Is your eCommerce solution reaching its full potential? Here are a few easy to implement suggestions to help boost your eCommerce conversion rates

Aran Reeks
By Aran Reeks
26 Aug 2013

How well does your eCommerce website convert? What percentage of your visitors add items to a shopping cart and what percentage of your visitors go on to complete a purchase? How do your conversion rates compare to similar businesses?

These are the big questions in eCommerce design. If the answer to any of the above was 'I don't know' you are probably missing out on significant revenue and cash flow that should be yours. If you do know the answers and don't like what you see, one cause may well be your shopping cart. 

Some simple benchmarks

For established retail brands the average percentage of visits that result in items being added to a cart is around 8%. Typically, just under half of these will go on to complete a purchase. The first and simplest thing you can do is to compare your average number of online purchases with your average number of monthly visitors. If you can't find your average number of monthly visitors then it’s time to get in contact with your eCommerce developers and get them to show you how it’s possible on their platform.

I want to focus here on your shopping cart page, which can often be the one that makes or breaks an eCommerce site. Whatever you do to the design, there will always be people who place items in a cart but don't complete a purchase.  Sometimes people find it a convenient tool for price comparisons so aren't looking to buy at that time. 

We typically see conversion rates from the point of a customer clicking add to cart, through to completing their purchase of between 30-60%. The sites we’ve seen clearly performing better are those which include a free standard delivery (or very competitively priced delivery) option, and include an address lookup by postcode facility.

We focus a lot of effort in testing and refining eCommerce websites to try and exceed those percentages wherever possible, each percentage point rise represents significant additional revenue for our clients.

If your conversion percentage from cart to purchase is below the 40% mark it's time to have a good look at your shopping cart experience. The way it looks and functions will have a significant impact on the percentage of completed purchases. Here are a few questions you should ask.


Are you confusing people?

Always think simplicity and clarity. Cart pages that look like other pages on your website, complete with full navigation options offer too many opportunities for shoppers to get distracted and provide too many temptations to go off and look at other things before completing the purchase. Once customers reach your cart page, your priority is to make it as easy as possible for them to complete their purchase.

Every distraction or opportunity for confusion makes it less likely that this will happen. Simple rule: take out everything that doesn't absolutely need to be there; or put another way, everything that doesn't have a direct and positive influence on successful conversion.

Are you offering the features people want?

The features you build into your cart page should be ones that customers will welcome. Make it super-easy to change quantities, delete items or save selected items for a later visit. Remember those people who were making price comparisons? You want to make it easy for them to return and complete their purchase. 

User testing is always the best way to see just how easy and obvious people find it to manage the items in their cart. There's no point trying to evaluate it yourself as you know what's supposed to happen! People who shop online regularly have a completely different expectation of an eCommerce experience to those who show 1 or 2 times a year.

As more people move towards shopping online; new visitors to your eCommerce site may be less experienced with the process, and may not have come across some of the ways of doing things that seem to you to be an 'industry standard'. These shoppers may also be the first to give up if they get frustrated by not knowing what to do. You can either curse them for their lack of understanding or devote some energy to building a shopping cart that they couldn't possibly misunderstand.

What about upselling?

Effective up selling through a well designed cart page is one of the great opportunities in eCommerce websites. Done badly or inappropriately it can also be a major cause of lost sales. 

Think of upselling as something that benefits your customers and you are more likely to be successful. Too many upselling options, and options that have no relation to the items selected will come across as unprofessional, opportunistic, and could divert attention from the intended purchase. 

The secrets of successful upselling have much more to do with data management and a good content management system than they do with how items are displayed. Good upselling is almost always based on offering customers better value. For example: spend £2 more to qualify for free delivery, or bundling related items to be cheaper than when purchased separately. 


On the subject of delivery charges we know from our own research and testing that this is a point where many eCommerce sites trip up. Give your customers as much information about charges as possible as early in the purchase process as you can. If it has to be an estimate because you don't know where somebody lives until they checkout, then give the best estimate or most complete information you can. Any sense that you are holding something back will discourage people from taking the next step. Have a look now at how clear this is on your own eCommerce website.

Delivery costs are also a common point of failure for eCommerce sites. Thanks to the likes of & amazon to name just a few free delivery is becoming an excepted feature of eCommerce websites. In a recent test we conducted adding in an option for free standard delivery the client saw an increase in transactions in excess of 100%! Don’t underestimate how much delivery costs can impact your conversion rate and where possible look to recover your delivery costs within the item price so you don’t make a loss from doing so.

A safe place to do business?

We published a recent article on the importance of trust in eCommerce websites. The building of trust is something that should run throughout your site and the purchase process. It's really important in the shopping cart and the checkout pages. We always recommend using trust seals and displaying them prominently. It's not enough to just use them on your home page, people need to see them when they are about to hit the 'Pay securely now' button. 

These are just the basics of designing a shopping cart that runs smoothly towards the checkout. If your current conversion rate is very low try some of these suggestions and see what happens. Achieving the maximum possible conversion rate for the products you sell and your target customers will need further experimentation and testing. But these basic principles should get your shopping cart and your conversion rates moving in the right direction.