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7 Shopping Cart Tips That Even Amazon Could Use

How many times have you started shopping, put a great deal of effort in entering all the required information, only to see the "You can't buy now" message. Read where Amazon has failed and how you can improve your shopping cart (scroll to the bottom, if in a hurry).

The story

So, I wanted to buy a Seth Godin's book, The Bootstrapper's Bible: Volume 1 (Amazon fails to ship to me, so I'd eventually buy Seth's other books for a paperback price, if he had them in a digital format, too). For such a price, lower than any e-book I know - and of much greater value, I thought this was worth having.

(Btw, if you haven't read Seth's free e-book "Unleashing the Ideavirus", you must, ought to, have to and are absolutely obliged to read it. It is about why ideas rule the world and how you can make them spread for your benefit.

You can also find his other free e-books, including a free Bootstrapping Guide Manifesto (PDF, 1.2 Mb), in his lens. Thanks, Seth.)

But back to the story.

The button on the right, aptly named "Buy now with 1-Click®", was convincing enough.

So, I clicked and a window appeared, asking for registering or logging in (Bad) (why not do it using the info I use in buying the book, anyway?).

The form had my email address entered and simply wanted my password (Good - they remembered me and my email address).

The next window wanted my payment method, name, credit card number and card expiration date. So far so good, but it wasn't the entire "1-Click®" purchase, though.

After clicking continue, I was hoping to get my e-book. Not so fast. It wanted my new billing information, prompting for no country, but absolutely requiring me to select a state (from the US states) (Bad)

When I did, it needed a zipcode, matching a state. Fun. Luckily, I remembered a 95001 zip code for California (CA), so I went through this hurdle, too. What would happen to some foreigner not familiar with the zipcodes of the US states I don't know (a lost sale, maybe?).

After clicking "Continue" for the 4th time (apart from clicking on the "Buy now" button), I got the following message:

All Amazon Digital transactions are completed with 1-Click® to provide you with a quick and easy purchase process.

Your e-Document purchase will be completed when you click "Continue" and your credit card will be charged. Your purchase will be available for you to download immediately.

Talking about the easy process after 4-5 clicks seems like an attempt to make fun of me. Don't make fun of your customers (please, Amazon). (To be fair, the same message does appear when you do have the "1-Click®" option enabled, after clicking on it).

While the usefulness of the above passage is disputable (I'd say that in order to reduce the amount of clicks, this step must have been spotlessly eliminated), I had to click the "Continue" button for the 5th time of 1 promised by the luring button. (Bad, yet again)

And, being pumped up during the buying/ordering/hacking process and that passage, I get the following message:

We could not process your order because of geographical restrictions on the product which you were attempting to purchase. Please refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Sorry, Amazon. Five clicks instead of one I can forgive (and Yoda speak I too can), but not letting me download an e-book, is out of place. You've just lost my loyalty and joined the ranks of "Will use as the last choice only" companies that I appear to have now. (Need I repeat myself?)

What's wrong

Here's what is wrong:

  • asking me to register before purchasing is no good (asking me to log in to use my already entered information is good, but you have to really use the information)
  • asking for my billing address, while having my credit card details, seems out of place, as I seem to have some info in my account (it appears the "1-Click" option needs to be turned on, but why not turn it on automatically, when the button is pressed, if the required information is present?)
  • if you are selling internationally (digital products sell this way, mostly), allow the form to accept any information (avoid things that annoy international shoppers)
  • restricting the purchase to the USA is the worst mistake you can make. In the spirit of Seth Godin (who inspires people to share stuff), a thought to limit distribution should not exist at all
  • telling me to go back to check the terms of use for the product is one thing, but not giving me a direct link is a crime. Give me a link, don't make me go back 6 pages back and try to find it.
  • and the funniest thing is, there was not only a not obvious "terms of use for this product", but there is no such a link at all on the long, detailed page.

How to do it right

So, if you want to be better than Amazon, remember this:

  1. [if you do promise a way to buy in one click] do strive to make the process obvious (for people to use it) and reduce the number of clicks/characters entered ruthlessly (such as making fewer ordering steps and required forms to be filled)
  2. make your button labels obvious and true (show links how to them, too)
  3. if you want your visitors to register, try to use their ordering information and make this process as easy as possible
  4. if the item has "geographical restrictions", do everything to remove them and make sure the customer can get what he/she wants
  5. if you still have them, make them obvious on the product page, not after 5 (or more, if you are a new customer) pages of entering information and clicking through
  6. in forms, place form labels above the fields, not on the side
  7. on the error page, provide clear ways to solve it (a link to a page with useful info will help a lot)

As you can see, this list is pretty general what people say you can do to improve your shopping cart, so putting things into practice should clearly help you reduce cart abandonment rate.

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