By Stephen Fontenot, Marketing Communications Specialist at Hostway Services, Inc.
When it comes to offering a top-notch customer experience, one aspect of a retailer’s website is often overlooked: the shopping cart. Once content has been optimized, merchandise is showcased and the overall look and feel is tailored, some companies might call it a day. However, the work isn’t quite done yet, as the shopping cart can mean the difference between your customer enjoying their shopping experience, or abandoning it for a competitor.
Even if a retailer has a beautiful site and popular merchandise, a shopping cart that is confusing, difficult to use or doesn’t appear secure could cause customers to jump ship. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that the cart is a top priority.
But what features should a cart include, and how do these contribute to the overall customer experience? Let’s take a look at five must-haves:
1. A streamlined checkout process.
As a customer, there’s nothing worse than seeing a multi-step, convoluted checkout process. Once a shopper picks out the items they’d like to buy, the retailer should make it easy for them to complete their purchase without unnecessary steps and collecting more information than necessary.
One way to avoid this is to offer express and/or guest checkout. Express checkout enables repeat customers to simply login and double-check the address, payment information and other data used on previous purchases instead of filling out all of these details with each transaction.
Guest checkout prevents a new customer from having to create an account if they aren’t ready to. While helpful, this process can also add extra steps to checkout.
“The checkout process at many online stores can be as frustrating – if not more so – than standing in a long checkout line at a brick-and-mortar store,” Network Solutions pointed out. “When visitors are ready to buy, your e-commerce shopping cart must make it as simple as possible.”
2. Diverse payment options.
Another shopping cart essential is support for a range of payment options. Credit and debit cards, PayPal accounts and digital wallets like Apple Pay have all shifted the way shoppers complete transactions. Providing support for all these options can also quell concerns about security.
Some consumers may still be wary about entering in their credit or debit card numbers, particularly as news of high-profile data breaches become more common. Accepting PayPal or Apple Pay payments can make hesitant customers more confident, and encourage them to complete their purchase.
3. Clear signs of security.
A shopping cart should also feature obvious signs of security. Encrypting payment details isn’t just a beneficial way to prevent unauthorized access to customer data, it’s also part of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. As such, any organization that in any way deals with payment card information must have encryption in place.
An SSL certificate can provide this encryption, and display recognizable icons that signal protection is in place. In addition to a seal on the checkout page itself, many SSL certificates will also adjust the display of the address bar so that a small, green lock is visible. In this way, customers know that their sensitive information is adequately safeguarded.
4. Product images for multi-item sales.
Another helpful feature is the inclusion of large product images, not only on product pages, but during checkout as well. Practical Ecommerce noted that having the ability to see the items being purchased, and even zoom in to view finer details, is one of the best ways to communicate with customers.
In addition, featuring images is advantageous for customers who are purchasing multiple items. Instead of only including the name of the product, which could include numbers or other identifiers solely for the use of the brand, a photo makes it easier for customers to remember what they’re buying and ensure that sizes, colors and other details are all correct before completing their purchase. This prevents confusion or errors that could lead to cart abandonment or subsequent product returns.
5. Order tracking capabilities.
It’s important that customers can glean as many details as possible both before and after their purchase. This extends to order tracking capabilities – shoppers want to know when their items are being shipped and when they can expect delivery. Consider sending notifications via email or mobile – customers appreciate being kept in the know, and the brand will be top of mind.
Bonus must-have: An industry-leading provider.
In addition to these features, a top-tier e-commerce solution provider can offer not only a top-notch shopping cart, but other platforms and technology as well.
After a dozen years in print journalism, marketing communications specialist at Hostway Services, Inc. Stephen Fontenot moved into information technology three years ago, and works to put cloud infrastructure and related subjects in terms that outsiders can understand. Based in San Antonio, Stephen also works as the deputy director of the Texas Quiz Bowl Alliance.