Online Shopping Cart Tips For New E-commerce Merchants


It is often difficult for new e-commerce merchants to know where to begin when putting together their online store. Though there are a number of shopping cart programs and merchant resources there is a lack of initial direction.

This information is intended to help merchants avoid common pit falls and save time later trying to correct them. The goal is to make a pleasant shopping experience for potential customers rather than discouraging them and driving them away. Disregarding these basic e-commerce recommendations can be costly in the loss of potential revenue.

The items listed here are not listed in order of importance. Each item should be considered in establishing a well run shopping cart.

1) Shopping Cart Responsiveness

Test your potential shopping cart for speed. If it is too slow you could frustrate your customers. Consider another shopping cart program. If you are still in the planning stage, this is the time to make sure the programming works the way you want. If you are looking at a commercial online shopping cart program find existing stores that are using it and try them out. If you have a large number of products the cart may be slower.

2) Visible Contact Information

Include complete physical address and telephone contact information. This can be a seperate page but there should be a link to it on every page. Hiding your identity (whether intentional or not) lowers the confidence level of shoppers. There are also many online shoppers like to select the product in an online shopping cart then phone in the actual order.

3) Visible Privacy Policy

Internet privacy is a big concern among many e-commerce shoppers. Establish a firm privacy policy page, link to it from every page, and abide by it. This is an easy item to miss but it is important to some online shopping cart users and popular news items may make it important to the majority of shoppers on any given day.

4) Visible Return Policy

Having a return policy page provides some comfort to customers that are not familiar with you. You may stand behind your product or service 100% but your potential online shopping cart customer does not know this unless you make it clearly available to them on your site. Let your customers know what to do in case they have experience any problems. Visible return and warranty information helps build confidence in your store.

5) Easy Shopping Cart Navigation and Product Organization

Complicated shopping carts may drive customers away. We want customers to easilly drill down to their desired product with just a few clicks and be able to move from one product or category to another with ease. Try to arrange drop down lists so that similar or related products and categories are near each other. Some shopping carts arrange lists in the order they were entered so it is a good idea to handle product organization before they are entered.

6) Include Complete Product Description

If your online shopping cart program includes an additional information or details feature, make sure there actually is additional information that the customer will see when they click on the feature. If all of the information is available on the initial product display then an additional information feature should be turned off. We do not want customers to make unnecessary clicks.

7) Clear Pricing Information

Have product pricing listed wherever the product is listed. If your shopping cart includes product lists (such as category summaries) be sure a column is included for product price. If the price is going to discourage the customer in the summary it will discourage them in the detail. Don’t make them take extra clicks to find information that could easily be available without it.

8) Easy Item Ordering (add to cart)

If you are going to use a commercial online shopping cart program make sure that adding to the cart is simple and easy to understand. Customers should not have to hunt for the “add this item” button. Your goal should be to make your online order process be a natural flow.

9) Include Product Availability

If the product is not available for immediate shipping, let your online shopping cart customers know it. You may loose a customer if your product is not immediately available but the chances are you will have upset customers if the items are not shipped promptly. If there is a chance of having return customers or customer referals, this type of processing will lose them.

10) Avoid Under Selling

Many commercial online shopping carts include logical displays of similar products. If your e-commerce cart program does not include this option, consider looking for another. You want to take advantage of available screen space to offer customers items that they are most likely to purchase. There are a number of appropriate ways to do this the appearance of being helpful to the customer rather than being pushy.

11) Avoid Unecessary Required Clickthroughs or Over Selling on Check out

Though it is entirely appropriate to show additional items when the shopping cart totals are displayed and recommended to have clearly defined “continue shopping” options, it is annoying to have seperate pages devoted entirely toward similar items during check-out. Some carts force you through additional sales screens on the way to check-out. Though the customer may have invested enough time to complete the checkout, they will be less likely to return. This is a common tactic used by services that have a low balled leader item who make their money off of additional services. Many domain registrars are doing this in order to sell inadequate or unnecessary additional features such as email or web hosting.

12) Secure Online Checkout – Including Personal Information

Most merchants are aware that payment information (eg. credit card processing) should always be done in a secured (https) environment. It is also highly recommended to have the personal information (name, address, phone, etc) be collected in a secure environment. If you have your own secure certificate there is no reason why this should not be done. If you are considering a commercial shopping cart that doesn’t secure this part of the check out, consider looking for a different cart. Many customers will go ahead with the order but there is no reason to lose customers that expect to see this security.

13) Provide as many e-commerce payment options as possible

Though there are a number of payment collection methods available (person to person services, 3rd party payment services, credit card merchant accounts) it is a good idea to include as many as possible. You should strive to at least be able to except credit cards since they are the most popular but there is a segment of online shoppers that will not enter their credit card information and will only shop at sites that offer other means of payment (such as PayPal).

14) Is the Shopping Cart Spider-able?

This item should have been listed near the top since it relates to decisions on selecting the cart that is right for you. Though you will most likely market your site in a number of ways you will want to maximize the benefit of search engine listings. Search engines will not always index dynamic pages (which most shopping carts are). You want to make sure that the cart is as search engine friendly as possible so that all of your product pages get listed. This gives your store more ways to be found in the search engines. One of the best ways to test this is to find a site that is using the shopping cart you are considering and doing a search for some of their products. At google you would type “site:www.ourshop.com widgets” to search for pages containing “widgets” on “ourshop.com”. Or to see all pages that are indexed on a site you would type “site:www.ourshop.com -abcdef” which will show all pages on “ourshop.com” that do not contain the phrase “abcdef”.

Online Shopping Cart Tips Summary

Many of these items may seem fairly basic but with new online shopping cart sites they are often over looked or do not get the complete attention that they deserve. Spending some time before addresses these points before bringing an e-commerce store online can eleviate a number of headaches later.