Website Shopping Cart Optimization

by Brook Lenox on August 20, 2010

Shopping Cart OptimizationAre you selling products or services on your website? One of the best ways to increase your revenue is to increase your traffic, right?

Not necessarily. Before you increase your traffic, you should make sure to optimize your shopping cart. Why?

Let’s say you have 1,000 visitors daily to your site and 1% (or 10) of them order. Increasing your traffic by 5x or 5,000 visitors a day would only increase your orders by 40 from 50.

But if you first optimize your shopping cart and increase your conversion rate from 1% to 2% and then increase your traffic by 5x, then you’ll be driving 100 more orders daily.

Eights steps to shopping cart optimization:


  • Find your baseline #’s
  • Decrease the # of steps
  • Shorten every page
  • Add links and logos to reassure buyers
  • Leave no button unturned
  • Remove unnecessary fields
  • Adjust your shipping costs
  • Email those that abandon their carts

#1 Find Your Baseline #’s

Before you do any optimizing, figure out some basics numbers for your site. 

Here are a few that are important to know:

  • Site conversion rate = # of conversions / # of visitors for a given time period
  • Shopping cart conversion rate = # of people that finish orders / # of people that start orders for a given time period
  • Abandonment rate = % that abandon from each shopping cart page

Knowing these metrics, will give you something to compare against, after you make changes.

#2 Decrease the # of Steps

Many websites make visitors go through too many steps to check out. With every new page you add people will drop off.  If you’ve got 5 different pages in your check out process, could you make it 3 or 4? Combine pages, take out all unnecessary steps. All of this will help.

#3 Shorten Every Page

Look at every page. Is there a way to move the content up without crunching it all together too much? Can you remove extra graphics or make them smaller? The whole idea is that less might just be more. Pretend for a moment that you are a visitor and go through each page. Go to some of the best websites and go through their order process.

#4 Add Links and Logos to Reassure Buyers

Especially if you are not a major online player (i.e. Amazon, Best Buy, etc), visitors might be wary of ordering from your site. By adding a BBB (Better Business Bureau) logo, a Versign Secured logo, or a 60-day money back guarantee logo, you will help users feel more comfortable with your site.

The more they trust you, the more likely they’ll be willing to order from you.

#5 Leave NO Button Unturned

Two notes about buttons:

  • If you use unprofessional looking buttons, you’ll look like a fly by night site, and users will fly :) away from your site.
  • You should consider adding “checkout” or “continue” buttons at both the top and bottom of every page so users won’t have to scroll so much to get to the next page.

#6 Remove Unnecessary Fields

Many, many times when a shopping cart is created it’s over done. In trying to cover everything, you end up losing sales.

Here are fields to avoid:

  • Asking a bunch of marketing questions (do this via surveys or on the thank you page after the order is complete)
  • Making them fill in a separate shipping versus billing address. Have a check box to click in if they are the same.
  • Give them the option to create an account, but don’t force them to. It’s more fields. It takes more of their valuable time.

#7 Adjust your Shipping Costs

Couple of notes on shipping:

  • Show it upfront. Some sites force you way into the order process to see the shipping charges. Not a great customer experience.
  • Make it simple. If only PHDs can figure out shipping on your site, only PHDs will be buying!
  • Do you have to charge for shipping? Do the math. If you can include it in the cost of the product do so.
  • Test offering free shipping and see how it impacts your order rate.

#8 Email those that Abandon their Carts

Ever get distracted when you are about to order something online? The door bell rings. The dog throws up (ugh). Maybe you just aren’t sure you need that turtle neck in July. If you’ve collected their email address, test sending those folks a free shipping coupon and a link to your customer support line. You might be amazed at how many come back and complete orders.


Couple of final thoughts:

  • If you’re the marketing person, work to get buy in from those coding the changes, by sharing how these changes might impact revenue.
  • Think about when you’ll make changes. Try to limit the #’s of variables. For example, don’t change the # of pages AND the shipping cost at the same time.
  • If it’s fiscally feasible (say that 5 times fast) add online chat or an 800# to your order pages.

Have questions? Let me know. Best of luck!

photo credits:  Auswandern Malaysia

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Wells September 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Good insight. What time frame do you recommend to arrive at your baseline #’s. Thanks!

Brook Lenox October 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

@Mark – depends on how much traffic you have. I’d say you need to have at least 500 users go into your shopping cart to get a baseline #.

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