The shopping cart is one of the highest points of anxiety for any online shopper. This is the exact moment when they are debating whether the products in their cart are actually worth their hard earned money, whether they’ll actually receive their product, and evaluating any security risks.

These thinking points are major distractors, so it is in your best interest to show value, ensure they are getting a reasonable deal, and give a sense of security without over stimulating your potential customer. That’s a hard thing to do, but if your cart has these 5 elements – they’ll be clicking ‘Order Now’ in no time.

1. Relevant Cross-Sells & Upsells

Cross-selling and upselling are extremely powerful, but if they are implemented poorly, your conversions are going to tank. Thankfully you are reading this post on a site that specializes in personalization, and you know better than to have any sort of irrelevant cross-sells on your site…right?!

An article on GetElastic outlines the 3 Ps of cross-selling in the cart. We’ve seen these techniques before and the image below shows one of the standard ways to pull this off in the e-commerce space – the tried and true ‘Customers who bought this, also liked…’ method.

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If you aren’t comfortable adding more content to your cart, there are other areas to push cross-selling and upselling – the "Thank You" page. I am a proponent of getting the customer to purchase, and then provide more selling opportunities.

2. A Clean Layout

Earlier I explained how there are a lot of things going through your customer’s head, so your cart needs to be easy to understand. Make sure there are no surprises. The items need to be highlighted and your call-to-action, e.g., "Checkout Now," should stand out.

I always recommend running qualitative tests on your cart to make sure the flow actually makes sense. A heatmap will show you what is working and what isn’t. If you have the time and resources, I would recommend user testing your cart to get some valuable insights into what’s confusing your visitors.

3. Guest Checkout

I know we all want to avoid the option for a guest checkout because customer accounts give us a wealth of knowledge. We get to know more about their buying habits and we gain the ability to slice and dice data for future targeted campaigns. Unfortunately, eliminating guest checkout is a conversion killer.

Simply put, people don’t want to deal with yet another account. The concept of a buyer account is extremely greedy on the marketer’s end. Unless the customer can see a distinct value in creating an account, they will not be compelled to do so – which is why we coerce them to create an account.

I know some of you can’t get the approval to get guest checkout on your site. I recommend trying out different workflows. One thing that works is asking customers to create an account with the credentials they have already entered.

The best place to do this is on the "Thank You" page, and is an extremely effective practice.

Wayfair has done a lot of things right, but a required account will really dip conversions. I’d love to see them prompt their users to finalize their account on the "Thank-You" page or in a follow-up email.

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4. Anxiety-Reducing Seals

I already touched upon how important it is to reduce your customer’s anxiety. One of the best ways to do this is with relevant and well-known security seals.

A study by Econsultancy/Toluna highlights the importance of security seals when they asked survey respondents ‘If you are shopping from a retailer you don’t know well, how would you decide whether to trust the website?’

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Notice that 48% of respondents said the trust seal was the deciding factor for doing business. This should be a wake-up call to any brand that isn’t Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft – which is most of you reading this right now!

If you are taking up valuable visual real estate in your cart with security seals, you need to keep them top-of-mind. There is no better way to do this than to have these seals as close to the checkout button as possible.

5. A Promo Section That Links to Promo Listings

Ok – so every cart may not need a promo section, but if you have a promo section you must make it easy for visitors to use your promo codes instead of your affiliate’s codes!

This can be as simple as placing a persistent banner on the site, or can be made more elegant by triggering the promo code after certain actions. shows their promo codes after failed attempts.

One of my go-to sites for e-commerce test inspiration is Bonobos (shown below). They place a site-wide banner and reiterate the same message in their cart that updates dynamically based on how much is in the cart:

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The real lesson here is if you are running promotions, be open about them. If you make your customers jump through hoops to find promo codes one of two things will happen:

  1. They will find a better price at a competitor
  2. They will use an affiliate promo code, probably from RetailMeNot

If your cart is missing any of these elements, you’ve got work to do.


Named one of the top 25 most influential CRO professionals, Justin Rondeau has spent his entire career working on optimization campaigns and has helped train some of the leading optimization teams at Fortune 500 companies. Rondeau has run hundreds of tests for both B2B and e-commerce brands and has analyzed 3,000+ split tests across virtually every industry.

Read more: 

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