Case Study: A Better Shopping Cart

  |  September 22, 2006   |  Comments

Some of the typical problems with a shopping cart and how to fix them.

So many people have gone back and forth about the "perfect" shopping cart. Do I know what the perfect shopping cart is? No. But I do know what some of the problems with a typical cart are and how to fix them. When SkyMall hired us to redesign its Web site, we had a golden opportunity to put some of these ideas into practice.

SkyMall produces the catalogs you find on airplanes that sell all the cool gadgets (not the duty-free catalogs selling perfume, the other one!). Its site is a major component of its business. Because its products are hip and innovative, the company wanted its site to be, too. In future columns, I'll discuss some of the other features we put into the site, but let's focus today on the shopping cart and checkout path.

The Existing Problem

One of my pet peeves about the typical shopping cart and checkout path is the way in which the user is guided down a singular path and taken away from the regular Web site. Typically, users enter products into the shopping cart. Once they click the checkout button, they see only the checkout path. It's usually difficult to get back to the site and impossible to alter the order itself once inside the checkout process.

This leads to many problems. The first is users can't easily add new products to the cart. In worst-case scenarios, they must physically close their browsers (or enter the base URL on the address line) to get back into the site. This obviously leads to many abandoned shopping carts.

Another problem that plagues the checkout process is the notion that all decisions are final once you're off the shopping cart page. What if, in the middle of filling out your shipping information or while you're entering credit card information, you decide you don't want one of the products in your cart? Or you decide you want an item from your wish list (maybe the added product justifies the order's shipping costs)? In most checkout paths, you can't easily go back and make alterations like that.

A Better Cart and Checkout

The checkout process we designed for SkyMall solves these problems. First, we don't remove the main site navigation like most sites do, so the user can easily continue shopping at any time.

Then, once users click "Proceed to Checkout" from the shopping cart page, something new happens. The left-hand side of the screen shows the first step of the checkout process, while the right-hand side of the screen shows the cart and the wish list.

The cart is completely editable. Users can change quantities, remove products, or move them to the wish list. If a product is customizable (such as an address plaque), users can change the customizable parameters. The wish list is there, too, and users can freely add items to the wish list at any point in the checkout process.

The split screen between the cart and the checkout process remains up until the thank-you page. Because users can interact with the cart during the checkout process, they can adjust orders, see how changing individual shipping options affects the total order price, and change all the customizable features of a product, all without leaving the checkout process.

The Results

The results are exactly what you'd expect. Average order size is up, as people find it easier to add products from their wish lists during the checkout (this makes the wish list a catalyst for impulse purchases). The cart abandonment rate has dropped because people can easily reduce their orders (and check out part of their carts) and put products in their wish lists during the checkout process. Finally, customer satisfaction has increased. People are very excited at how interactive the process is and how easy it is to use.

The Best Cart?

I think it takes a lot of hubris for someone to claim he has the best of anything, especially as the industry evolves on a daily basis. What I will say is this new hybrid of the cart and checkout process solves many of the problems that plague the current checkout process. Once we get more data on how people are using it, I'm sure it will go through another evolution. But for now, it's performing scores better than a typical checkout process does.

Try it out at the new SkyMall, and let me know what you think.

Until next time...


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Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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