After your website visitors arrive at your online shopping cart, it's simply a shame if your cart then fails you by not helping you achieve the conversion.

Depending on what type of business you have, "conversion" can mean different things. For e-commerce websites, the main goal is a sale. Some websites are built with other goals in mind, however, and some have multiple goals.

Maybe you create a website with the intention of collecting email signups and whitepaper downloads, or maybe the main goal is driving in-store visits or booking reservations or appointments.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on what you can do with your online shopping cart to improve sale conversions on an e-commerce website.

1. Be consistent in design

The first step toward improving conversions is to make sure that your shopping cart and checkout have the same look and feel as the rest of your website. A similar design helps instill trust and won't scare online shoppers away before they are about to share their personal information and credit card details with you.

2. Stress security

The next step is to make customers feel comfortable and safe with their online purchase. Show the security lock in the browser and keep your SSL certificates up to date. Use plain language to let customers know that their data is safe with you.

3. Find the balance

Creating the right balance for the amount of information on a shopping cart is one of the trickiest pieces of the puzzle. You want to give your shoppers plenty of information about your company and your products or services to convince them to get on with the sale; at the same time, you want to simplify the checkout process as much as possible.

Minimizing distractions and time spent on the purchasing process increases the chances of their conversion.

4. Use simple language

Don't scare off shoppers by using fancy language or industry jargon. Use simple, easy-to-understand words that guide your visitors along the path to conversion.

5. Plan out a clear path for shoppers

Clearly list each next step and also make the checkout process simple. Your shopper should have no question about where to go next. Make the process as clear and as simple as possible. Imagine that your shoppers have never shopped online before, and plot out each next step clearly and consistently.

6. Link out to policies and information

If you want to display return policies, warranties, or shipping information, and if what you need to say can't be said in a few words, provide the info via a link that opens a smaller, new window that does not disrupt the checkout process.

Don't confuse customers or cause them to abandon the checkout process in search of an answer.

7. Be clear about shipping options and costs

Offering various shipping options is a good idea, but you need to find the right balance between too few and too many. In some cases, too many options can confuse shoppers, causing purchase delay or even shopping cart abandonment.

Clearly listing shipping costs is also important. A top cause of shopping cart abandonment is the absence of shipping cost information up front. Customer dissatisfaction can easily be the result when shoppers feel you're hiding costs and you're unclear about how much they will be charged.

8. Add a review step

Once again, this is a part of the checkout process that requires balance. Adding another step makes the process longer, which is usually a bad thing. However, allowing shoppers to review their order can reduce abandonment and increase a sense of security. Customers will be reassured by the summary of information about exactly what they are buying, how much it will cost, and what they can expect to happen next.

9. Include a confirmation page and send email notification

Even if your shopper completes an order, you are not out of the woods yet. Buyers can become confused about whether their order actually went through; they can become frustrated to the point of canceling their order.

When they press the final button to complete their order, they should then be taken to a confirmation page that thanks them for their order, lists their confirmation or order number, and lets them know what the next step is.

They should also receive an email that essentially says the same things, including when to expect delivery of their order. An email is something they can save and refer to whenever they'd like.

10. Follow up

Of course, following up with a customer after her order is delivered doesn't help with that particular conversion, but it does help with future conversions.

Follow-up emails increase customer satisfaction because you are letting customers know that you care and want to make sure their order has arrived, and you want to make sure they are happy with their purchase.

Moreover, follow-up emails that prompt your customers to write reviews about the products they bought or the experience they had can lead to positive online reviews, which can help bring new customers to you.

Bonus: Don't ignore testing

Each website, each company, each set of online shoppers is different from its peers, and so conversion success can depend on many factors. How do you account for those many factors to increase your conversion rate? The answer is to test.

Both A/B and usability testing are important to improve how online shoppers interact with your site's shopping cart. Continually test all the elements of your shopping cart— from the position or color of the buttons to the wording to the design.

As you test more elements, you will continually achieve higher conversion rates.

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10 Ways to Improve Shopping Cart Conversions

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image of John Wieber

John Wieber is a partner at, an Internet marketing firm. He has 13+ years' experience in Web development, e-commerce, and online marketing.

Twitter: @johnwieber

LinkeIn: John Wieber