Ecommerce companies know a purchase conversion is made up of many small steps. We take an in-depth look at add-to-cart rates and offer 17 tactics to improve that rate for your online store.
In many ways, online shopping mirrors in-store shopping. Customers add the products they want to a cart and proceed through a checkout process to purchase them.
In ecommerce, however, there’s a totally different set of strategies to facilitate that process. Getting shoppers to add products to their carts requires a unique set of tactics ranging from website design to small details in product copy. With those tactics, your store can increase how many products customers add to their carts and thus increase the value of each purchase.
In this guide, you’ll learn what an add-to-cart rate is, why it’s important to your ecommerce store, how to calculate and track it, and—most importantly—how to improve it and grow your business.
The add-to-cart rate, sometimes known as ATC, for an ecommerce store is the percentage of visitors who add at least one item to their shopping cart during a session. Add-to-cart rate is a helpful metric to measure how many site visitors are qualified buyers, since there are many reasons a user may be visiting your site, like job hunting on your Careers page or simply window shopping with no intention of making a purchase.
Add-to-cart rate is calculated with this formula:
Add-to-cart rate = [Number of sessions where at least one item is added to shopping cart / total number of sessions]
Platforms for ecommerce stores like Shopify and WooCommerce allow customization of tracking add-to-cart events. Similarly, Google Analytics can be set up to monitor when items are added to shopping carts. These trackers are not only helpful for understanding your add-to-cart rate, but also allow you to set up tactics to improve conversion rates once items are added to a cart.
If you’re benchmarking add-to-cart rate for the first time, it may be helpful to know that the average add-to-cart rate reported by ecommerce businesses is 3 to 4%. As you begin your efforts to improve your rate, you can adjust your benchmarks according to your business’s unique metrics.
DIYing your product photos is a no-go for a successful add-to-cart rate. Customers want to accurately visualize the products they’re considering, and they want to see the product used in the context that they would be using it in.
If possible, add a video or interactive image to product pages that displays the product with 360 degree rotation so the user can get an accurate idea of what the product looks like. A carousel of images from multiple angles is helpful, too. Enable zoom on images as well to show textures and small details.
Great product shots improve trustworthiness, reduce product return rates, and will increase the rate at which site visitors will add products to their carts.
Ecommerce businesses know shipping is a costly resource, but customers see it as an intangible part of their order. Offering free shipping will keep customers from abandoning their orders because it makes it easier for the customer to understand exactly what they’re paying for.
Consider pricing your products so that shipping costs are covered on your end and customers feel they’re getting more value from the “free” shipping.
Alternatively, a popular method for offering free shipping is creating a threshold the customer must reach to “unlock” free shipping. Set that threshold strategically based on your business’s order sizes and prominently display that amount throughout the shopping process. You can also share how much more the user needs to spend to earn free shipping as they add items to their cart.
Using free shipping earned by reaching a minimum purchase amount not only increases add-to-cart and conversion rates, but also boosts average order value.
Limited-time discounts create a sense of urgency and scarcity that makes customers more likely to buy. They feel like they’ll miss out on a deal for a product they’re considering purchasing when there’s a set time for them to receive the discount. Pair this with displaying real-time inventory updates to make buyers aware that they need to act quickly.
These discounts can be site-wide for certain products or apply to whole categories of products. You may also want to personalize these deals for customers by sending emails with special offer codes for their favorite products. This improves your add-to-cart rate while also keeping customers engaged and providing a good customer experience.
Simply put, the fewer steps to your checkout process, the more conversions you’ll earn. Account creation is a step that is surprisingly unnecessary and often leads potential customers to drop out of the buying process. Think of it from the customer’s perspective: It’s another password for them to remember, and they’d rather just get their purchase over with.
Account creation on an ecommerce site is still a valuable tool, and you won’t be doing away with it altogether. Instead, allow the user to make the purchase without an account—you’ll still get their email address and can ask them to opt-in for marketing emails.
Plus, you can offer that the user makes an account after their purchase is complete, whether via email in their order confirmation or on the order confirmation landing page. It’s a win-win for your business and for the customer.
From a design perspective, heatmapping tools are a great option to increase your add-to-cart rate. These tools visualize user behavior on your website, showing you exactly where users click and how they travel through information and product pages. A great example of a heatmapping tool comes from Hotjar.
Heatmapping tools will help drive add-to-cart rate by identifying bottlenecks during site visits and helping you reconsider your online store design so users flow through your website with ease, improving the user experience and making them more likely to make a purchase.
Personalization is a great strategy to drive an increase in add-to-cart rate, and showing similar products to the ones a user is interested in is a solid tactic to fulfill that strategy. It’s a well-known cross-selling and upselling method as well.
Similar products can be displayed in a number of places during a session, like:
Be diligent about how you curate what’s shown to a customer for similar products. Recommended products should be strong offerings that complement or upgrade the selected product or products.
Robust store search is an asset to customers because it helps them find what they want faster in a frustration-free process. A good search function features accurate keyword search as well as plentiful filters that go beyond just the types of products sold. Add filters for characteristics like colors, patterns, or textures.
In addition to filters, make sure your search function is able to determine the intent of a search. When a user is searching on your website, they may be seeking a solution for a problem they have instead of looking for a specific product. Building a search function that can understand different types of queries will make it easier for customers to navigate your online store and, in turn, boost your add-to-cart rate.
Product descriptions are a prime spot to communicate value to customers. In a product description, you have the opportunity to tell your brand’s story and how the product fits into it and answer any questions a customer may have about features, specs, and benefits.
As mentioned before, online shoppers lose the experience of handling a product before they buy it. Product descriptions help them understand your value propositions without that experience so they’re more likely to add products to their carts.
Reviews are often one of the first things a shopper seeks out as they consider purchasing a product. According to a report from Podium, 93% of consumers are influenced by reviews.
Enabling customer reviews on product pages aids in your customers’ decision making and makes your business more trustworthy. If they don’t have to leave your website to complete their research, they’ll be more likely to place an order.
Also known as social proof, highlighting real customers using your products is a great way to increase conversion rates. Sharing images or videos of customers helps shoppers picture themselves using the product, heightening their desire for the product if they think it’s a good fit.
Big-name online retailers like ModCloth and Sephora are examples of brands that use social proof: They encourage customers to share photos wearing their products on social media and on their websites.
You can incentivize your customers to post pictures and tag your brand to get a discount or potentially earn a free product. Regardless, by providing a sense of engagement and making research easy for shoppers, you’ll see a boost in your add-to-cart rate.
Shoppers want to have their questions answered quickly without searching through product details or hunting for contact information. Adding a chat bot or customer service chat feature that’s easy to find—perhaps in a pop-up widget in a corner of any page—will increase trust in your site visitors, increasing how long they spend on your site and reducing bounce rates.
Only implement this tactic if you have the resources to set up a comprehensive bot and allocate customer service team members to monitor activity. Otherwise, queries will be left unanswered, which will negatively impact users’ opinions of your brand.
Buyer’s remorse can be a real issue with ecommerce shopping since shoppers typically don't get to handle the product before buying it. Making returns easy will allow customers to worry less about their purchases because it shows confidence in your brand’s products and simplifies the steps it takes to return a product.
If possible, make returns and exchanges free to build trust and encourage repeat purchases. Include a return shipping label or add instructions to print a free return label on packing slips. This way, no stress is added to the purchase process for your brand.
In the 2018 holiday season, almost 40% of all online purchases were made on a smartphone, according to OuterBox. That number is only expected to increase year over year. Simply put: If your ecommerce website is not optimized for mobile devices, you’re losing out on business. Mobile visitors who find themselves on a poorly built mobile site are likely to bounce almost immediately.
To ensure your ecommerce store is mobile-friendly, use a hosting service that includes mobile optimization. If you design your website in-house, take great consideration of user experience and make sure elements on your mobile site are large enough and spaced out enough to be easy to read, navigate, and understand.
As you monitor how users move about your website, you may see a pattern of visitors moving from product pages to informational pages like an About Page. Customers want to know the full story of what they’re buying, so to make it easier for them to understand your brand and products, include FAQs on each product page.
This especially applies to any products that fulfill unusual niches or feature new technologies. Shoppers will want to familiarize themselves with your mission and concept to have a full grasp of what they want to buy, so include FAQs prominently on product pages to simplify the research process.
Offering bundles, or sets of related items or items frequently bought together, at a modest discount is a great way to increase value for customers and boost average cart value, sales volume, and add-to-cart rate.
Be strategic about curating the items featured in a bundle. Use purchase data to know which items are bought together so you know there will be demand for the bundle. Additionally, make sure each product is still available to be purchased individually so customers aren’t frustrated that they have to pay more for a single product.
One of the most common reasons that users abandon their shopping carts is because they’re not ready to buy yet. Wishlists are a great solution that offer flexibility to customers while encouraging them to return and finalize the purchase. Shoppers can collect products they’d like to buy in the future, making it easy for them to come back without searching for the same product.
Because customers need to create an account to keep track of their wishlists, you’ll be able to communicate with them about discounts or special offers on items in their wish list. Additionally, wish lists have the added bonus of enabling you to know what products are most sought after and predict inventory levels based on hard data.
As previously mentioned, customers often drop out of the checkout process because they’re not yet ready to buy. Abandoned cart emails, like wishlists, are a way to re-engage customers who aren’t ready to make a purchase. Personalization is key to any remarketing tactic, and abandoned cart emails offer personalized communication and flexibility for the shopper so they can make the purchase in their own time.
Abandoned cart emails are easy to automate with templates, so the ROI is high—oftentimes 10 to 15% of customers will return to make a purchase because of add-to-cart emails.
Adding concise persuasive copy underneath the add-to-cart button can be the key to getting a shopper to make their decision to purchase. Microcopy accounts as reassurance and encouragement to the shopper, helping them overcome any last hang-ups they may have.
Microcopy is also an opportunity to be creative. Clickable buttons, like the add-to-cart button, should have simple copy on the buttons themselves that communicates exactly what the button does, like “Add to cart” or “Go to checkout.” With microcopy, you can send small signals like “50,000 happy buyers” or “100,000 sold” that build trust with your customers.
Whether you’re seeking to improve your add-to-cart rate or looking to execute new campaigns, Apteo supports ecommerce companies as they grow. To learn more about how Apteo promotes ecommerce strategy, sign up for a demo today.
Shanif Dhanani is the co-founder & CEO of Apteo. Prior to Apteo, Shanif was a data scientist and software engineer at Twitter, and prior to that he was the lead engineer and head of analytics at TapCommerce, a NYC-based ad tech startup acquired by Twitter. He has a passion for all things data and analytics, loves adventure traveling, and generally loves living in New York City.