Conversion Optimization Guide For E-Commerce Shopping Carts

Ecommerce websites come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: the shopping cart. For something that is so easy to do in real life, the online shopping experience is usually done so badly you’d think some companies were trying to turn away shoppers. Those companies that get it right […]

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Ecommerce websites come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: the shopping cart. For something that is so easy to do in real life, the online shopping experience is usually done so badly you’d think some companies were trying to turn away shoppers. Those companies that get it right find themselves on the Internet Retailer 1000 list.

When you don’t have an ecommerce team to make regular changes and ensure that people find what they want and buy more stuff, what should you be doing to increase conversions?

When 1% Means 6 Figures

You need to create a clear picture of your average online purchase transaction, minus shipping, taxes and sales, no matter what they are buying. This metric will give you a good starting point to determine what a customer is worth. As you dig deeper into your analysis, you can do this same thing by product category, but at least start out with the average transaction price.

So, how can even 1% improvement in your visitor to transaction ratio impact the business? Here is an oversimplified example. Let’s say your average transaction is $100, and you have 10,000 unique visitors monthly. If 1% of those unique visitors make a purchase while on the site, this means on average you are selling $10,000 in product monthly, which equals $120,000 per year. If you can move that 1% to 2%, that doubles to $240,000. Small improvements in conversions can drive big dollars in ecommerce.

Measure To Find Your Problems

For shopping carts, there are some standard metrics you need to create and track on a constant basis to see how your improvements are working. Most shopping cart processes include 5 primary steps:

  1. Add to Cart
  2. Shipping
  3. Credit Card Entry
  4. Confirmation
  5. Order Processed

Obviously there are many different types of checkout procedures for shopping carts than just the standard. Assuming you have a standard cart or something really similar, the following are metrics you want to watch.

  1. Add to Cart Rate – The number of unique visitors that added items to the cart, divided by the total number of unique site visitors for the same time period.
  2. Finished Cart Rate – The number of people who added items to the cart and clicked the button to take them to the shipping page, divided by the number of people who added items to their cart.
  3. Finished Shipping Rate – The number of people who filled out shipping information and submitted the form, divided by the number of people who visited the shipping page.
  4. Checkout Rate – Assuming your Checkout is the last step and confirms payment, then this is the number of people who purchased product divided by the number that submitted shipping information.
  5. Total Site Conversion Rate – This is the total number of unique site visitors relative to the total number of purchases in the same time period.
  6. Cart Abandon Rate – This metric is a measurement of the number of people who added items to the cart that did not make an actual purchase.
  7. Cart/Purchase Rate – This metric shows the number of people who did add to the cart that actually purchased a product.

These are your starting point metrics for determining how your shopping cart is performing. The basic idea is to create a conversion rate for every step you have.

There are obviously many other important metrics, but these should be the big ones you watch and try to improve over time. Be sure to filter out or segment your internal team and channel partners or the numbers will be incorrectly skewed.

Get Rid Of Cart Roadblocks

The reason you want to measure the performance of each step is to determine where the greatest amount of drop off is occurring. Additionally, you’ll be able to better monitor the results of any changes you make on a given step in the cart. Each step of a shopping cart is an opportunity to lose a customer, so knowing each conversion rate will give you insight into the user experience.

As an example, if you find there is a large percentage of drop offs after people visit the shipping page, there may be problems with the shipping page that need addressing to decrease abandonment. Maybe there is a technical error that occurs within certain browsers or devices, or it could be you’re asking for unnecessary information which causes people to drop out.

Another common roadblock that carts experience is unintentionally redirecting them away. If you have links to things like the privacy policy or an FAQ on the shipping page (or anywhere else), stop linking to a separate page and taking people away from the shopping cart. When possible, show a pop up modal window or at least open a new tab. Taking people away from the shopping cart is like taking them out of line at the cash register and sending them over to a long customer support line. They may not be back.

Make It Fast

This is common sense, but make your shopping experience simple, obvious, and fast. The more steps you put in a shopping cart process, the lower the number of sales you will make. Every step a person has to make is an opportunity for them to change their mind. Even if they have to scroll down the page to get to the form, that is an unnecessary step they have to take. Again, remember to remove roadblocks to make the user experience fast.

When I’m studying our customer ecommerce sites, I often see each step in the cart losing anywhere from 5-30% of the buyers from the previous step. That can add up quickly when you put roadblocks in front of visitors.

Dive Deeper Into Segments To Find Gold

As you begin to understand these metrics for your entire audience, begin dissecting them to understand how different segments of your visitors actually perform for those same metrics.

For instance, take a look at visitors from organic search and compare to your SEM visitors. How do their behaviors differ in ways that you can capitalize on? Or if you have international customers, what can be done to improve their conversion rates?

When you are able to segment your visitors, you’ll start noticing unique trends that you can optimize to increase your conversion rates. Obviously you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns, but you’ll find lots of things you can do to drive up those conversions before then.

Don’t Forget To Re-Engage

As we all know, cart abandonment happens and it happens at every stage of the checkout process. I won’t go into the concepts of email nurturing, but knowing where an individual abandons their cart will help you craft automated messages to these visitors if you were able to capture their email.

Using email to bring people back to their cart is one of the best tools for speeding up a possible sale when people are checking other prices, thinking it over or simply became distracted. Knowing the point at which they left will be a big help to crafting the most appropriate email responses.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

John Paul Mains
John Paul Mains is Click Laboratory's Chief Scientist, where he leads the company's engagement and optimization teams. He has 20 years of experience in web design, online marketing, customer analysis and lead generation.

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