eCommerce Shopping Cart Software Usability, Are Your Customers Frustrated?

Usability is a measure of the quality of a user's experience when interacting with a website, people have been focusing on website usability since the explosion of the world wide web in the 1990's, but it is unfortunately an aspect that is frequently overlooked when it comes to eCommerce site design.The increasing availability of shopping cart software has lead to an increase in the number of people launching internet stores, many of these people are inexperience with advanced web design techniques and theories and many more purchase cheap design work that doesn't focus on what the store customer's wants and needs. What the customer wants from an online store is to be able to find and purchase the products that they want as easily and quickly as possible.
When a customer visits your site it is more than likely, if your marketing has been successful, that they wish to purchase a product from you. As a store owner you need to remove every possible barrier between them arriving to your site and completing your purchase, the more barriers you make your customers climb over the more likely they are to run off your competitors.This article contains will focus on a number of areas of usability and how to apply them to your eCommerce store, there are many many areas of usability that need to be considered when designing an eCommerce store and this article could be multiple pages long but we are going to focus on four factors that we feel are the most important.
These areas are navigation, searches, validation and checkout.The Navigation that you implement on your site is probably the most important aspect of usability, if your visitors can’t find their way around your site your dead in the water. It is imperative that you make sure your navigation is clear, simple and in a prominent place on your pages. Although navigation is an area that is normally implement quit well in eCommerce solutions where they normally fall down is their user of markers to make sure the user knows where about in the store they are, if they get lost and can’t find their way out they are going to get frustrated. There is a number of very well tested web design standard to get round this issue. Category tabs, dynamic menus and breadcrumb trails all help your customer find their way around your site.
If a customer lands on your front page and cannot immediately see where the product they want will be more surfers initial actions it to reach for the search box so make sure that your search box is obvious and easily accessible. The other area of your sites search facility you need to pay attention to is the results it is important to make sure that your customers are getting the right results when they do find the search box. It is normally a good idea to 'adjust' the search results on internet stores to allow customer to be presented with the products they're looking for.Making sure your site validates against the W3C Standards is important.
Making sure your site follows CSS and XHTML/HTML guidelines will make sure your sites appearance is replicated accurately across different types of web browsers, non-valid pages have their errors corrected by the browser, how this works varies radically across different browsers (and even different version of the same browser).In order to minimise shopping cart abandonment the usability of the Checkout component of your shopping cart software is important.
There are a number of important steps to take to make sure your checkout process is as usable as possible.- Make sure your checkout is as short as possible, people get bored quickly on the internet - Don't ask for any information you don't need, people are weary of giving away personal information - Remove all distraction from the checkout, if they click away from the purchase they might never come back. This includes removing any unnecessary internal site navigation There are many more aspects of usability you will need to consider when looking for shopping cart software but these should get you started in the right direction.

How To Minimise Shopping Cart Abandonment

Shopping Cart abandonment is the process of a customer adding things to their shopping cart with intent to purchase then never finalising the purchase and if you’re running an eCommerce store it’s likely to be costing you lost revenue. Some online store see figures up to 68% abandonment, over three quarters of their customer who place products in their cart do not finalise pay.

This article is going to look at how you can minimise the impact of shopping cart abandonment on your sales.Like all problems, In order to tackle the problem we firstly need to know what causes it. There are a multitude of reason why people abandon their carts, speaking to online customer and store owners we have pin pointed what we think at the top ten reason people doing finalise a purchase and we’re going to give you some guidance on how to avoid each one.

1. Cost of Shipping too high and not shown until checkout: Sticker Shock does not just happen on products, it’s as much a problem with the shipping costs on your store. Especially if you sell low priced items. The best way to limit this is to make sure your customer know how much the delivery is going to cost them as soon as possible. Make sure you shopping cart page has a good estimate of the final shipping cost, and if possible place estimated shipping cost on your product pages.

2. Changed mind and discarded cart contents: If your customer genuinely changes their mind and decides not to purchase there is not much you can do about that. But you can try and minimise the chances of them becoming distracted. Removing all unnecessary links from the checkout process stops customer from clicking away from the checkout process. This can include removing site navigation during the process.

3. Comparison shopping or browsing: The popularity of shopping comparison sites is increasing all the time and there are really only two ways you can deal with this. The first is to undercut all your competitors and make sure you come up on the comparison sites as being the cheapest. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible and the only other solutions is honesty, explaining why your products are at a higher price help, also more and more sites are beginning to include price comparisons with their competitors on their own site, if you show your customer you have nothing to hide then they’re more likely to trust you and purchase from you.

4. Total cost of items is too high: Make sure that your customers are aware at all time of the value of the products in their shopping cart whilst they browse. Placing a simple running total at the top right of your store will make sure the customer is aware of the prices adding up and won’t get sticker shock when they click on the ‘what’s in my cart’ button.

5. Saving items for later purchase: Make sure your customer can do this easily, more current shopping cart software provides you with a facility to allow customers to save their carts and come back and checkout at a later date.

6. Checkout process is too long: Make sure your checkout process is as short as possible, and don’t ask for information from your customer that they don’t need. Don’t make then enter their postal address multiple times for shipping and billing if they’re the same. Also as stated above make sure there are no distraction in the checkout process.

7. Out of stock products at checkout time: Like shipping costs make sure you customers are aware as soon as possible that your products are in or out of stock as soon as possible. The best place to show this is in your product listings and on the product pages themselves.

8. Poor site navigation and long download times: There is nothing more infuriating than a slow loading site, make sure you work with your host to provide your customer with the fastest loading page possible, make sure you shopping cart software code is optimised and delivers pages fast.

9. Lack of sufficient product or contact information: Information = Reassurance, the more information your site contains about your company and your product the more reassurance it provides to the customer that they’re going to get the products they want, and the products they ordered. Make sure that your product descriptions contain as much information as possible and they you include pages about your company including contact information. It’s always good to have a phone number, most online shoppers will never call you, but a large number will be reassured that you are reachable on the phone if something goes wrong.

10. Site unclear on delivery times: Just like the above point, make sure you have all the information about your delivery times visible and easily accessible at all times, in an age when customer can get all the information they need at the clicking of their fingers they increasingly want their real world products just as fast.

Taking Orders Online - Are You Portraying the Right Image?

Be sure to make it easy to order. Make sure you SAY exactly how you want prospects to place their order. Don't just simply put an "Add to cart" button on your site. Spell it out. Say, click on "Add to cart" below to order or call our toll-free number anytime. If you want people to order online, make sure you have an easy, secure online ordering system in place. PayPal is an excellent option. Many consumers prefer to use PayPal - it is a safe, convenient way to pay for purchases online. In fact, PayPal boasts they are the number 1 choice for making payments online.
Opening a PayPal account won't cost you a dime. It's also a snap for your prospects to open their own account if they choose to pay through PayPal. I'm not sure why a business wouldn't include PayPal as one of their payment options. There is a benefit to having more than one choice for a payment. People buy with different methods. Some people absolutely love charging on their credit card. So be sure to give these types a convenient method for doing so... You may accept credit cards on your site by investing in a merchant account with Authorize Net or another reputable provider.
A merchant account will enable you to accept credit cards online and to type in a credit card number from a customer given to you by mail. It will cost to set-up a merchant account, but the cost will most certainly pay-off in the long run. You can also set-up an account to allow people to pay via electronic check through a company like ElectraCash. In addition, I'd suggest allowing people to pay by mail (checks or credit card). This is especially important if you offer a high-priced item or service. What reason would you ever have to refuse a bona-fide payment method? Heck, let them come give you cash if they want. Money is money. Now let's move on to fulfilling your orders. You can set-up a simple system where digital products are sent out immediately.
It's quite simple to do using an autoresponder or shopping cart system. For tangible purchases, you can use a fulfillment company or do it yourself. I usually ship purchases made by credit card the next day, regardless of whether the money has been deposited, unless there is reason to be suspect of the order. Here are a few reasons to be suspect of an order... The shipping and billing address are different. In these cases, you may want to give the customer a ring. Simply call them to confirm the order.
They will greatly appreciate this. The order is a high volume order. In these instances you may also want to call the customer to confirm that they really meant "10" and not just "1" (of course you don't want to say it quite like that). Your customers will value all of this effort. Here's another important point. Be careful of orders placed from certain countries. It might not seem fair, but after I personally had a $2,000 fraudulent order placed from Nigeria, I watch out. A chargeback like that can cost you your merchant account, so just be careful. Remember, always make sure the address matches the card holder's address before shipping anything out or call to verify it if it doesn't.
Put your interests in the equation Also remember to watch out for your interests by making sure you have a Fraud prevention system in place if you plan to accept credit cards. Merchant accounts through Authorize Net will automatically reject cards when the address, name and number do not match. If you use Authorize Net, you can customize your account to provide you with the level of security you want (I'd suggest setting it to high). If ever a customer is having problems placing their order online because their card is rejected, you will naturally want to help them. After all, you want to help them purchase from you. But chances are good that there may be a valid reason why the credit card was declined. It is also possible that the customer may simply need to update their address with the credit card company.
Offer PayPal as an option in these instances. Secure and professional If you offer online ordering make sure the webpage you expect customers to enter their credit card number into is secure. People recognize the yellow lock symbol at the bottom of secure pages and trust VeriSign or other security enabled pages. Many people simply refuse to type their credit card info into a page without these features.
A simple, easy way to get this type of security is to use 1ShoppingCart.com. They will provide you with a very professional order form that you simply link your web pages to. Customers may pay via PayPal, your merchant account (if you have one), or by check online (again, if you have an account) if you have a 1ShoppingCart account. It's easy and reliable. They have a variety of plans to choose from.

6 Great Online Christmas Shopping Tips

Christmas shopping is no longer confined to the local mall or an annual catalog that happens to find it's way into your mailbox. Thanks to advanced technology, there is literally a whole world of shopping at your fingertips. The internet has revolutionized the way people shop and, besides, what better way to do your Christmas shopping than from the comfort of your own home. No longer must we suit up and weather the harsh winter days in the hopes of checking a few names off of our Christmas list. The store aisles, as we know them, are crowded and hectic. But now, many store aisles are becoming virtual, a shopping cart is something you fill with images of a product and a checkout is something that you click on to confirm your order. Things have changed a lot in the past years and I wonder how many of us couldn't even imagine what life would be like without the convenience of shopping on the internet.
There are several tips for online Christmas shopping, which can make the experience a smooth and pleasant one.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #1: Be prepared It's a good idea to start your shopping with a complete list. This will save you both time and money with having to go back and place a separate order later on. With most online stores, you pay a flat shipping fee. In some cases, if you spend a certain amount of money on your order, the shipping and handling fee is waived. It's always best to get everything you want, all at once, to save on shipping. Before you commit to buying from one store, shop around and compare prices on both the product and shipping.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #2: The early bird gets the gift If you want to get the best selection, begin your holiday shopping early. Internet stores generally carry large quantities of every item, but even they can sell out. As Christmas draws near, it becomes more difficult to find the exact item that you're looking for. There's nothing like finding the perfect item and seeing the words, 'Sold Out' written under the price.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #3: Shop Safe When ordering anything online, check product reviews if available. Always shop secured websites because you will be entering your credit card, or banking information, for payment. You don't want your financial information accessed by anyone else, which is why all secured websites let you know how they protect your data.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #4: Wrap it up If you're like most, there's not a lot of extra time around the holidays. If you need to save some time on wrapping, most online stores offer a gift wrapping service for a small fee. At some point during the ordering process, you may be asked if you would like to add gift wrap or a name tag. It's as easy as the click of a button, which is much easier than trying to tie the perfect bow.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #5: Check Delivery Dates When placing your order, check to make sure that the item is in stock or will be delivered in time for Christmas. Many times, especially near the holidays, items will go on a backorder status. It's not uncommon for an advanced order item to have a delivery date of January, so be sure to check the status of the items in your shopping cart, along with their expected delivery dates. Not only that, but it's also a good idea to check on the company's shipping policy and delivery time for in-stock items.
Online Christmas Shopping Tip #6: Christmas Cards? With all the stuff going on in December it's easy to forget to send out Christmas cards to family and friends. But if you forget to send traditional Christmas cards in time all is not lost. In fact, there are some great sites and services online that will send your christmas cards out for you (saving you precious time). You can find services that are both free and paid, and services that send both digital and tradition paper Christmas cards.

What is “shopping cart abandonment”?

Shopping cart abandonment occurs when a visitor exits the web site by going through the checkout process without buying. Shopping cart abandonment suggests a loss of orders resulting to a loss to your business. A higher shopping cart abandonment rate indicated a lower conversion rate suggesting that you will have to work harder to reach your targets.

Reasons for “shopping cart abandonment”
Many e-commerce sites are facing the problem of shopping cart abandonment. Industry research report by Marketing Sherpa data in 2006 revealed that the average e-commerce shopping cart abandonment rate is as high as has 59.8%.

The major reasons by shopping cart abandonment are:
§ Force the customers to account registration before purchase process.
§ Comparison-shopping done by customers.
§ Complicated checkout process and uncomfortable buying process.
§ Customers do not want to pay shipping costs which makes the total cost more than expected.
§ Lengthy checkout process.
§ Asking to provide a lot of personal information.
§ Not providing total costs including shipping costs till the customer go through the entire checkout process.

Simple changes in page design can yield a significant increase on conversion. Though the above faults may not be the only reasons for shopping cart abandonment, resolving them will improve chances of a buyer making an online purchase.

Buyers have a habit of adding products to their online carts which they may want to purchase later, much like marking a page in a shopping catalog for later reference.

On the flip side, abandoned carts are more than just lost sales; they also are a customer database of what each buyer wants to purchase from your website.

A few strategies to keep shopping cart abandonment low

§ Shorter checkout process leads to greater conversion rates.
§ Progress indicator on each checkout page makes customers to know where they are in the buying process.
§ Add a link back to the product with a thumbnail image.
§ Clearly mention shipping costs and total costs at the earliest in the buying process to the customers.
§ Provide your full address information during the checkout process to let the customers know that you really exist.
§ Provide information on whether the item is available or not and also the expected shipping time.
§ Error messages occurring while filling out a form must be comprehensible making buyers aware of the mistake.
§ Display a third party verification seal with security certifications makes the customers to trust that their personal information is secured.
§ Add a visible "Next Step" or "Continue With Checkout" button on every page.

So You're Thinking About Starting An Online Business?

Many people dream of working at home in their pajamas but few have the drive to take that dream into reality. Are you one of the few? If you have been thinking about starting your own online business then here's some thoughts you can use to turn those dreams into a real business. 1. If you don't already have an idea of what type of business you want to do, then try listing out 5 hobbies, interests or areas of expertise. If you want to start a new business, you'd better choose a subject that you like and a subject where you can show expertise. You will have more fun and you will be more competitive.
2. Since running a business isn't all fun and games you should think about what you are good at and what do you enjoy doing. Make two lists - one of all the jobs you like and/or are good at, and one of all the jobs you hate and/or really don't do very well. Take the second list and have a look at what you might outsource or automate. Do you really love doing those accounts or would your time be better spent in forward planning while your accountant does the sums? Must you personally reply to every last enquiry or could you create a FAQ which you can post on your website and refer people to by autoresponder? Obviously in the early stages of your business you might find you don't have the money to pay someone to do the jobs you hate but you've got to think about what is best for you and your business long term. The more routine jobs you can outsource or automate the more time you have to plan and to market your business, and to think about even more ways to bring in all that lovely cash - not to mention you get to spend more of your time doing the things you really enjoy doing.
3. Since every online business needs a website, you may need to brush up on your web skills unless you can afford to hire someone to do all the website work for you. Regardless, you need to decide the outlay of your site, if it will have a shopping cart, will you need auto responders, how often to update the site, if you want to send out a newsletter etc... Don't forget about the details like picking a domain name, registering it and finding affordable hosting.
4. Be prepared for failures. Not everything you do will be perfect - sometimes things you've tried will be a total disaster - but it's the way you react to problems that matters.
If you curl up in a ball and give up at the first sign of failure you'd better not be in business. "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." - John Quincy Adams. It's all about attitude. 5. Have a plan and stick to it as far as possible but always be prepared to be flexible and open minded. Sometimes the most unexpected opportunities come up and you need to be ready to seize them with both hands - as Joe Vitale says 'Money likes speed'. The most important thing in starting an online business is to take action! Don't let anyone else inject self doubt - if this is your dream don't let anyone ruin it for you!