The Pros and Cons of Linking Direct-to-Cart

When people visit your product pages, you want to make it easy for them to buy your products in the way they want. Sometimes they want to buy from you, but sometimes they prefer a retailer

So, when someone chooses a retailer from your where to buy button, where do you send them? Do you direct them to your product page on that retailer’s site, or send them straight to checkout, with your item already in their cart?

That depends.

As a conversion optimization platform, our goal is to help brands increase sales. But while we give you the tools to send your customers directly to a retailer’s cart, we usually don’t recommend it. It’s a situational application—it’s not “better.” Afterall, we’ve been doing this crawling tech for over 15-years and with crawling comes data…LOTS of data. And from that data and all these years of helping brands optimize their customer journey we can tell you, linking direct to cart overall isn’t something that customers like. It makes them feel like they are getting pushed into a sale and it often leads to cart abandonment, which we’ll talk more about in the cons section of this post. That said, we always want to ensure we’re a resource that shows all the options and functionality within our brand commerce platform so let’s dive in. 

After exploring the pros and cons and seeing how this decision impacts your conversions, you’ll be in a better position to decide if this is the right choice for your where to buy solution or specific products within your where to buy solution.

Pros of linking direct-to-cart

Linking direct-to-cart won’t always increase conversions, but there can be reasons why you may want to consider it.

It removes barriers to checkout

There’s no denying it: when you link direct-to-cart, there are fewer steps standing between your customers and your products. When someone clicks the buy button on your website, it takes them to the cart, even if that cart is in another store. Send them to a product page though, and they have to click buy again to get to the cart.

For customers who are ready to buy, this redundant step can be frustrating, and a frustrating experience can be enough to make someone change their mind before they buy.

Removing barriers like this is most valuable for marketing campaigns. If your paid ads, emails, videos, and blog posts link direct-to-cart, that may increase conversions—especially if your marketing materials fill in education gaps and provide more context about what people are buying (and what will happen when they click “buy”).

While the theory that fewer barriers leads to increased conversions makes sense here, it would definitely be wise to test how your marketing assets perform when you link direct-to-cart vs. when you link to a product page, where people can continue researching your product and make sure they make the selection they want.

It can simplify the shopping process

One of the applications where we’ve found linking direct-to-cart to be most valuable to consumers is when your customers want several of your products at once. Which is why we created a product functionality called recipe and bundling. For example, if someone’s reading a recipe on your website, it can be a pain to separately go to product pages and search for each ingredient individually. But if a single click or tap can add all those items to their cart and take them to the checkout page on Kroger’s store, that’s extremely helpful.

If your products work best together, and you have content encouraging customers to get several items at once, this can be a good strategic opportunity to use this version of direct-to-cart functionality within our product bundling/recipe product module. And we can work with you to identify these innovative applications.

It creates less room for competition

When you send customers to a retailer’s product page, there’s always a chance that retailer will use “suggested products” and other product page features to steer some of that traffic to their own brands and other competitors. That’s an inherent risk of linking to a retailer, but for some brands and product categories, that risk may be higher. You still want your customers to buy in the way they prefer, but you obviously don’t want your retail partners siphoning off sales from your hard-earned traffic.

So if a retailer is trying to compete in your product category with their own product line, and you know they’re actively promoting their products on your product pages, that’s a situation where you may want to link direct-to-cart. But this is more specific to particular “private label” type categories like pharmaceuticals or health and beauty. 

It’s also worth mentioning: when you use PriceSpider’s Where to Buy technology, you can actually tell which retailers are doing this the most. Our in-cart data doesn’t just let you track sales of your products—it also shows you what people buy with or instead of your products. So you can tell when a retailer is snatching away your sales and maybe add this feature for specific retailers.

Cons of linking direct-to-cart

There are a few situations where linking direct-to-cart might make sense. But in general, as we talked about in the intro from our 15+ years of experience, it’s usually not the right move for most brands, and it shouldn’t be your default approach. Here’s why.

Direct-to-cart increases cart abandonment rates

According to Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is likely about 70 percent. Even when consumers intentionally add products to their cart, a staggering number of them never complete the transaction. That’s why brands and retailers work hard to create cart abandonment campaigns to win some of these “almost sales.”

If you send customers direct-to-cart in situations where they aren’t expecting to be there, cart abandonment rates go up. It’s like when a salesperson is too pushy. Prematurely sending someone to cart creates a frustrating experience that may cause would-be customers not to buy.

For some brands, this sounds counterintuitive. Isn’t sending them to a product page a redundant step—and therefore a barrier to purchase—since they’re already coming from a product page? But this instinct is based on an assumption. It assumes that consumers look at a retailer’s product page for the same reasons they look at the one on your website.

The reality is that from the consumer’s perspective, looking at a retailer’s product page often isn’t a barrier to buying your products—it’s a vital step on the path to purchase.

“Direct-to-cart” skips important parts of the shopping experience

Sending a customer directly to their cart on a retailer’s website can be disorienting. Normally, before someone gets to this step, they’ve had a chance to read third party reviews, vet the seller, answer specific questions, and modify the product configuration. From the cart, it’s harder for consumers to navigate to product reviews, continue researching your product, or even confirm that they’re buying your product from a legitimate seller.

And that’s why in most cases, this isn’t the ideal customer experience. Brands obviously want to keep the customer journey moving, but this transition from research on a brand’s website to research on a retailer’s website is an important part of the process. You want your customers to be confident that they’re getting what they want from who they want it from when they click “buy.” Sending them direct-to-cart can undermine their confidence by giving them less control over the decision and asking them to pay before they’re sure they’re ready.

Make the choice that’s right for your brand

Linking direct-to-cart is a situational decision. It’s not usually the right strategy, but can be an option when certain scenarios present themselves. With PriceSpider’s Where to Buy software, it’s an option you can use when it makes sense. But it shouldn’t be a default part of your customer journey.

Talk to an expert today, and see how PriceSpider’s conversion optimization platform can help your brand maximize sales.

Want more insights like this?

The latest resources to take back control of the shoppers’ journey, maximize sales conversion, and protect your brand