14 Ecommerce Shopping Cart Best Practices To Increase Conversions

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
September 1, 2022
June 7, 2022
14 Ecommerce Shopping Cart Best Practices To Increase Conversions

The trick to ecommerce is having great products and attracting a bunch of people to your website. Right? Not quite. 

Great products and brand awareness are important, but so are all the little details that make up your website’s shopping experience. Everything — from the way your products are categorized to the live chat widget (or lack thereof) — impacts how successfully you can turn browsers into buyers, also known as your site’s conversion rate. One of the most important of those elements is your online store’s shopping cart. 

In this article, we’ll explore everything that happens after a website visitor clicks “Add to cart,” including the reasons customers abandon carts and 14 shopping cart best practices to encourage customers to keep shopping and place an order.

How damaging is cart abandonment for your brand’s revenue?

Shopping cart abandonment is when a customer adds items to their shopping cart on your website, but leaves before making the purchase. Recent data from the Baymard Institute shows that the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.82%. This means that about seven out of every 10 shoppers at your store will not click “purchase.” 

Baymard also crunched the numbers to find out that companies across the U.S. and Europe collectively lost out on $260 billion worth of revenue due to cart abandonment. This revenue could be recovered through a stronger checkout flow and cart design. 

What causes shoppers to abandon shopping carts?

The next layer of navigating how to address checkout abandonment issues revolves around reasons for abandonment, which run the gamut. Baymard’s research reveals the top reasons for cart abandonment:

A list of reasons for cart abandonments.
Source: Baymard

Let’s dive into some of the top reasons.

Multi-step checkout processes 

A checkout process that requires the customer to go through multiple steps is one reason that customers abandoned their carts, as cited by the Baymard survey from late 2021. Of those surveyed, 17% say that they didn’t complete their purchase because the process was “too long or complicated.” 

It’s vital to get your shoppers to quickly find a checkout button that actually completes the purchase, in as few clicks and screens as possible. 

Gated checkout processes

If you require customers to create an account before checking out, you’re most likely losing some of them before checkout. Simply put, people don’t want to be forced into creating an account (that will most likely lead to emails they do not care for in their inbox) just to purchase a product from your company. In the Baymard study, 24% of consumers report “the site wanted me to create an account” as their top reason for abandoning during checkout. 

Even if customers do comply and create an account, they may be annoyed or frustrated by having to do so — which your company should avoid at all costs in order to ensure an excellent customer experience. 

Not enough payment options (or missing convenient options)

Another reason for cart abandonment cited in the Baymard survey was “not enough payment methods.” This could mean that an ecommerce company doesn’t accept certain credit cards or other payment options like PayPal.

When your online store accepts multiple payment methods, you are more likely to meet each customer’s individual expectations. This leads to a sense of convenience and a smoother customer experience. 

A collection of logos for payment methods like Apple Pay, Visa, Stripe, and more.

Lack of trust in the shopping cart’s security 

Most online shoppers want to feel a sense of trust before plugging their credit card details into any website. Baymard’s 2021 survey finds that 18% of customers say they abandoned their online cart because they did not feel that the ecommerce store was trustworthy. 

It’s important to make your customers feel secure, specifically when dealing with privacy and sensitive data like credit card numbers and personal information. Social proof like customer reviews on your products, as well as security guidelines like secure sockets layer (SSL) and payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS), are a great way to bolster trust among first-time visitors. 

Surprise shipping charges or long delivery wait times

Finally, the most commonly cited reason for cart abandonment among consumers is surprise shipping costs or long delivery wait times. According to Baymard, “extra costs” and “delivery was too slow” made up 68% of survey responses. This shows just how much shipping can impact whether or not someone chooses to go through with ordering your product.

Related: Trying to improve your shipping experience? Check out our guides on shipping for ecommerce and how to offer free shipping

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14 optimization tips for the best shopping cart experience

Now that you know some of the top reasons customers are abandoning their carts, let’s look at some best practices you can implement to give customers a positive shopping cart experience — and lower your cart abandonment rate.

1) Offer the right payment options for your customers 

As mentioned, a lack of payment options is one reason customers abandon their online shopping carts, so ensuring your ecommerce website has options is vital. According to SaleCycle, the majority of online shoppers want the option to pay for purchases online with either a digital wallet (digital payments not attached to a card), credit card, debit card, or bank transfer. 

The more options you have available, the better. Additionally, some payment options can also make checkout faster and easier for customers, which also helps with cart abandonment rates. 

Pro tip

Be sure to think about which payment types will make the most sense for your customers and your business size. If you are just starting out and have a limited budget, consider starting with PayPal or Venmo. Once you start growing, expand to include all the major payment options: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, PayPal, and maybe even a buy-now-pay-later option like Klarna or Afterpay. 

Also, consider investigating whether your ecommerce platform has express checkout options. Shopify, for example, has express checkout options that let people pay through services like Amazon so they can skip typing out contact, payment, and billing information. Here’s an example of express pay on CROSSNET’s website:

CROSSNET's express pay options include PayPal and Amazon Pay.
Source: CROSSNET

Read more about choosing payment options for your ecommerce business. 

2) Don’t require shoppers to create an account in order to buy 

Shoppers don't want to create an account in order to make a purchase, so eliminating this requirement (if you’re using it within your online store) can be a quick fix for boosting conversions. 

The National Retail Federation reports that 97% of cart abandonment is due to inconvenience. So, keep the shopping cart design as simple as possible — give customers the option to create or sign into an account, but also provide a guest checkout option with a prominent checkout button.

Pro tip

Give customers the option to create an account via social media or their Google account after they purchase. This taps into the convenience factor, and gives you a chance for future email marketing or customer loyalty programs. 

Also, if you have subscribe-and-save functionality, make the discount clear to customers throughout the checkout process — again, without making it mandatory. Olipop’s “Add to cart” option is a great example of advertising the better deal without sacrificing usability for the shopper:

OLIPOP's product page offers a Subscribe & Save option.
Source: OLIPOP

3) Add “mini cart” functionality to your ecommerce site to keep your cart visible while browsing

Keeping a customer’s online shopping cart accessible while browsing is another best practice that can help decrease cart abandonment. A mini cart makes the shopping process much more seamless because customers can easily add products to their cart — or review current cart contents — in a drop-down and without being directed to a new page. This can help minimize potential website loading issues, which Baymard’s survey cites as a top reason that customers abandon their carts during checkout. 

Pro tip

Mini carts are usually a simple add-on, depending on which platform your online store is based. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer mini cart options that you can easily add to your shop. If you’re looking for a brand that has a successful mini cart, check out fashion retailer Marine Layer. Here’s the drop-down that happens if you hover over the cart icon:

Marine Layer's drop-down mini-cart.
Source: Marine Layer

  

Looking for more Shopify-specific tips on abandoned cart recovery? Read more here.

4) Make product descriptions and thumbnails visible on the shopping cart page (where it makes sense) 

Adding your product details to customers’ carts can be extremely helpful — if it makes sense for your business. 

For example, if you sell power tools and a customer is purchasing new drill bits, they may want to double-check that the drill bits they put in their cart are the correct size. So, in order to keep them on the checkout page, include a brief description below the product name. This eliminates the need to go back to the main product page, which eliminates the potential for slow page loading and frustrated customers.

Pro tip

The product description on the checkout screen doesn’t need to be long or complicated — one or two solid sentences from the original product page will do. Or, if your company sells highly visual merchandise, a thumbnail — a picture’s worth a thousand words, after all. One store that add thumbnails to their shopping carts is Glamnetic:

Glamnetic shows product thumbnails in the checkout cart.
Source: Glamnetic

5) Limit the customer information you collect to only the essentials

Everyone values their personal privacy, especially when shopping online. ROI Revolution reports that ”39% of consumers say they have maintained the same level of concern about their online privacy over the past year and 20.5% of consumers say they’re much more concerned about their online privacy compared to one year ago.” Only 8.6% of online shoppers say they’re less concerned now than they were a year ago. 

This is why it’s so important to only collect information from your customers that is absolutely necessary. In a typical shopping transaction, these essentials would include things like email address, phone number, and street address. In some cases, you might also ask for some basic demographic info that’s important to your company’s segmentation, such as gender and purchase habits. You may offer the option to keep customers’ credit cards on file, but we don’t recommend doing this without their permission. 

If customers do opt to keep their credit card information stored on your site, be sure to let them know exactly how this works. Most companies take advantage of encrypted online or cloud-based storage systems. Let customers know there are even regulations that dictate what you can and can’t do with your information. This will help put them at ease and show that your brand is trustworthy. 

A list of optional and required fields during checkout.

Pro tip

Offer customers two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) when shopping on your site, which signals to your customers that you take their privacy seriously. Many companies have opted for MFA or 2FA in the past few years, and you can use Amazon Pay or Google Pay as a version of 2FA on your ecommerce site. 

6) Provide total cost estimates during checkout to reduce sticker shock

As pointed out earlier in this article, unexpected fees are cited as the most popular reason that customers abandon their carts before checkout. To avoid this, give customers an estimated subtotal before they get to the checkout screen. This can be especially important for larger-ticket items because shipping a $1,000 sofa will most likely come with a higher shipping fee (and more tax) than a box of clothing. 

Pro tip

When a customer is on a product page, include an option to enter their zip code to calculate a preview of tax and shipping before they click “add to cart.” Native Union does an excellent job of this on its website. They even break down the costs for various shipping options like standard and express delivery:

Native Union lets you estimate shipping cost based on zip code.
Source: Native Union

7) Use breadcrumbs (progress indicators) to show the number of steps in your checkout process

The breadcrumb feature can be used in many ways on websites but has a specific use for ecommerce checkout processes. Letting customers know how much time, or how many steps, they have left in the checkout process is important to ensure they complete their purchase. Progress indicators can be as simple as a little block of text on the checkout screen that says “1 of 3,” or can use graphics for more visual appeal.

Pro tip

Take this time to think about each step of your business’ checkout process and make it as simple as possible. The more steps a customer has to go through, the more chances you have to lose them. Shopify’s default checkout page has a clear progression from Cart > Information > Shipping > Payment, which you can see on Comfort One Shoes’ site:

 

Comfort One Shoes' checkout page uses breadcrumbs to show previews of the checkout process.
Source: Comfort One Shoes

10) Create an abandoned cart workflow automation for customers that leave items for later

Some ecommerce sites let customers add items to a wish list or “save for later” to reduce the number of times customers add items to a cart without plans to buy them in that shopping session. Regardless of whether you have that functionality, you should create a workflow for customers who leave items behind. 

This workflow could include things like email reminders, on-screen pop-ups, retargeting ads, and sending follow-up coupon codes. It’s important to keep in mind the specific goals of your ecommerce business. What may be right for some brands may not be right for yours. 

Pro tip

Timeliness is everything when it comes to your abandoned cart workflow. When customers are ready to buy, you must be there. Some sites use exit-intent pop-ups as a hail mary for customers about to abandon carts. And while this is effective, some customers find it disruptive. 

Consider instead adding live chat to your website, ideally with proactive functionality. Live chat can have an incredible impact on salesOhh Deer generates about $12,500 per quarter in sales through Gorgias’ live chat — because you can reach out to customers with certain order values in their cart to ask if they need support or offer a discount to stop them from leaving. 

"When you make sales thanks to your good service, customers will come back and recommend you. That's revenue-generating."

Alex Turner, Customer Experience Manager at Ohh Deer

Check out our guide to shopping cart recovery for more recommendations on winning back lost sales.

8) Give your customers multiple shipping options

Every customer has different expectations and needs when it comes to shipping. Offering robust shipping options expands the number of situations your ecommerce business can seamlessly respond to. Beyond helping to decrease your brand’s cart abandonment rate, providing various shipping options can lead to more sales as well as higher retention and customer satisfaction. 

Pro tip

Take into account your target customers’ needs and try to cater to every shipping scenario, which could include the following options:

  • Flat-rate shipping (4-5 business days)
  • Expedited shipping (3 business days)
  • Next-day/overnight shipping (1-2 business days)
  • Local pick up, especially if you have a large number of customers in the city where you operate

Regardless of your options, clarify the price as early as possible to avoid unwanted surprises. Here’s the clear layout of shipping costs on Sol de Janeiro’s website:

Sol de Janeiro offer multiple shipping options.
Source: Sol de Janeiro

9) Implement an auto-save feature for items in shoppers’ carts

At this point, you know many of the reasons customers may abandon their shopping carts online. From frustration and slow page loading speed to simply being distracted, customers leave their carts a lot, so implementing an auto-save feature on your website can help decrease your shop's cart abandon rate. A customer may be distracted and leave your website, but then come back to it a few days later. When they reopen it, their saved cart will remind them of their previous intent to purchase. 

Pro tip

Tap into your website management software to see if an auto-save feature is available. It may be as easy as flipping a toggle. If you use Shopify, you can also save carts between visits so customers can retrieve their old carts when coming back to your site.

11) Offer a live chat feature on the checkout page for customer questions

Most customers (90%) expect an immediate response to their customer service inquiries, according to HubSpot. Being able to provide your customers with this support through a live chat feature can boost the overall customer experience, as well as improve your store’s cart abandonment rate. Even more, Kayako reports that 79% of businesses say offering a live chat feature positively impacted sales (including upsells), revenue, and customer loyalty.

Pro tip

Use Gorgias for live chat (and more). The live chat widget can seamlessly integrate with your Shopify store and provide a solution for customers who may have questions at the time of purchase to drive sales. You can even use chat campaigns to target certain customers — like those lingering on a checkout page — to see if they need information or a discount to complete the purchase:

Source: Gorgias

Want to learn more about the power of live chat for ecommerce? Check out these lists:

Alternatively, if you already have a live chat app in mind, learn how to install it into your Shopify store.

12) Make it easy for customers to move between their cart, product pages, and more in your online store 

Ensuring the design and user experience of your ecommerce shop is up to par is the last but extremely important best practice when it comes to lowering your cart abandonment rate.  You’ll want to ensure customers can move through all areas of your website with ease. 

Pro tip

Explore new features and add-ons that your website software offers. If you’re currently building everything yourself, we encourage you to check out how a tool like Shopify can drastically elevate your customers’ experience while not taking too much time away from your team. For inspiration from an online retailer who does this well, check out skincare brand Then I Met You

Related: Learn how to offer proactive customer service to improve your customer experience.

13) Use your shopping cart for upselling and cross-selling — with limits

Your shopping cart can be a good place to recommend additional products to browsers. This is especially true if some of your products require others for full functionality. 

As you can imagine, pushing items onto customers before they’ve even decided whether they want to make a purchase in the first place is dangerous. They could get annoyed and abandon the purchase altogether. So, if you do decide to add this to your store, do so strategically. For example, Little Poppy Co. uses in-cart recommendations to offer a discount and subscribe-and-save option, which many customers may appreciate.

Little Poppy Co. offers a subscribe and save option at checkout.
Source: Little Poppy Co.

Tools like In Cart Upsell and Cross Sell can activate this feature on your store. 

14) Add a “Buy now” call to action (CTA) button to skip the shopping cart altogether

As we described above, the shopping cart is a bit of a minefield. Customers can fall off at any second and decide not to buy anything or, worse, check out your competitor’s website. One way to avoid issues is to let shoppers skip the shopping cart altogether and let customers just buy the product. 

If you use Shopify, check out their article on Buy Buttons for more information, including some words of warning about the button’s shoddy functionality. 

Check out Loop Earplug’s website for a good example of a clear, visible button to skip the checkout process and buy now:

Loop Earplugs offers a buy now button on product pages in addition to Add to cart
Source: Loop Earplugs

Check out our customer story on Loop Earplugs to learn how Gorgias helped them increase 43% of their revenue from CS.

“We’ve seen 43% increase in revenue from customer support since we launched pre-sales flows. Quick response flows give us the ability to build trust with our customers and that’s priceless. When customers get a quick and honest answer, they often end up buying more than one product in a short span of time. Seeing customers live the life we’re aiming to create for them in Loop Earplugs is extremely rewarding for us.”
- Milan Vanmarcke, Customer Service Manager at Loop Earplugs

3 amazing ecommerce shopping cart experiences to inspire you

Finally, let’s take a look at what we consider to be the gold standards of ecommerce shopping experiences. Don’t hesitate to take some ideas back for your online shop — they may be exactly what your ecommerce strategy needs.

Revolve

Clothing retailer Revolve is a top example of a clean, efficient customer checkout process. The brand doesn’t force customers to log in or sign up for an account in order to purchase — but does give the option. Revolve also provides a live chat option, as well as text and phone numbers to get a hold of a customer service rep should a question come up. 

Revolve
Source: Revolve

Amazon

Amazon is another leading example of a shopping cart experience that covers a lot in a small amount of space. Though it may seem busy for some customers, Amazon features additional information about the product a customer is buying right in the checkout screen, such as the stock count (if there is a low number), eligibility for free shipping, and even information about if the product is Climate Pledge Friendly. 

Amazon
Source: Amazon

Nike

Third, we’re highlighting the athletic wear brand Nike. The company takes a similarly minimalistic approach to Revolve, but is a top-tier example of breadcrumbing and providing estimated additional fees like shipping and tax. The brand also provides a product description on this page, which can be especially helpful when purchasing shoes. 

Nike checkout page
Source: Nike

Take your ecommerce customer service to the next level with Gorgias

Providing a smooth shopping and purchasing experience can lead to a satisfying, stress-free customer experience. Ensuring a positive customer experience will lead to greater customer experience which has a huge impact on your revenue.

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To make the process even more seamless, we recommend checking out Gorgias to manage all of your customer support in one place. The all-in-one platform was built specifically for ecommerce businesses and can integrate easily with other online shop platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. Learn more about how Gorgias can optimize all customer interactions and streamline your business.

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