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Shopping Cart or Wishlist?Saving Products for Later in Ecommerce

by Page Laubheimeron November 4,2018

Summary:On ecommerce sites,saving shopping-cart items for possible later purchase must be discoverable and low-effort.

Shopping Carts Are External Memory

A shopping cart is not just a shopping cart: it's also a form ofexternal memory,a tool that allows users to remember and easily access items of interest.In our recentresearch across 49 ecommerce sites,we frequently observed shoppersusing the cart as a holding areato compare items and save products while they continued to shop or for later sessions.

In today's rich ecommerce landscape,finding the right product takes time and effort.Thus,it makes sense for users to want to avoid redoing the same work.However,using the shopping cart for saving items of interest occasionally conflicts with the normal functionality of the cart,which is to hold items for thecurrentpurchase.For example,in our usability testing,some participants had items in their cart from previous shopping sessions;although they were not planning to purchase them at that moment,they also didn't want to abandon them.In these cases,being able to save those products for later consideration proved critical.Site-provided tools such as wishlists,Save for Lateroptions,orFavoriteslists were used in these situations.

Wishlists vs.FavoritesandSave for Later

Although many sites in our study featuredwishlists that allowed users to save items for later,people were reluctant to use them because they expected a highinteraction costfor setting them up (for example,due to having to register).Instead,most participants preferred to save products for later by adding them to their cart.Furthermore,the labelWishlistimplied to users that its primary purpose was for sharing gift ideas with others;many thought that doing so will be perceived as greedy or inappropriate,and neglected to consider other uses for wishlists.Names likeFavoritesor evenMy Listdid not have the same greedy connotation,although they also carried expectations of tiresome registration and setup.

West elm uses the word Favorites instead of Wishlist
West Elm named its wishlist functionalityFavorites ,avoiding the greedy connotation of the wordwishlist .

Lists vs.Shopping Carts

Wishlists are often made available in the page header (next to the cart button) and on product pages (often near theAdd to Cartbutton).These spots make the feature easy to discover and access;however,our study participants tended to add items to their cart first.Our users'mental modelfor these lists was that they implied a higher level of commitment,even if the lists were private;adding to a list meant "Idefinitelywant that",whereas adding it to the cart meant,"I可能want that."

To cater to this mental model,some sites include links to let users save items directly from the cart.This method is a handy way to separate products for later consideration from items to be purchased right away.

Save for LaterMust Have High Discoverability and Low Interaction Cost

一个Save for Laterfeature can prevent users from discarding items that they won't  purchase right away.However,ifSave for Laterleads to a lengthy or confusing process,it will either be ignored,or will derail the checkout for the current purchase.An effectiveSave for Laterfeature in a cart must be:

  • Discoverable(users must be able to notice it without seeking it out)
  • Clearly labeled(with stronginformation scentas to what exactly it will do)
  • Transparently easy to use(ideally the label sets expectations with the user that the feature is easy to use)
  • Low-effort(users won't need to register or name their list in order to save an item)

Macy's iOS native app hid theMove to ListandRemoveoptions in the cart,requiring a swipe gesture to access them.隐藏这些特性下swipemakes them undiscoverable for many users.Macy's mobile website,however,made both of these options visible in the cart.

Macys native mobile cart differs from the mobile website
Macy's iOS native app (left) hid theMove to List andRemove options in the cart,requiring a swipe gesture to access them.These options were always visible (and thus more discoverable) on the mobile website (right).

Sears' mobile cart hides the move to wishlist functionality in a dropdown
On the Sears' mobile site,saving a cart item for later was possible,but hidden in a dropdown menu,which made it relatively undiscoverable for users.

It's strongly recommended not to require users to register or log in to use theSave for Laterfunction in the cart;not only do shoppersavoid registrationas much as possible,but even if they do begin to register in order to save an item for later,that process derails the checkout process.

Flowchart of options for saving an item for later from Anthropologies's shopping cat confusingly offered both aMove to Wish List andSave for Later options for shopping-cart items.Move to Wish List required the user to either log in or create an account,both of which derail the checkout process.Save for Later, however,did not require registration and provided immediate feedback for the user.Since the checkout processcollects all the information that registration does(except a password),there is no need to force the user to register or log in at this stage. let users save cart items for later without creating an account or logging in.The linkSave for Laterappeared under theQuantityfield.Clicking the link moved the item to an area at the bottom of the shopping-cart page,labeledMy Saved Items.This feature did not require registration.However,its position low on the page (below thefoldon many laptops) made it difficult to discover.One study participant who had clickedSave for Latercould not see theMy Saved Itemssection and  tried navigating to theSaveslink in the utility navigation.But that featuredidrequire registration to access.The user thought that her saved items were now gone,and she moved on to a different,competing site instead.

Wayfair moves saved cart items below the page fold
SelectingSave for Later in the Wayfair shopping cart moved the item to bottom of the shopping-cart page to a section labeledMy Saved Items (which,confusingly,differed from the site'sSaves wishlist functionality).This feature did not require registration.However,its position low on the page (below the fold on many laptops) made it difficult to discover.


The shopping cart is not only a place to store items until purchase: it is a comparison table,a reference,a scrapbook for ideas.Thus,contrary to the modern ecommerce teams' beliefs,adding an item to a shopping cart doesn't necessarily mean that the item has a high chance of being purchased right away.People often use the shopping cart as a tool to help them make purchasing decisions,and the shopping cart is as much a sandbox for consideration of products as it is a direct means to purchase.Keep that in mind if you're tracking shopping-cart abandonment as one of youranalyticsmetrics: an item left in the shopping cart may actually be leading to a purchase later on.

Users often wish to purchase only some of their cart's contents right away,but don't want to lose all the work that went into finding other products of interest.Provide an easy-to-find feature to save items for later,label it something else than "wishlist," and don't block access to it withlogin walls.

Full Report

Learn more about optimizing the wishlist and checkout process in our new 4thedition of the 299-pageShopping Carts,Checkout,and Registrationand 148-pageWishlists,Gift Cards,and Gift Givingreports.  (These are part of the new edition of theEcommerce User Experienceseries.)