Best Practice in Shopping Cart Design – Part 1

An Overview

There can be no doubt that on-line sales are the fastest growing facet of the retail marketplace. More and more people are becoming competent internet users; this provides an ever increasing number of potential customers for an on-line retail store. Newcomers to the on-line sales arena could be forgiven for thinking that this is a simple business model to adopt, simply put up a storefront and sit back and wait for sales right? Wrong, establishing an effective on-line store requires careful planning, and this document aims to introduce the key issues faced by new store owners.

Focus on the customer

So many on-line stores make the fundamental mistake of wasting browser real estate trying to convince the consumer that they should buy from their on-line store. Do not waste valuable website space with phrases such as “We are a leading supplier of XYZ product”, don’t talk about yourself, talk about the customer! Instead of adding these bland phrases to a site, use the space more effectively by presenting reasons why the customer should buy the actual product. Simple, high impact phrases designed to promote a product are far more effective, something like “This was the top selling model of XYZ in January” or “This product has received rave reviews and won several awards” are for more preferable to generic, self promoting hogwash. In a nutshell, everything that appears on a page with a product should be aimed at selling the product to the customer, not providing irrelevant background information on the company. Try to remember that the sole purpose of an on-line store is to encourage the customer to purchase products, nothing else, make sure everything about the store focuses on this as the primary function, everything else is tertiary.

Here is a great example of product and consumer focused on-line store content:

Don’t fixate on features

We have all seen the large on-line stores such as and; they have a feature set which includes a myriad of functions such as user product reviews, top 10 lists, wish lists, product comparisons and a whole heap of other bells and whistles. Whilst these features may be useful for some people, a large majority of visitors to the site will never use these more advanced functions. When designing your own shopping cart remember that the basic functionality is the most important set of features, this means the product catalogue, the shopping cart and the checkout. Make sure that these three parts of the store are perfect before considering the addition of more advanced features. If you find yourself committing large amounts of resources to implanting non-essential features then take a step back and remember that most of your customers will never use more than the three main functions of your on-line store. Keep it simple; add advanced features once your store is established.

Here is an example of an online store with a very simple feature set, simply a shopping cart and a checkout:

Lock the doors

Don’t be tempted to carry advertising, including banners, for other websites within your on-line store, keep outgoing links to an absolute minimum. Consider your shopping cart to be similar to a high street retail store, and every outgoing link is a real door within that store. Why present your customers with too many exits to your store? Surely it is better to keep them in the store as long as possible? Every outgoing link is a possible exit, close those exits, and keep your on-line store visitors for yourself.

That’s it for today.
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(You can read the second part of Best Practices in Shopping Cart Design here)

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