Fundamental Cart Features

Credit card companies report that online sales this holiday season were up over 15%.  Even in these tough economic times, it is great to see that ecommerce continues to have double-digit growth.  As you prepare for the upcoming year, now is a good time to evaluate what improvements you can make to increase your sales.

Are there features in your shopping cart that you are not taking advantage of?  Would upgrading to a newer version of your shopping cart or a higher product level (with more features) of your existing shopping cart help increase your sales?  Here are my thoughts on the fundamental features that your cart should have and that you should be using to increase your sales.

Fast Checkout – Ok, you may think that this is a no brainer, and that by now every shopping cart available would be fast and efficient at checking out, but that is not the case.  Some factors are out of the cart’s control.  One example is the server that the cart is running on.  If your store is sharing a server with thousands of other stores, then no matter how efficient your cart is, there will be times that all those stores will slow the server down.  But, if your cart is running on a decently fast server, then the cart you are using may be a factor.  For example, are there too many checkout screens that shoppers have to go through to complete their order?  Are shoppers forced to register or give their e-mail address before they can see their cart or get to the payment screen?  Is the cart robust and designed to handle many shoppers at once?  In ShopSite’s case, we’ve had several merchants whose products were featured on Oprah.  When this happens, their sites are inundated with shoppers.  ShopSite is designed to place completed orders in a small temporary file, so there is no need to wait on a large database during the checkout process.  Instead, ShopSite completes the database insertion when the merchant goes to view the order, handling this larger process on the merchant’s time instead of the shopper’s.

Several Payment Options – The more payment options you take the better.  If you have been getting by with PayPal because there are no monthly costs, you might want to look to see if you have enough business to justify taking credit cards directly.  In addition to taking PayPal and credit cards, you should also consider Google Checkout and other options, such as eCheck.  See my blog on Pay Me Anyway You Want To.

Search Engine Friendly (SEO) – Yes, SEO is a buzz word, and many companies claim to know how to modify your site to get a higher ranking, and Google does not reveal how their algorithm works.  Nevertheless, there are basic features your cart needs to support in order to help make your site, pages and products easily found and indexed by Google and other search engines.  Your cart should include features such as being able to name the web page filename where your product’s details (more information page) are found, or being able to easily submit your products to Google Product Search.  Information on the SEO features of ShopSite can be found here.

There are many additional cart features available to merchants, including Coupons, Gift Certificates, Google Analytics, Reward Programs, Affiliates, etc.  By all means, take advantage of those things.  Just remember that they will not be as effective if you haven’t addressed the fundamental features first.

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