No online retailer’s website testing program is complete without a thorough inspection of their shopping cart and checkout process. To ensure your cart delivers optimal performance, you’ll want to frequently shine a light on its various parts, looking for wear and tear as well as opportunities to boost output by testing the addition of new parts.

Not sure where to start your check-up or what to do to fix problem areas? We’ve put together a list of best practices for creating a more customer-friendly cart and checkout process that make it easy for shoppers to go this last mile in the buying cycle. Here are 11 ideas to consider, from The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment:

1. Take the right steps. Consultants the world over will tell you that a checkout process with fewer steps is ideal. And that’s not bad advice, particularly if you test and optimize each step. But keep in mind that a one-step checkout process isn’t always the most strategic. Why? Because when people see long forms, many are likely to abandon the process. Since shorter forms tend to yield higher conversion rates, consider testing and optimizing a checkout process of at least two steps. In the first step, ask for your visitors’ email addresses.

2. Follow up. One of the most effective ways to recover abandoned carts: Follow up with a well-crafted email campaign. Consider a scenario in which a visitor abandons a form they feel is too long. If that company previously gathered an email address, they can send a one- or two-part follow-up email—one that reads along these lines:

We noticed that your order didn’t go through on your recent visit to our site. Can we do anything to help you complete the order?

Research shows that, for service- and subscription-based companies, a second email with incentives—whether that’s a discount or other special offer—is a particularly powerful approach to recapturing sales.

3. Show good form. Clearly, forms are a pain point. Not only are people uncomfortable giving out their information online, forms tend to be full of frustrating glitches. To reduce abandonment at this critical point, take the guesswork out of the process:

  • Label required fields clearly. They shouldn’t be a mystery.
  • When people mistype a phone number, password or email—or skip a required field—create a message that indicates precisely which fields need modification and why. Again, why make them guess?
  • Monitor data input in real time. When a phone number looks good, a green checkbox appears. When an email looks amiss, a pop-up window asks consumers to take a closer look.

4. Practice the art of “mea culpa.” Say it with us now: The customer is always right. When consumers make mistakes during checkout, a clear message should indicate that your system couldn’t process their data—whether that’s an email address, phone number or password. Nowhere should you indicate that they’ve blundered.

If visitors jump ship at first sight of that message, consider a follow-up email campaign: “Our system had some trouble processing your entry, but our customer service representatives are available to help you complete your order at 888-555-XXXX.”

5. Let them know where they stand. No matter the number of steps in your process, progress indicators are a must. Number and label each step—and give shoppers the opportunity to review previous steps, moving back and forward without getting lost. It’s worth testing different types of progress indicators, but never neglect to include one.


Shopping Cart Abandonment_progress

6. Keep consumers focused at checkout. Navigation bars on your checkout page divert shoppers from their primary objective, which is to complete their sale. When you do include navigation—or, in fact, any information other than a progress indicator and checkout steps—you’re giving already distracted consumers an opportunity to click themselves away from you. In the example below, keeps consumers laser focused on the buying mission. No navigation bars, no unessential links.

Shopping Cart Abandonment_amazon


7. Little picture, big impact. Place a thumbnail image of the product in shoppers’ baskets. As it happens, a few pixels—like the thumbnail of a selected t-shirt below—go a long way: Research shows that this increases conversions by as much as 10%. Likewise, if you have promotional messaging on your product page, make sure items in your shopping cart reiterate these messages. This alone can make a big impact; for one Monetate customer, this simple change increased average order value by 3.8%.

Shopping Cart Abandonment_thumbnail


8. Help them double-check. Unlike in a brick-and-mortar store, online shoppers can easily “misclick” an item online, adding the wrong color or size to their shopping cart. On checkout pages, create a lightbox to reassure visitors that they’ve made the right selection. The example below shows a lightbox that appears when consumers click on a product in their cart.

The lightbox displays pertinent specs, from color to size to descriptive text, and allows people to make changes. Unlike ye olde back button, which will have shoppers navigating away from where you want them to be, a pop-up allows people to review their selection without leaving the shopping cart environment.

Shopping Cart Abandonment_lightbox2

9. Get real. When are people’s concerns (read: tempers) most likely to flare? During checkout. Once consumers encounter an error message or can’t find the answer to one of their questions, they’re far less interested in conducting business with a machine. Let visitors know you’re a real company by providing full contact information and a dedicated, toll-free line (for tracking purposes) for visitors who aren’t comfortable using a credit card online.

10. Make it obvious what to click next. Run your site through the “Grannie Test.” In your checkout process, ask yourself if your grandma would understand which button to click next. If she wouldn’t, then the time to clarify is now. Clear labels on the checkout page do a great deal of the work in this regard, so include a prominent “Checkout >>” button or “<< Continue Shopping” tab.

11. “Change management.” Make it easy for consumers to change quantities or options, or delete an item from the shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, create a simple process for selecting or changing values in the shopping cart—like the straightforward size links and quantity box shown below.

Shopping Cart Abandonment


Now that we’ve got your wheels turning on how you can tune up your cart, check out 15 more proven tactics in our free whitepaper: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment. You’ll be on the road to a higher conversion rate in no time.