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Support Services: Building the Shopping Cart for a New Generation

1 Nov, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response

"Do you want fries with that — or how about a hot apple pie?"

"It's a great question, and come to think of it, I'm glad you asked. A hot apple pie might be great with my sandwich. I didn't order fries, but since you asked, sure, I'll have some."

Marketers — and especially direct response marketers — have used any number of devices to increase the revenue from each customer at every opportunity. A suggestion in the form of a question at the point-of-sale suggests an understanding of what a customer may want, based on the retailer's experience with thousands or even millions of customers.

Brian Wood
Brian Wood

The retailer is aware that customers most likely want the fries or apple pie — they just need a reminder that it should be considered. We all know how hard it is to say no.

The Basic Electronic Shopping Cart

Online direct marketers have developed online shopping carts that let customers add to the cart without a prompt and may even suggest combinations of items to go with what is already in the cart. Applications that suggest items other customers bought that might complement the current item being purchased are effective upsell tools.

Marketers also have very efficiently added "specials," or one-time discounts, to encourage the addition of other items to the cart. The features of most shopping carts — such as the ability to process a credit card, calculate shipping fees and tax, generate a ticket for the distribution center, and so on — are now expected by customers. What were advanced cart features just a few months ago are now considered basic.

Going Beyond the Basic Shopping Cart

Advanced shopping cart capabilities that integrate a host of marketing capabilities right from the online point-of-sale will give marketers a clear advantage. These advanced technologies incorporate an array of functions to help marketers maximize selling opportunities in five major ways:

> Accepting checks. The ability to accept electronic checks opens up your offer to consumers who do not have (or prefer not to use) a credit card.

> Attracting the customer. With built-in search engine optimization (SEO) through the cart, marketers can generate optimized title tags and SEO meta tags for the entire site, helping to ensure pages rank high in Google and other major search engines. Additionally, with Google analytics, urchin tracking on every content page tells you who is visiting, how long they are staying, what is converting to sales, and how your ROI stacks up.

> Alerting the customer. Automated newsletters and E-mails cement loyalty and ensure return sales by dispatching alerts of new products, sale items, specials and other information of interest to opt-in customers. Likewise, customers are informed of such updates simply by subscribing to a company's RSS feed, or by providing a mobile phone number on which they can receive text messages.

> Optimizing your site. Advanced tools aid in the easy management of content throughout the site, from modifying text and images to adding pages, maintaining links, offering digital downloads or expanding for future capabilities. Additional applications manage affiliates, resellers, memberships and subscriptions. Built-in shipping modules integrate the cart with FedEx, UPS, USPS and other major carriers, linking directly to their sites to track shipping and delivery. A translation feature can also be a benefit.

> Recapturing lost opportunities. With automatic follow-up to shopping cart abandons, you can automatically contact shoppers who have provided an E-mail address, urging them to buy and, if you so choose, offering a percentage off the item they were viewing if they act immediately. Unique upsell/cross-sell capabilities are also possible, including using custom content, enhanced further with Flash or streaming video, to sell more products to buyers, with complete control of when and where your ads will run.

In setting up a new offer or site, look to new shopping cart capabilities to optimize the checkout experience to help customers not only complete the transaction but give you an upsell and re-sell advantage.

Brian Wood is division president of PowerPay Direct. He can be reached at or visit www.powerpaydirect.bizfor more information.

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