7 Things Bloggers Should Know About Shopping Carts and Online Payments

These days, many bloggers take the leap and decide to offer some products as part of their growing online business. The overall popularity of this strategy has a lot to do with some of the success stories that can be witnessed on sites like ProBlogger, Copyblogger, and others.

The standard approach for offering products in the blogosphere of today is to keep things digital. This means either simple e-book products, or web apps and software.

Either way, the blog itself often becomes the main sales mechanism, and this is where shopping carts and online payments come into play. So what is there to know if you want to set yourself up for success?

1. Pick the right approach for your blog

Sorry about the vaguely sounding heading. What I actually want to talk about here is whether you really need a shopping cart solution or just a simple buy button.

Here are some of the differences between the two:

  • A shopping cart is a script/plugin that allows your customers to browse through a whole range of products and pick only the ones they’re interested in. They can also manage their order later on and set various transaction details.
  • A simple buy button is an independent small script that allows your customers to pay for one single product or package of products. They can’t browse through your website freely and choose more products to be a part of the same order.

What the above means in plain English is that shopping carts are perfect for anyone who’s planning to launch more than one product at a time (like a niche e-commerce store).

Single buy buttons, on the other hand, are perfect for bloggers who just want to test things out and begin their adventure with a single offering (this is the more common scenario in the blogosphere).

If it’s shopping carts you’re after then consider one of these 6 WordPress plugins for e-commerce. Also, to make your blog compatible with some of the standard online store layouts, consider switching to a more e-commerce friendly theme.

2. The number of payment steps matters

When picking your shopping cart solution, make sure to pay attention to how many steps the customer has to go through before they can finalize their order.

This is all about the problem of shopping cart abandonment. Quite frankly, the less complex the checkout process is, the more people will manage to complete it.

And just to convince you that this problem is indeed very serious, let me mention a study by the Baymard Institute, which reports the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is 67%. In other words, this means that 67% of all people who clicked the “Add to Cart” button on your website end up abandoning their purchase somewhere along the way. This really is an incredibly serious issue.

The best way of finding out how complex your current shopping cart is, is to actually try making a purchase yourself and pay attention to each individual click and form you have to go through. That’s why I’d recommend testing 2-3 separate solutions before making the final decision.

3. Your shopping cart placement

The question of where to place a shopping cart is one of the oldest in the e-commerce design niche.

As experience shows, the most intuitive placement (from a visitor’s point of view) is the upper right corner of your website.

Such a location shouldn’t be a problem for you because every good shopping cart features a custom widget, which you can place in every widget-ready area that your current WordPress theme provides.

4. Payment processing

Every shopping cart will allow you to integrate your blog with a number of different payment processors.

One of the most popular ways to handle online payments these days is PayPal. Its great advantage is that the payments go though within seconds and that the buy button itself is really easy to integrate in every website.

There are some downsides, though…

As a blogger who wants to sell digital products, you should be able to accept payments no matter where they’re coming from, and the most significant downside to PayPal is that it simply doesn’t work everywhere.

In short, this means that you have to provide some additional payment methods if you want to make your offer global.

Instead of going with yet another external payment method (like PayPal), consider processing online payments directly on your blog. That way you can handle credit card transactions yourself (without paying PayPal fees) and you can get feedback from an online clearing house instantly even for international payments.

ACH-Payments has various payment processing solutions that you can start with.

5. Mobile shopping

One of the recent Business Insider’s insights tells us that in 2013, the number of internet-connected mobile devices will be the same as the number of desktop and notebook PCs. And by 2015, the number of mobile devices will double!

In essence, mobile activity is hot right now and it will stay that way. So if you want to make your new offering attractive, you need to make sure that the whole purchase process can be handled through a mobile device without any glitches.

This can be done by having a closer look at: your theme, your shopping cart solution, and your payment processing operator. Again, the best way to make sure that there won’t be any problems is to actually test everything yourself.

6. Tracking your purchase links

One of the main goals of any tracking activity is to have some data that you can use to improve the conversion rates your offers are getting. For bloggers, tracking is not that difficult as there’s many quality solutions available, like: Pretty Link – for all sorts of links, and Google Analytics – for traffic stats.

When it comes to selling products on blogs, a very good idea is to put your “buy now” links through a tracking solution whenever possible.

If you’re using custom shopping carts then the click tracking feature is already available in most of them. For single buy buttons, you can redirect them through Pretty Link.

Tracking is a very popular concept in all forms of affiliate marketing, where not everyone believes the conversion metrics provided by the merchants (it’s always better to have your own that you know are accurate). As it turns out, link tracking can be just as valuable when promoting your own products.

7. Include seals and badges

The final piece of advice I have for you here is to use various badges and seals that your payment and shopping cart solutions will provide you with.

Transaction security is crucial online, and if you can convince your visitors that your website is a safe environment to pull out a credit card then you are immediately more likely to get the sale.

The rule is simple, the more badges you can obtain and display, the better (of course, within reason).

What do you think about blogs that offer their own custom products? Is this a business model you’re planning to try out for yourself?