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Four Point Basic E-Commerce Shopping Cart Review

Posted on 1.04.2009

Now that the holidays are over and the final items have been shipped, it's time to take a hard look at what worked and what didn't with your shopping cart. While the E-commerce "experience" continually changes (as do the expectations of users) it is essential to step back and measure the improvements made throughout the year and from years past to see what moved the needle in a positive or negative direction. While it may not have been a banner year for all Internet retailers,  understanding what worked will lead us towards making positive improvements over the coming year for ecommerce success.

Here are four issues to discuss at your shopping cart review meeting.
Know of some more? Just comment below!

- Is Text Navigation (Bread Crumb) Available, Obvious and Constructive?
Most merchants these days sell more than one product, right? Since most e-commerce shopping carts provide some form of text-based navigation (commonly called 'breadcrumb' navigation) it is essential that it is clear and visible to the user, and obvious and constructive in its ability to tell users where they are and what they are looking at. Enabling users to move around this text-based navigation and expand their navigation outside or across a particular category further ensures they do not get lost and ultimately find what they are looking for. Does your text-based navigation work for users? Perhaps the only way to tell is through the use of heat maps and eye tracking. The most popular (based on mentions alone) is CrazyEgg, but take a look at ClickHeat (excellent for tracking liquid layouts) from LabsMedia as another option.

- Can Users Search, Sort and Refine?
When using the default search function on your shopping cart (you do have one, right>) the answer must be "yes" to one very important question - can users set parameters to find what it is they are looking for? While you may feel that sorting and refining isn't how users interact with the products featured on your site and from within your larger database, even the perceived presence of that availability will help to establish a strong connection with users that are looking for something very specific. Being the enterprise that was "the only place I could find it" helps you company a go long way towards securing mindshare. If you have an advanced searching system, or can allow users to select prices, options, colors, sizes, models, etc, do it - if it is an upgrade from your existing platform - now is the time. The February edition of Website Magazine will contain an article on the various site search opportunities available to Internet retailers and content providers alike.

- Is enough information provided? Those selling products might might believe that enough information has been provided, but users/consumers are often much different. It is essential to remember that the most successful merchants tell a story about each product. This is achieved not just through a wide variety of product photos (from each and every possible angle), but reviews (both formal and consumer generated), and even videos. This additional content is invaluable to helping the user feel like they have experienced the product even before a final decision has been made to pull out their credit card.

-  Displaying Availability and Delivery Time?
There are few things as discouraging to users/consumers as finding out that, even though you list that item, they won't be able to purchase it from you. Many Internet retailers let consumers add items to their cart or checkout before discovering if the item is in stock or when it will arrive (what if you need expedited delivery?). It's the kind of experience that sours consumers on your brand. Making users aware of the amount of stock on hand (or displaying how many units are left) gives confidence to users. Push further into cusomer satisfaction by highlighting delivery time and you will be sure to win the hearts, minds and wallets of your visitors.

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