Far more often than in the real world, website shopping carts are abruptly abandoned before money changes hands. It’s a problem undermining the otherwise growing online retail industry with reported rates of dropped sales at the virtual check-out ranging from 20 to 85 per cent.

When you understand why internet shoppers “dump” their purchases at the last minute you can vastly improve your website ordering process and increase repeat business.

Whether you are already using a shopping cart on your website, or considering adding one in the future, here are seven ways to make your “shopping cart” pages more shopper-friendly – and profitable:


1. Create confidence

Don’t hide contact details if you want people to spend money online. First-time buyers in particular may want to follow-up with a phone call, or find out where you are based. Also, clearly showing an “easy returns policy” will help reduce cart abandonment. Feature it as a click-through, ideally near the “confirm your order” button, when the question is likely to arise in buyers’ minds. Over-the-counter, exchange and refund policies are taken for granted. In the online shopping world, they are a promotional opportunity not to be missed. Customer testimonials and photos of premises can increase buying confidence too.


2. Show prices and charges

List prices with products wherever they appear, to reduce unnecessary clicks back and forth. Every second counts when browsing online. Simple distractions like hunting for costs can deter your customers from proceeding to a sale. Mystery freight costs are another common reason people abandon carts. Postage or shipping rates typically only appear on the sales confirmation page. Instead, consider listing delivery charges upfront, because even a reasonable cost can seem an unwelcome addition if people only see it at the last minute.


3. Assure security

As well as highlighting payment security, make your general privacy policy clear and accessible. In the orders section, restrict requests for personal information to those directly related to the purchase. A click-through button, “we value your privacy” taking readers to an overview could mean the difference between a confirmed and an abandoned order. Ideally, this should be accessible from every page on your site.


4. Make promises and keep them

If you promote a “quick and easy” check-out system to attract online buyers, deliver it. Many sites disappoint customers attracted to a no-fuss purchase experience, by making them work hard to get to the crucial payment page. Consider an alert message like, “three easy clicks to buy online”, but don’t promise orders at “a single click”, then take customers through page after page of registrations, passwords, confirmations or other road-blocks to fast buying.


5. Describe products with the right details and photos

Without a sales consultant to answer product and price questions, words and images need to work hard to keep the mouse clicking swiftly to the shopping cart pages and check-out. The copy style and content of product information needs to be descriptive enough to encourage a purchase without too much hesitation. For some products, it’s benefits that sell because they solve a problem; for others, like IT gadgets, it’s specifications that count. And again, this is a place to highlight return, exchange and refund policies.


6. Offer several payment options

Provide as many types of payment facilities as you can. A buying experience soured by a limited number of payment options might prevent a return visit. People tend to remember upsets at the final leg of their buying process. Think of credit card, PayPal and any other easy and securely available facilities as an investment in repeat shopping and better word-of-mouth referrals.


7. Move with the times

Browse the big name shopping websites regularly in case your system is missing new features that savvy shoppers are enjoying elsewhere. E-commerce software advances as quickly as any other online technology. For example, some sites ask for an e-mail address early on and if the cart is abandoned, a follow-up reminder message is sent, sometimes even asking why the sale was halted. As long as your customers won’t find this intrusive, consider upgrading to include this feature if cart abandonment rates are a concern.