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Shopping Cart Features to Consider
Often the simplest Web stores have the most success. But shoppers like special features depending upon the type of store you have, how you market and use them, and if you don't overwhelm the shopper. Below I list as many features as I could think of, just to jog your creativity.
Coupon Codes: This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes shoppers who don't have a coupon code feel cheated, like, "someone's getting a discount, but not me." You might want to consider labeling it, "Voucher Code," or "Promotional Code," or some other term which does not necessarily imply a discount.
Continue Shopping Button in the Basket Screen: When a shopper at your store gets to their basket, do you give them the option to shop some more, or is your site pushing them to checkout immediately? Continue Shopping buttons should take them to the last product or category page, or, worst case, the store home page.
Remember Me: Amazon does it, and people like it. Upon returning to the store, the shopper is greeted with, "Welcome Back, Bob Smith." This could be enhanced with order histories, preference settings, recommended products based upon purchase history, etc.
E-check Acceptance: The more payment options, the better. Electronic check acceptance is just like a credit card, without requiring a credit card account. Most banks have a simple process for accepting e-checks. Check with your host, ecommerce platform software provider, and your bank for information about what is available for your site.
PayPal Acceptance: Like e-checks, it's just another option for payment method.
Order Status Lookup: Once a customer places an order, they wait anxiously, worrying. Help them love your site more by providing a place for them to log in and check the status of the order - has it been shipped? If so, what is the tracking number?
Order History: Some customers like to look back and see what they've ordered in the past. Giving them this information is both helpful, and an excellent marketing tool. If your products are consumable, consider having an easy-order system where they can reorder previous products from their purchase history.
Quantity Discounts: Face it. People like the Web because they save money. Offering quantity discounts per product is a great way to increase the size of an order, while making your customer smile.
Gift Certificates: If your products are gift-worthy, don't make your customers choose what to buy. Offer gift certificates so they can send them to the gift recipient. Gift certificates should be easy to use, with a simple code entered upon checkout.
Multiple Ship-To Addresses: This allows customers to shop once and have gifts sent to multiple people. By offering the ability to have parts of the order go to different recipients, you're making it easier for your customer to buy more and more on each order.
Multiple Shipping Methods: Like multiple addresses, this allows the customer to send some items overnight, while paying less to send others at a slower rate. Options are always great for web shoppers.
Frequent Buyer Program: Offer your customers rewards for returning to shop. These programs could give points that are redeemable on your site, or discounts based upon shopping history. You might have a permanent discount for shoppers who purchase a total of over $5,000, or points that are worth 10% of an order that can be used on the next order. A return customer is often worth much more than a new customer.
Gift Registry/Wishlist: What better way for word-of-mouth than for people to tell others, "I want something from this site"? With this service, people set up an account and select items to place in their registry. Their friends and family come to the site, search the gift registry for items that have not been bought already, and place an order.
Tell-A-Friend: Another excellent word-of-mouth tool. Have your customers tell others about your products and services. Tell-A-Friend systems can be as simple as an e-mail link, and as powerful as a page that allows multiple e-mail addresses and a personal note. Be sure the system sends the URL of the page the person was on when they clicked on it, so the recipient isn't wondering what the sender was referring to.
Mini-Cart: This is a little place on every page that shows the contents of the shopping cart. This allows the customer to quickly know what they've added to their cart. It could be simple, with quantity of items and total. Or, it can have features like full list of items in cart, shipping calculator, and the ability to change quantities or remove items right in the mini-cart.
Live Chat: If your products or services are complicated and would benefit from a live conversation to answer questions, this feature can be very popular. You've seen the banners on other sites saying, "Click here to speak to a representative." Some of these services allow you to watch a shopper browse your store, and actively pop a window up saying, "We noticed you are browsing our store. Do you have any questions?" If you install Live Chat, be sure you have in manned most of the time. A banner that says, "offline" every time a shopper comes to your store is a negative rather than a positive feature.
Discounts: By far the most popular feature is offering some from of discount to the customer. The possibilities are almost endless. Popular discount methods include Buy 2 Get 1 Free, quantity based discounts, total dollar amount discounts,
Gift Wrap: Special packaging makes gift giving more convenient. If you offer gift wrapping, special gift packaging, or gift cards, be sure to mention it on your home page so people know they can have gifts shipped direct to the recipient, instead of having to receive the package, wrap it, and ship it again.
Breadcrumb Navigation: That's the name for the little path at the top of some screens that show the path you took to get to the page you're on. Usually, it looks like this: Home>Books>Fiction>Stephen King. The benefit of this feature is it helps people remember where they are at all times, with quick return to previous pages.
Featured Products: This can be simply products you choose to feature, new products, most-often-purchased products, most looked at products, or even products that are recommended based upon past purchases from the current customer.
Product Reviews/Ratings: With this feature, you allow your customers to review and/or rate your products, and show the reviews/ratings within the product information pages. The best advice for this feature is to not have the reviews automatically show up on your pages. Instead, have a system where you approve the reviews first, so you don't get nasty messages on your product pages by pranksters.
Wait List: If you have products that run out of inventory, don't just drop the item from your store until you get new stock. Instead, create a wait list function so people can request to be notified when the item is back in stock.
Printable Invoice: If your invoice/receipt screen has a lot of graphics from your site design, offer a "printable invoice" link that pulls up a simple black and white, printer ready screen.
Printable Order Form: Some customers shop on the Web, but prefer to call, fax or mail their order. Make it easy for them with a printable order form. It seems nonsensical, but sales can increase dramatically if you help those individuals who fear placing their credit card number online. Which brings up another point; you should most definitely have a telephone number (toll free is preferred) for orders and questions, even if it's just to make the customer more comfortable.
As you can see, there are many ways you can enhance your shoppers' experience at your site. Most of these are relatively simple to implement. Keep it simple, make these easy to use, and you might see increased conversions.
As an e-commerce consultant for over three years, and Web designer for over ten, Chuck Lasker has been helping individuals and organizations utilize the Internet in almost every arena. Chuck's e-newsletter and blog, The MerchantHowTo.com Report, at http://www.MerchantHowTo.com, is free and popular amongst e-store owners.
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