The Shopping Cart: Are You Answering These 5 Silent Questions?

The ecommerce shopping cart is a great place to run tests because simple changes (layout, copy, color, etc.) often yield fantastic results. But once you’ve hit a point of diminishing returns with “easy” A/B tests, you’ve got to dig in deeper and find out if you’re answering customers’ silent questions. I call them “silent questions” because customers don’t ask them of site owners directly. They simply buy from you if their questions are answered, and buy from your competitor if they go unanswered!

There are unanswered questions in the minds of our customers that we think are obviously answered on the page, but guess what? We’re blind to the truth that our customers miss things that we put in front of them. We’re too close to our own designs and user experiences to be objective. (If you’ve ever witnessed a usability test, you know the pain I’m referring to).

If you’re not sure about what those unanswered questions are, specific to your business, you can back up a few steps and use personas or user testing to uncover them. Personas help you empathize target customers (not you) and imagine their specific shopping questions. User (usability) tests can be designed to uncover customer questions by assigning a shopping task and asking the subject(s) open ended questions and encouraging them to “think out loud.”

For example, here are 5 key, unanswered questions (beyond shipping costs) of the shopping cart:

  1. Do you offer alternate forms of payment (aside from credit card)?
  2. Are you safe and secure?
  3. Why are you asking for this information?
  4. Do I have to set up an account to buy?
  5. Do I get to review my order before we transact?

I recently bought a Father’s Day present online from a gift retailer, and their overall shopping cart process was “OK.” I would give it a “B-” grade; it was good enough to get me through the purchase without bailing, but not nearly good enough to earn brand loyalty. But, they did a good job of clearly answering the 5 Questions, and it was enough to help them “Get The Cash.”

Are you adequately answering the 5 unanswered questions? You won’t know unless you’re doing customer research and experimentation. Whether your confidence level is low, high, or somewhere in between, I know you could run some interesting tests to validate your assumptions about how well you’re doing, and you might increase your funnel conversion rate in the process! Want help? Let me know.

[Originally published June 22nd, 2009 on, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

What Do Your Trust Tattoos Say About You?

trust logos

Image courtesy of

A past client of mine coined a wonderful phrase when he mentioned the fact that his shopping cart “had all the usual security tattoos,” referring to the seals/badges/logos seen around the Web as credibility indicators and anxiety reducers.

While I laughed at the time, I now think that there’s something to this idea that trust badges on sites are like tattoos on people. You can make some pretty safe assumptions about people’s personalities based on their body art, so maybe online shoppers are making assumptions about your site based on your security “tattoos”! Continue reading