts. I used to have a cart that was poorly designed and I didn’t sell anything, but when I changed it I was selling things right and left.

  52. Even small things could put buyers trust back. For example I usually can’t find any information about shipping prices and times

  53. However, when I went test shopped on their client’s sites I was sorely disappointed. The carts were missing basic information (”continue shopping” button”, no shipping cost information, etc.). Several carts had the address omitted as a required field!! I guess you just give your name and credit card number and they guess where to bill and send it.

  54. The funny thing is, clients are always freaking out over design with little thought on conversions. What looks better to the owner of an online store doesn’t always correlate to what converts better. It is often difficult to explain the ‘test test test’ concept to people who look at cart design for artistic merits rather than function.

  55. Customers need to be confident when they buy and I think that the checkout process one of the most sensitive parts when we talk about losing or gaining customers’ confidence

  56. I recently worked with a company who changed the colour of their ‘buy’ buttons to match their more successful competitor….obviously expecting this researched method to reward them with an increase in revenue!!!!

  57. Indeed, one of the most important aspects on a online shop is the checkout and the design of the cart in this zone. One of my shopping cart was very well viewed by customers just because I introduced the fast checkout instead “make an account”. The sells are very well now.

  58. Very helpful analysis, thanks. I especially liked the first key point about the design impact on persuasiveness.

  59. I think a well designed shopping cart also allows the opportunity to ‘link sell’ by suggesting other related products. This upsells the customer at the conversion stage.

  60. some people don’t understand or even don’t care about the principle of design. So, they never hire some designer to boost their business.

  61. Good piece but you forgot my A-#1 pet peeve with shopping carts. It’s something I will regularly, frequently and immediately blackball your site for ignoring (not your site – the shopping cart site). Even if I’ve spent the last four hours shopping and filling up my cart if you do not obey the following rule I will drop you like a hot potato and run off to your competition cursing your name the whole way. Ready for it? OK here it is… don’t make me go through the whole check out process before telling me what the shipping cost is! Heck, the whole premise of your business has to do with shipping, it should be the first thing you tell me! Do you really think I’m going to pay some outrageous shipping amount simply because I’ve already filled out all the address and credit card info? Let me tell you, I’m not. And more importantly I’m going to leave your site with a bad taste in my mouth and never come back.

  62. There is absolutely no substitute for the confidence good design will instill in the user of your shopping cart. Those expensive badges might count for something, but stick them at the end of a dodgy looking page and you’ll still get poor conversions.

    Then in response to @ Web Design Preston, I have to just say that the shipping issue is one that really pains me too. Shipping should be inclusive, period.

  63. i like this site, and I will regularly, frequently and immediately blackball your site for ignoring (not your site – the shopping cart site)

  64. Your right. Some shopping cart designs are terrible. I would never shop at a site that looked bad even if it had one of the badges. Design matters when shopping online.

  65. I agree that clean form design has a huge selling point. The site itself can really exhude confidence or suspiciousness based on the simplicity and cleanliness of the site design. All the more important in a shopping cart where someone is entering personal data.

  66. i found this really helpfull. thanks for report and analyasis!

    regards

  67. I recently worked with a company who changed the colour of their ‘buy’ buttons to match their more successful competitor….obviously expecting this researched method to reward them with an increase in revenue!!!!

  68. Good point about it being more than trustmarks Graham. I think some retailers think it is a panacea that will instantly remove all checkout fears. In reality it is a slightly blunt instrument. We see in usability tests customers referring to the trustmarks with a vague degree of understanding e.g. “I think is has something to do with security…or, they give you your money back if you want to return it”.
    While trustmarks are the overt measure to say “we’re OK, really”, a good reassuring checkout (through the visual design and text) is a more subtle but no less effective measure. Successful e-commerce has a lot to do with momentum and there are two halves to that aspect – the persuasion aspects (forward momentum, chasing the carrots, keep them moving forward to the next thing, more information, cross sells upsells etc) and the removing barriers /friction element (such as trust issues or awkward error messages). Typically by checkout the later are the paramount issue.

  69. I think a best shopping cart is a simple shopping cart, in just 2 clicks the customers can get their product is a success cart.

  70. In India Shopping cart are not much popular,but i hope that
    after some year it may be possible.

  71. Nice ideas in principle, although not always able to impement

  72. Great views, I look at shopping carts everymonth, the best so far is Drupal as it offers extra functionality. Very hard to configure tho, if you are not used to the Software platform. We added Mattresses and beds to a cart with great success, easy to use too.

  73. With me, I like to shopping with a cool desing, it make me feel safer than order with a ugly cart.

  74. I usually redesign my shopping carts every 6 months and watch the selling number increase or not.

  75. I think a well designed shopping cart also allows the opportunity to ‘link sell’ by suggesting other related products. This upsells the customer at the conversion stage.

  76. I agree that good design increases conversion. I would not buy from a website that looked like it was created by a 10 year old.

    While you don’t necessarily need to pay for credibility, I think if you can get hold of a badge like the mecafee or verisign one, it definitely won’t hurt.

  77. Yes the usability of the basket is key to all ecommerce sites. But remember it also depends on the navigation and usability to getting to the basket page. The buyer must have an easy and pleasurable navigation on your site choosing their products, leading them to the basket page, where they can safely and easily purchase.

  78. I agree 100% Although my main issue these days is selecting a secure and reliable shopping cart solution. Everyday is a learning day, as the new standards for web are ever advancing. I guess Voice is a nice new element to use, when a customer visits your store, an actual person talks to you live, rather than the corny Auto Video greeting message.

    I believe with Good design and good communications, online businesses can make more money and access more customers in Real Time.

  79. I agree with this post of Andrew. While paying for online shopping if the navigation is perfect with security features. Then it adds a confidence amongst buyers. This increases the chances of them visiting the site again and they have become familiar with transaction process.

  80. Yes the usability of the basket is key to all ecommerce sites. But remember it also depends on the navigation and usability to getting to the basket page. The buyer must have an easy and pleasurable navigation on your site choosing their products, leading them to the basket page, where they can safely and easily purchase

  81. Gaining trust through design on ecommerce sites is definitely very important; showing a clear returns policy and customer rights, security icons and a simple checkout procedure all help to stop cart abandonment.

  82. Anyone know any good cart software?
    been looking for one that is not to expensive but serves its purpose?

  83. Would be interested to know the result of the post made by @technology. Changing the colour of the buttons should indeed have an impact on conversion rate, either up or down. But it’s a well established factor in conversion optimisation and mutli-variate testing. What was the result…?

  84. i think for a shopping cart is more important the security, not the design… it doesn’t help you if it looks great, but your data is exposed..

  85. How easy it is to purchase from your website is so important. Because if it is difficult it may put the customer off purchasing. Usability tests will help you improve this!

  86. I think it’s extremely amazing, and dangerous to your finances, to think that every visitor is going to start on, or even see the homepage. There is no UVP on any page less the homepage as far as I can tell, so the 70% or so of your visitors that don’t start where you want them to (how dare them…) won’t see any value vs landing on an inner-page of say victoria’s sectret… I’ve been marketing online retail and b2b for nearly 10 years, and I have never seen a site’s analytics suggest that even a majority of visitors visit the homepage let alone start there.

  87. Some of the reasons for liking this site and it having “Good Cart Design” have no doubt been designed that way as an output of some earlier multivariate testing. Testing, testing, testing, to ensure maximum click through and minimum abandonment.

    Companies with the budget and time to perform such testing will always win the day, as they’ll make sure every last element is designed and placed in its optimum position, and will leave nothing to chance.

  88. Rich is right…. this is probably the most important thing for me, except for the info security, is the easiness to use that ecommerce site.. it doesn’t help too much if it has a great design, but you don’t know where to click to proceed to check out, etc…

  89. I also think Rich is right, to some extent, easu of use, simple layout and intuitive functionality are at the top of the list when it comes to understanding why an ecommerce site works well

  90. one of the most important aspects on a online shop is the checkout and the design of the cart in this zone. One of my shopping cart was very well viewed by customers just because I introduced the fast checkout

  91. I think a best shopping cart is a simple shopping cart, in just 2 clicks the customers can get their product is a success cart.

  92. The main things customer look for is ease of use and whether it looks like a trustworthy site to buy from. So the design is very important to help increase sales on a site. However I personally would look for security measures also.

  93. It depends.. Some sites that look too professional make it seem to potential customers as if you’re just there to take their money. Sometimes a little fancy, yet amateur-ish looking, site goes a long way.

  94. Great article, david has a good point there, scam sites thrive on this thing....

  95. Your right. Some shopping cart designs are terrible. I would never shop at a site that looked bad even if it had one of the badges. Design matters when shopping online

  96. With me, I like to shopping with a cool desing, it make me feel safer than order with a ugly cart.

  97. David has a good point there, scam sites thrive on this thing.

  98. Well, I guess Voice is a nice new element to use, when a customer visits your store, an actual person talks to you live, rather than the corny Auto Video greeting message, anyways thanks for all this.

  99. How easy it is to purchase from your website is so important. Because if it is difficult it may put the customer off purchasing. Usability tests will help you improve this!

  100. [...] Groupon, whose shopping cart design I praised in 2010. Their emails look pretty darn good with images suppressed, don’t you think? [Click [...]

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