Your shopping cart should always include relevant information
Always have a persistent visible icon in the upper right order that shows the numbers of items in your cart. Include a “Checkout” button next to the icon.
On the shopping cart page itself, ecommerce users expect to do the following:
- Know exactly what’s in the cart. Include a thumbnail picture that links back to the full product description page. List out any options that were chosen (size, color, technical specs). Be sure to show the individual price of each item.
- Update quantities of items.
- Remove items or save them for a later purchase.
- Clearly understand the shipping rates. Don’t wait until the checkout process to publish this.
Keep your shopping page simple and clean. The number one action you want on this page is for the user to push the “Proceed to Checkout” button. While you can target impulse buyers with recommended products based on items in the shopping cart, avoid distracting users into cart abandonment and keep those related products secondary to the checkout button.
Allow shoppers to save an item for later
Not every visitor is ready to buy right now. Allow window shoppers and inspiration seekers to save an item for a later purchase. Giving them this option makes them more likely to return and pick up where they left off rather than having to start the process all over with an empty cart.
Offer competitive shipping
Big ecommerce sites unfortunately dominate in offering the best deals on shipping. But free shipping is very alluring to online shoppers. Other options include a low price flat rate or free shipping at certain price breaks. Offer different ship time options. You’ll need to consider your shipping rates prior to launching your store. Whatever your shipping promotion is, never let it be a surprise to customers. Publish this prior to checking out and entering in billing details.
Create a user-friendly checkout process
For many e-tailers, both large and small, the weakest link in overall usability is the checkout process. Mistakes at this point will cost you the sale. Try to avoid the following mistakes:
Registration has its benefits (faster checkouts, services like wish lists and saved baskets, personalization of offers, ability to leave reviews). But many usability experts think that making registration compulsory is an unnecessary obstacle. You risk returning customers not being able to remember their login information. Sure, you may have a password lookup feature, but what if their email isn’t working or is inaccessible at the moment? Offer an optional registration prior to purchase, explaining the benefits of registering but also allowing people to checkout as a guest.
An overly complicated form
When a customer has problems with a form, the likelihood of cart abandonment increases significantly. When they fail more than one, they will be inclined to leave the website altogether. I could go into great depth about the usability of forms but stick to these principles:
- Usability research has shown that one single page for checkouts convert at higher rates than multi-step ones.
- Include descriptive labels for fields and clearly indicate which ones are optional. If the field might cause confusion, include a “What’s this?” link that displays more information about what you’re asking for when clicked.
- Format your credit card expiration dates as they appear on the credit card. For example, the correct way is to use two digit numbers so the options are “03/13” instead of “March 2013.”
- Use the shipping address as the billing address by default. Most customers order products from their home, so requiring both a billing and shipping address doesn’t make sense. This results in seeing fewer fields, making the form less intimidating to customers. Also allow for a “Gift” option; when the recipient receives the item, billing information isn’t included in the delivered package.
- Use clear error indications. Place error messages close to the relevant field and use red - the universal color for form errors. Getting your card declined is always an embarrassing option, even if it’s in the privacy of your own home. Gracefully handle these errors. For instance, if the CVV code is invalid, show customers a picture of where the code can be found on the card.
Once someone has moved past the shopping cart, it’s time to stop marketing and close the sale. Too many options can send the customer into a paradox of choice, leading to abandoned carts.
Hidden customer service information
Customers need to know that some is immediately reachable if they have a problem with their checkout. Not every customer who sees your prominently displayed number will call, but just having one creates a sense of trust.
Unclear next steps
Once they’ve entered in their shipping, billing, and payment information, customers need to know exactly which button to push next. “Submit Order” is stronger than “Continue.” Like the “Add to Cart” button, it should be the most eye-catching item on the page. Keep the design of your checkout page simple and the “Submit Order” button bold and bright. Don’t include a “Cancel” button; you’re just making it easier for customer to abandon their order.
Continue to engage your customers on the order confirmation page
The shopping experience doesn’t dead end on the order confirmation page. A nice “thank you” reassures the customer that they’ve made a wise purchase decision. Consider adding a tell-a-friend form or social share buttons, displaying customer service FAQs, a weekly deal / reward program sign-up, a special coupon for their next purchase, or a feedback survey.
Don’t go hog-wild on the Thank You page either. Maintain the good feeling of the customer’s purchase by avoiding:
- Red fonts (customers will thing they’ve just made an error in their purchase)
- A clutter of third-party services
- Unneccessary functionality or information
Your return policy can make or break a sale all on its own
Twenty-seven percent of online consumers say the hassle of returns is one main reason they do not make purchases online. We can’t all be Zappos and offer free returns up to a full year after purchase, but try sticking to these principles to having a good return policy:
- Avoid threatening language like “We won’t be responsible” and “We will refuse” and don’t obfuscate your policy with legal jargon.
- Be prepared to pay for your own mistakes like shipping the wrong item or using poor packaging.
- Clearly state the timeframe for how they’ll receive credit, and indicate if it is credit or cash.
- Make sure you list all your return requirement upfront: Do they need to have all the original packaging and tags? Do they need to include the receipt?
- Offer an in-store return policy if you have brick-and-mortar stores.