6 Ways To Increase Online Sales

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How can you make sure users purchase what’s in their shopping carts before they leave your site? Make sure you’re following these best practices.

According to a recent Newsday article, shopping-cart abandonment rate, on average, is a whopping 70%, Getting shoppers to stay on task requires you to have a superior online user experience.

Use this checklist of shopping cart best practices and you’ll see your sales increase dramatically.

1. Site Flow/Experience
Your checkout process should be completely linear. Having steps within steps confuses and intimidates customers (Paypal comes to mind) as it breaks with their mental model of a linear checkout. This is critical because the mental model of most customers dictates that a checkout process should be linear. Upon seeing the same page twice, most customers would conclude that the website has an error, because this is what happens with validation errors.

Consumers love websites with few screens and fields. They want it quick and easy. The most successful sites limit the amount of customer information required to only the most essential. Only the most dedicated buyers (i.e. there’s no where else to buy the product you must have), will trudge through a seemingly endless number of input fields. Customers feel that their privacy is being invaded when they are required to submit seemingly unnecessary personal information. Users also need to understand at all times where they are in the checkout process. Make sure you build a clearly labeled step-by-step process that guides users through to purchase.

2. Build Trust
Make the sales total of the shopping cart clear upfront. Many users abandon checkout because they get surprised in the process by shipping, taxes, or other expenses, so show the total before requiring any financial information.

3. Quality Product Pages
Your product pages must have high-quality photos, detailed product specifications, and ratings or reviews. Most importantly, the “Add to Cart” call-to-action should be prominent and easy-to-find. Customers won’t add an item to the shopping cart if it isn’t presented in a compelling and straightforward way.

4. Shopping Cart
Many consumers use the cart as a place to review and compare items before they purchase. Facilitate this activity:

  • Include thumbnail images of the selected items
  • Ensuring product names in the cart link to more extensive descriptions
  • Customers should also be able to easily find and do all the basics in the cart: change and update quantities, remove items, proceed to checkout, and continue shopping.

Bonus: The “continue shopping” link/button should always take customers to the area of the site where they were most recently shopping–not to a page at a higher level than where they had previously drilled down to discover an item.

5. Customer Login/Account Sign-up
Allow customers to recover a forgotten username or password without leaving the site or losing their place in the purchase flow. Offer to check off “remember me” so users can return to the site and purchase more easily next time.

Not all customers will want to create an account. Some may be in a hurry to complete a purchase. Offer guest checkout (or account sign-up) as part of the flow. Also allow customers to use email address as a username; it’s fast and easy to remember.

6. Checkout
Customers want to see all the costs before they provide payment information. Give users multiple options for shipping speed, and always provide costs as well as estimated arrival time for each option. Default to the least-expensive shipping method.

Visually reinforce all sensitive payment fields.

Don’t make customers enter information twice. Most customers order products to their home, so requiring both a billing and shipping address doesn’t make sense. Pre-fill billing address with shipping information previously entered. By defaulting the billing address to the shipping address, your checkout process will have many fewer fields, making it less intimidating for customers. Users also reduce the risk of misspelling their address if they have to enter it only once; they won’t rush through the form as quickly, and if there are errors, the customer will have to fix them only once. Additionally, you could hide the billing address fields entirely showing with a checkbox that.

Give users the option to have credit card information stored with the site for future purchases. At this step, site security should be especially prominent to help consumers trust their financial information will not be compromised.

Design a better checkout experience

While there are many more subtleties to designing a good checkout experience, these guidelines go a long way. If you adhere to them, your checkout process will perform well above average.

In a study that he conducted 10 years ago, usability guru Jakob Nielsen concluded that large e-commerce websites violated many basic checkout usability guidelines. Don’t let it be your site too.

With the latest improvements in Web technology and browsers, the potential to create an amazing user experience has increased dramatically. Yet, advanced features shouldn’t be the focus until basic usability guidelines are met. If we add the latest technology just because it’s new and exciting, then today’s abandonment rate of is unlikely to decrease.

Do yourself and your customers a favor by following these guidelines. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can venture into more advanced territory.

Adapted from articles by Smashing Magazine & Inc.

One Response to “6 Ways To Increase Online Sales”

  1. Great article. I was able to implement all of these tactics on this new site I built for janitorial, office and safety supplies. Couldn’t use Cart66 for this one though because it has over 12,000 products. Love Cart66 for smaller sites though.

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