Useful tips for a User-friendly shopping cart

Written on the 11 May 2010

The Internet has changed the way people shop – they buy online whenever possible because it is convenient and simple.

In Australia alone over 40% of all Australians bought a product or service online in the last 12 months, spending over $23 billion*.  Consumers are now comfortable buying online, it's a growing market.  Sadly though a trend that is growing here in Australia, is that many Australians are buying overseas, as they say they cant find the products or experience they are looking for here. 

So let's start at the beginning with the essential key elements your online shopping cart needs!

The reality is where the internet is now you need more than just the functionality of just taking an order.  You need additional features that will add value to your business, facilitate customer satisfaction, and enable you to work this market efficiently and effectively.

The following are the most popular and effective features you need to look for:

  • Inventory control – Is a feature that helps you manage and track your stock. Should you run low on stock levels, you are notified so can can add more stock before your stock levels become to depleted and to prevent a buyer ordering more products than what you have.
  • Gift vouchers – It is a good idea to have gift vouchers available as it is a popular product in itself, a great up sell, which can also brings you new customers (the recipient) who may not of heard about you
  • Volume discounting - Many shopping carts now allow for the calculation of discount rates based on the number of units a customer wishes to purchase. This feature can be used as a special offer as part of your marketing campaigns to increase your clients spend with you (average $ sale).
  • Allows for offline payment – Offline payment refers to payments that require manual processing. For example, this payment method can apply to the customer who is uncomfortable submitting a credit card number online or businesses who have policies around buying via credit card.
  • Automatic emails – You have the option of being alerted by email every time an order is created, or only get one email with all orders for the last 24 hours. Saves time for you, alerts you when to take action.  This can also give the customer piece of mind, as this feature can automatically email the client once the payment has been confirmed, once the order has been shipped and if the client has made an order but not paid for it, the system can automatically send the client an email.
  • Unlimited wholesale pricing - So that you can have as many different pricing schedules as you want which enables you to give different prices for every client if you so desire.
  • Pricing for different countries – Enabling the customer to view a estimation of the price of the products they are interested in, in their currency.
  • Generates invoices – Once a order has been placed, a invoice is generated for the customer.
  • Handles complex shipping rules – With this feature you can choose to ship from countries, states or postal zones. There are also various shipping methods such as flat price per order, flat price per item, price based on weight (when weight is greater than or equal to X grams and less than X grams, then shipping is X amount of dollars), price based on cost of order (when order cost is greater than or equal to X dollars and less than X dollars, then shipping is X dollars), cash on delivery, price on application, Australia post, UPS and TNT post. You are also able to add a handling cost.
  • Shipping directly integrates directly with UPS, Australia Post and TNT – Calculating shipping costs for customers based on parameters that you have set.
  • Minimum purchase quantities – This feature is available so that you can get people to purchase at least a specific amount of things, its a good feature to use if they are very small items.
  • Flexible tax rates - Set up tax rates by country, product or groups of products. Taxes will be automatically calculated during the checkout process, based on your customers' billing or shipping addresses or the preset products' tax.
  • Gift wrapping - Give shoppers the option to select gift wrapping services and leave personalised messages, and automatically add your gift wrapping fees to the purchase total.
  • Multiple logins with permissions – This feature gives you the ability to grant store level permissions to different staff members. You can assign different levels of login permissions on any page to say that a particular page is restricted to anyone below the login level assigned in the login admin section.
  • Sell physical and digital products – With this feature you are able to sell physical and non-physical products on your shopping cart ie a t-shirt (physical) or a download able ebook/ software program (digital/non-physical).
  • Mass product modifications – This feature allows you to do a mass product price change, you can do this based on a dollar figure or a percentage.
  • Real-time reporting – This feature reports any updates of stock immediately after an order gets done.
  • Organise by brands and categories – By organising products by brand or categories helps the customer easily locate the product they are after. Enabling you to have a product that can added to multiple categories.
  • Supports import and export of products – With this feature you can import to and export products from your shopping cart.
  • Discount codes - Usually, prospective clients can be given special codes that are matched against the total order towards the product they wanting to purchase.
  • Upsells similar products - This feature allows you to show recommended, best selling and related products as well as the items also purchased by previous customers on the cart page. This enables yo to increase average $ spend.
  • Manages your work flow for new orders – When a order comes through, it tracks the purchase, tells you what stage your order is at and you are able to set it to shipped, completed, refunded or cancelled. With a automatic pre-set email going out for any of those options.
  • Orders can be sent directly to suppliers - Orders can be sent to the suppliers based on the brands, and every brand can have an email address connected to it based on the supplier, to basically say that 'x' amount of these have been of your product, we'll need more.
  • Automatic watermark of images – This feature places a automatic watermark on all your product images and thumbnails to avoid your product images from being stolen.
  • Optimise your products – With this feature meta keywords and meta descriptions are inserted for each product and titles/headings are changed to improve search engine ranking for those keywords.
  • Exports orders for packing slips and labels - This feature allows you to export all your orders to a csv to help with your accounting
  • Integrates with database marketing – Encourage more sales and people back to the website.
  • Integrates with the Bloomtools affiliate marketing programUtilsing the power of leverage through others databases promoting your products, ofjaksjf website

End line: This article was provided to you by Bloomtools, Australasia's leading website developer. With Offices in Melbourne, Newcastle, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Wellington New Zealand. Online business solutions provider – SEO, Websites (with simple to use Content Management System), Email (Database) Marketing and CRM.

* source: Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) 2009