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Shopping baskets (or shopping carts) are a key part of the customer journey when shopping online. They are a gateway for visitors into your checkout process.

Retailers can choose to provide visitors with a wide range of information, links and other potential distractions, or alternatively they can keep their shopping basket minimal to focus purely on checking out.

Based upon my experience of working with a range of blue chip retailers over the last 10 years, there are a variety of best practice techniques and types of information to display in order to encourage visitors to proceed from the shopping basket to the checkout process.

In addition, retailers should look at answering as many customer questions as possible before they enter the checkout process, paving the way for a simple checkout that is a formality for most visitors.

The objective of the shopping basket

I would say that the primary objective for any shopping basket should be as follows:

Provide the visitor with all they need to know for them to be happy to progress to checking out, without any un-answered questions.

ASOS

ASOS has developed a shopping basket which follows many of the best practice recommendations which I share with retailers, and this article looks in detail at some of the most important elements (in no particular order) of its shopping basket.

It is worth noting that ASOS also appears to be leading the way with some of its shopping basket functionality.

Stock availability made clear


There is a clear piece of information showing that the item is in stock, and ASOS has taken this a step further to also make it clear how long it has reserved this product for.

This helps tackle the issue of visitors returning to their shopping basket on a subsequent visit only to find the product they had added previously is no longer in stock. 

The primary call to action is clear


There is absolutely no distraction when it comes to deciding which button in the shopping basket is the primary action for the visitor.

In addition, ASOS has used the word 'securely' on the button wording, which may improve click-throughs due to an improved sense of trust/security, although one alternative would be to say 'checkout securely now' as this is a more accurate description of the next step for the visitor.


Standard delivery costs are made absolutely clear

ASOS shopping basket
There is no ambiguity about what standard delivery costs will be, so visitors don’t need to wait until they are within checkout to know what delivery costs are. It’s worth noting that in my experience unclear delivery costs continue to be one of the key reasons why visitors abandon their checkout process.  

Clear product details


Along with the product thumbnail and title, there is just the right amount of product information provided to ensure you know that you have ordered the right size, colour and quantity

Total price you will be pay is clear

ASOS shopping basket
Making the delivery costs clear on the shopping basket allows ASOS to make it absolutely clear what the visitor will be paying in total. Of course, the free delivery proposition for ASOS makes the subtotal and total prices in most cases the same.

Updating delivery options carried out within the basket

ASOS shopping basket
Many retailers don’t allow visitors to choose different delivery options on the shopping basket. Instead you have to wait until you are within the checkout process to change your preferred delivery option.

ASOS makes this a much more customer friendly experience by allowing you to choose other delivery options at the shopping basket stage. This ensures you are going into the checkout process knowing what you will paying and what delivery period you have specified.

Delivery upgrades are encouraged

ASOS shopping basket
By providing a facility for visitors to choose from a drop-down list of alternative delivery options, this in turn helps to encourage some visitors to consider upgrading to a potentially more useful delivery option (and potentially more profitable for the retailer)

Free delivery threshold promoted to encourage increase in order value

ASOS shopping basket
Like many retailers, ASOS provides a free delivery option when you spend over a certain amount, but where some retailers fail to promote this on their shopping basket, ASOS provides an intelligent marketing message encouraging visitors to consider spending a bit more to benefit from the free delivery option.

What is great about the design and positioning of this promotion is that it is easily seen as part of the shopping basket design, yet it doesn’t take over the page too much which ensures you are still drawn to the 'pay securely now' button.

Free returns clearly promoted

ASOS shopping basket
As well as promoting free returns during the shopping journey, ASOS recognises that this one of the many primary benefits of their proposition.

By promoting this clearly along with other primary benefits of shopping with ASOS the retailer is ensuring that visitors have plenty of reasons to proceed to the checkout and complete their order.

Secure shopping is made clear

ASOS shopping basket
ASOS has used a very prominent marketing area at the bottom of the shopping basket, with one of the key messages being about secure shopping.

This is important for first time ASOS customers and even more important for visitors who are wary of providing their personal and payment details online. Of course having a recognised brand name will always go along with in building trust and confidence.

Promotion of signing in for returning customers

ASOS shopping basket
Under the main page title ASOS has used a small but useful message for returning customers, encouraging them to sign-in to their account. This is particularly important if you store customers shopping basket contents against their account rather than simply by cookie.

Small, insignificant continue shopping basket

ASOS shopping basket
Although ASOS provides a continue shopping button (you can argue whether this is required at all, as at the shopping basket stage you haven’t removed any of your site navigation and other shopping facilities like I recommend retailers do once within checkout) this is very much an option for visitors which has no prominence on the basket design at all.

Once again this ensures that the primary call to action of ‘pay securely now’ isn’t competing with other buttons.

Small unobtrusive remove button

ASOS shopping basket
Retailers have to provide visitors with the ability to remove items from their shopping basket, but there is no reason to make this stand out in the shopping basket. ASOS simply uses a small text link which doesn’t attract any attention, therefore ensuring that visitors are encouraged to consider removing items from their basket.

Checkout button at the top of the basket

ASOS shopping basket
By providing a checkout button above the shopping basket contents, as soon as visitors visit the shopping basket, ASOS is encouraging visitors to think about checking out.

This is particularly important when retailers keep visitors on the product page once they add that product to their basket, as you know that when visitors arrive on their shopping basket they have specifically clicked a link to do this, rather than being redirected there as soon as they add a product to their basket.


Payment options are made clear

ASOS shopping basket
Although most visitors will be paying with a standard credit/debit card, there will be some visitors who like to pay with one of the lesser-supported cards.

By clearly displaying which payment methods are accepted at this stage, ASOS is ensuring that it isn’t going to leave some shoppers frustrated on the payment page within checkout.

Promotion of special delivery option and premier account

ASOS uses the promotional area under the shopping basket to promote both benefits for every visitor (free returns) as well as facilities which encourage new customers to consider becoming a premier account holder. 

ASOS shopping basket

Summary

For this article on shopping basket best practice, I was planning to look at five different retailers who were doing good things, but having looked at ASOS I felt compelled to use it to demonstrate techniques that many retailers could follow in order to improve their basket to checkout conversion rates.

This isn’t to say that the ASOS shopping basket is perfect, but I’m hard pressed to find any big issues from a usability and user experience perspective.

If you are interested in e-commerce best practice principles for product pages, shopping baskets and the checkout process you may like to consider the e-commerce usability and best practice training course I deliver for Econsultancy.

Your thoughts

I’m really interested to find out what you think to the recommendations in this article, and I’ve got a few questions to prompt discussion too.

  • How does your shopping basket compare to some of what ASOS are doing?
  • Do you feel ASOS could improve their basket with any particular changes?
  • Has your business considered redesigning your shopping basket?
  • Which other retailers do you feel have a good shopping basket design, and why?

I look forward to sharing further thoughts and perhaps debating some of the areas covered in this article.

Paul Rouke

Published 1 February, 2011 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

35 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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Wendy

I have to admit that I'm somewhat addicted to ASOS. Their online experience is fantastic, though their delivery service can be questionable at times (leaving parcels at random houses in London?!!). One thing that they could do to boost ROI is to focus on their remarketing efforts. They allow customers to place items in a saved shopping basket but don't ask customers for opt-in information in order to email them when items in their basket have been discounted (as often happens). Given that 70% of conversion processes are abandoned before reaching the end, this would be a great way of tapping into that potential lost revenue and encouraging customers to revisit their saved shopping baskets.

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Wendy - thanks for your comments. I like your idea for looking at ways of encouraging visitors to return back to the site based around what they have added to their basket previously.

I must say I was impressed by the dynamic stock reservation message that accompanies products in your basket - this is a very transparant approach for handling stock availability and is especially important for fast selling fashion items in particular, where the retailer can't keep a product on hold indefinetly. I don't know many other retailers providing this functionality but its great to see.

In case you haven't already, as you like the online experience I recommend you try the mobile optimised version too.

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Hey Paul, absolutely agree with your idea of the central objective of the basket, but it does raise questions about the relevance on in-basket merchandising.

On one hand, specifically on shopping sites, the basket contains the closest view of the "look" the customer is shopping for, in which case merchandising here would be more targeted than it is anywhere else on the site. Chance of increasing order value is significantly higher.

On the other, we want to get people to the checkout as quickly as possible with all the answers to any questions they may have had.

Is there any research on this? I assume ASOS would have tested it, alot.

On another point, one thing that I've come across is the pitfall of introducing doubt where none previously existed. The supposition being that shoppers don't have questions when they first visit, they've got their bucket of goodwill, so to speak. Is there a chance that having too much supporting information at the basket level might raise further questions and lower the checkout procession rate?

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Matthew - thanks for your comments. On your 2 main points - the potential of in-basket merchandising and whether having too much supporting information on the basket could raise further questions - like many retailers ASOS keep people 'shopping' after they have added a product to their basket.

Providing relevant cross sell products as part of the product page interface, and encouraging shoppers to consider them prior to proceeding to view their basket, is my usual recommendation to retailers. By doing this (not to mention having a solid, usable shopping experience overall of course) should encourage to invisitors potentially spending more than they had planned.

With all this in mind, like I mentioned in my post, to visit the shopping basket visitors have to make an explicit decision, as they aren't automatically redirected there on 'add to basket' (like in the good old days!).

Following through on this idea, as I have identified in the post there is already a wide variety of useful, important details that retailers would do well to include. To then add in in-basket merchandising could add more visual clutter or distraction to the shopping basket.

On saying this if ASOS where to feature intelligent cross sells under the primary USP messages I doubt it would lower click-throughs to the checkout much.

Finally (phew!) you are spot on - too much supporting information could be detrimental, although in this example, the way ASOS have executed their basket design I don't feel this will be the case. Their subtle 'Can we tempt you..' message on delivery is a great example of this.

over 5 years ago

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Lisa

Asos have some really good user centred ideas. I always thought the videos were a brilliant idea, enabling you to get a good idea of the fabric quality, how the garment moves and the actual length when wearing. I use asos now you no longer have to pay for delivery and returns and you're right, their basket design is actually really nice. I can't say i've ever noticed the stock availability time but it's a nice feature.

It's just a shame that after such a pleasant basket experience, they force you to sign up / login to purchase. I think this is an unnecessary and annoying step that they shouldn't force upon the user.

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Lisa - thanks for sharing your views. Since publishing this post I've been informed from James Hart at ASOS that they are planning on redesigning their checkout process, so the current 'forcing registration to checkout' may well be replaced with a guest checkout option, which ideally will make it simple for new customers to register if they choose to at the end of the checkout process.

After all registration/account creation should simply mean that the customer chooses a password, as they will have already provided all their contact and delivery details as part of the standard checkout flow.

over 5 years ago

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Mark Bolitho

Nice piece, Paul.
Strange, that when so much is written on this subject, so many still get it hopelessly wrong.

We consider the basket/checkout to be the most important area of a site and, as such, have done some pretty extensive testing on our clients sites, including usability tests and we fare very well in terms of % completion rates - high 80's in some cases.

Take a look at Quiz Clothing or Atlantic Shopping as 2 most recent examples and see what you think.
I think you might like the way we handle the 'Create Password' as a final option...

Also, would agree about keeping merchandising firmly on the product page.

over 5 years ago

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Anonymous

There are some good points to the ASOS checkout process, but if you are a new customer the second step may put many people off.

Asking for date of birth, gender, passwords before payment is risky.

These are all details they can collect once the payment details have been added. Why put off customers who may not want to give these details just for marketing purposes?

over 5 years ago

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ken

i love how 'best practice' was mentioned multiple times in the article, i think its misleading as it implys that what works for ASOS will work for (e.g.) Poundland, which obviously isn't the case.

this notwithstanding, the elements on the page all seem reasonable as factors that would influence a user at that stage, but without data to back it up i'd argue its one persons anacdotal prespective, perhaps looking at heat maps and conversion rate optimisation of the different components on the page would give evidence of just how well the page performs?

over 5 years ago

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Martin White

Paul, it's timely and helpful that you should publish this article at the same time that I'm creating a basket for a new shop.

I agree with your primary objective for baskets and like the 'minimalist' approach implemented by ASOS. It seems that they are free of some of the incentive requirements we need to meet which busy the UI. These include adding voucher codes, cross and up sell, line and basket promotions. I'd be interested to know your view - and the best practice approach - on how or where we should accommodate these requirements in the basket or purchase path. I notice that ASOS don't show any savings the customers has made even if they add a sales item to their basket.

Thanks, Martin

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Cheers Paul,

This does raise an interesting question about persistant baskets, or sending the visitor to the basket after each "Add".

Is having a persistant basket, and certainly one where the user could skip the basket page entirely and go straight to the checkout (as in the case of ASOS) always the best idea - especially as the user could therefore bypass the supporting information?

I would guess it depends on the average number of items in an order - if it's a (relatively) high number, say in an FMCG or groceries ecommerce shop, then this saves the back-and-forth the visitor would have to do. But if it's only a handful of items, then sending to a basket page seems more sensible to me - what's your thoughts?

Matt

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Mark - thanks for your comments. You've touched on a really important area with reference to usability testing. This post was about identifying the key elements that the majority of retailers would do well to include or consider as part of their shopping basket design, although there is always benefits of testing ideas.

Just last week I wrote an article on the Smart Insights site looking at the 3 main types of user/usability testing - guerilla, remote and moderated. Which type of testing do you use with your clients?

In addition retailers shouldn't overlook conducting split testing and multi-variate testing on their shopping basket. In fact since writing this post I have been speaking to James Hart, who is the e-commerce director at ASOS, and on my next comment I will include some of his insights into what they have been doing in this area.

Thanks for your reference about some of your client sites. I presume I will need to place an order to see the create password facility, so I'll have to pass on that for now!

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

From the horses mouth so to speak..

Since writing this post I have been speaking to James Hart, eCommerce Director at ASOS, and he has provided me with some superb insights on what ASOS have been doing last year with their shopping basket, and James doesn't mind me sharing some of these below.

ASOS completely overhauled their shopping basket in 2010, and later this year they are following this with a full redesign of their checkout process and account area.

Most of the basket work was back end development work, although this meant that they had the ideal opportunity to update the design and user experience at the same time.

ASOS have an in-house user experience team, and they spent weeks wireframing, designing, prototyping and usability testing a large number of new features that their customers had told them they wanted over the years.

I would point out at this point that this is a superb example of user-centred design, where what your customers want is provided (providing there are enough customers saying the same thing of course!).

Following is a list of some of the main new features that ASOS developed as part of this redesign process:

> the ability to edit size/colour from within the basket (something which is pretty unique and a great benefit to their customers)
> adding in expiry minutes for basket items that are held for 2 hours (again James feels this is pretty unique, which I agree with)
> shipping charges are now shown in the basket (me - fantastic addition)
> product thumbnails have been increased in size so customers can see the product they are buying more clearly

This is already a pretty long comment, so I'll post another one following this with some of the click-through impact their redesign has had.

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Anonymous - whoever you are you make some very valid points! This article was looking specifically at the shopping basket page, and therefore I wasn't putting ASOS forward as an example of checkout process best practice. As you point out forcing new customer to register in order to checkout will certainly put some people off.

On saying this, with such a well known and respected brand name, for ASOS this will mean they can perhaps get away with this approach more than other unknown fashion retailers. ASOS also have an impressive customer community which I expect quite a few new customers would be interested in being apart of.

Ken - thanks for your comments on whether best practice applies to all retailers. Of course there isn't a one size fits all approach to shopping baskets, product pages or checkout processes. Through understanding what your customer want (like what ASOS have done) as well looking at what some of the leading retailers are doing, there will always be certain elements of key shopping pages that apply for all retailers.

One example of this is transparent delivery costs - all e-commerce sites should leave customers waiting til they are within the checkout process to suddenly find out there is an additional cose for delivery.

Additionally as James from ASOS has explained, split testing different options is a key part of improving the customer experience and delivering improved conversion rates.

Matt - in terms of a visitor missing out seeing the basket and therefore some of the supporting information, this opens up a wider discussion about what information shoudl you provide visitors at earlier parts of the customer journey. For instance, promoting free delivery incentives on your homepage, category pages and product pages ensure that you aren't reliant on visitors 1st seeing this in your basket.

Additionally, my recommendations to retailers is to show a consistent summary of their basket during checkout, to ensure that if visitors skip the basket they are still clear on exactly what they are paying. Of course in the case of ASOS they will need to re-show the additionally delivery options which they have brought in to the basket.

Phew! Next comment will be more insights from James at ASOS...

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

So on to the actual impact the changes James described to me have led to.

Once ASOS had developed the new features and functionality, James explained how they split tested various features with customers. One example was with the Proceed to Checkout button, which they tested alongside 'Pay Securely Now'. The button mentioning security received a 3% uplift in customer moving in to the next stage of checkout.

James went on to rightly explain that its hard to measure overall conversion rates as a result of these initial changes, with there been many other areas of their proposition, product offer and seasonality which will have an affect on their visitor > purchaser conversion rate.

On saying this James said ASOS have definitely seen uplifts in click-throughs as a result of their shopping basket redesign process.

over 5 years ago

Tony Barker

Tony Barker, Director & Founder at eEnablement - Online Interim Management & ConsultancySmall Business

Has any research been done to look at whether the shopping basket concept developed by online retailers can extend into other sectors eg financial services, utilities, as a way for users to select and choose non retail products and services? Are the principles transferable?

Tony Barker

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Tony, thanks for your question and sorry its taken a while to respond! The financial services and utility sectors have certainly far less written and researched about them compared to the retail sector, so the short answer to your question is 'not that is readilly available'.

A key difference between retailers and the 2 sectors you mention is that in the main the concept of a shopping basket for financial/utility websites is pretty redundant, as a typical customer journey will be: search for product online > land on a landing page which explains all about it > maybe go and do price comparisons > go back to your preferred provider > look for the big apply/create account button > proceed in to the application/account creation process

From here you would go in to the application process, where there are certainly many form best practice principles which companies should follow to reduce drop-out rates.

Is this useful? Get in touch if you would like to know more. In addition we deliver a 1 day in-house training course on financial services usability & best practice if this might be of interest.

over 5 years ago

Neil Roberts

Neil Roberts, Head of Digital at EurostarEnterprise

Hi Paul,

I love your comments on ASOS but I have always throught that the retail shopping basket was a much simpler challenge than say, travel; specifically when trying to sell a package.

Do you have and travel examples/tips up your sleeve ?

over 5 years ago

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