In a recent study by user experience researchers and experts the Nielsen Norman Group, it was found that providing users with the ability to save shopping cart items for possible later purchase was a critical factor in providing an good user experience for ecommerce sites.

From research performed across 49 ecommerce sites, the group found that shoppers frequently use the cart as a kind of holding area for saving or comparing items while shopping, or for the next time they used the site.

Saving Time Essential

With the huge variety of options available in today’s ecommerce marketplaces, it’s important to take into account the time and effort that users spend finding the right product. Since they do not wish to have to spend this time again, saving products in a cart makes sense to them.

However, using the cart in this way conflicts with the primary purpose of the cart, which is to hold items which will be purchased in the current session.

As such, it’s important to consider site-provided alternatives to storing items in a cart, such as the “Wishlist,” Favourites” etc.

Saving Functionality

Wishlists are a common feature of many ecommerce sites, and although these provide the required functionality, the study found that visitors were often reluctant to make use of them, either because of the perceived interaction cost (setting up an account / registering), or due to the perception that the main purpose of wishlists was for sharing gift ideas, and therefore the fear of appearing greedy dissuaded them from using the functionality.

This was mitigated somewhat by using names like “Favourites” or “My List,” but the expectation of a tiresome registration process seemed to still cause users to default to storing items in their carts instead.

A very interesting finding of the study was that users tended to perceive adding items to a list as a higher level of commitment than adding them to a cart.

Their recommendation is to make it simple for users to move items that they have added into their cart, to a list. In other words, let them save items directly from the cart.

Discoverability Is Key

In order to facilitate users taking advantage of the functionality to save items for later, this functionality has to be easy to find without looking for it, (“Save This Item For Later”), and users shouldn’t need to register an account in order to save items to a list. (Or to buy things for that matter.)

Provide an easy to find and easy to use feature to save items for later, (don’t call it a wish list and don’t force people to sign up to use it), and you’ve facilitated their return to purchase at a later date.