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Cart, Basket, Box, Bag. Which checkout icon should you be using?

Are you using the correct checkout icon for your business?

Cart

A physical shopping cart is symbolic of traditional big box stores where you might find a pushcart/carriage and where customers are loading up those carriages with many items in a single shopping trip. We can think of the e-commerce Cart much the same way - it holds many items in a single online shopping session.

Who uses Cart?
You will generally find stores like Walmart, BestBuy, Target, Sears, and Sam’s Club (and other members/bulk buy stores) use ‘Cart’. ‘Cart’ is also the default type on most e-commerce platforms.

shopping cart icon design

When to use it

If your site sells many individual SKUs, we’re talking hundreds, and your items would seem at home in a shopping cart in the physical world, then this might be your choice. If you have a physical storefront and your customers use a cart/carriage in your store - this is the obvious choice. If your customers shop by other means, this might not be the correct choice.

  1. Your customers are buying in bulk
  2. Your customers are shopping less frequently but purchase more in a session
  3. Your physical store uses carts or carriages
  4. Your customers are purchasing over 10 items in a session
  5. The items your customers are buying would fit more comfortably in a Cart vs a bag or basket

Basket

A basket in an e-commerce site has to be, again, aligned with how a customer would shop in the real world, Neo. Basket type ‘carts’ are generally found on websites that have physical locations, those locations having smaller footprints than large retailers, but who also have many individual SKUs in their catalog.

Who uses Basket?
Stores that use real baskets would include drugstores, small chains, produce-oriented grocery stores, and some boutique stores. CVS Pharmacy, Sephora, and other retailers who typically have carts holding small quantities, multiples, of smaller or loose items.

Naked Wines
Naked wines gets winemakers directly in front of consumers without the middlemen. It's a great service but they suffer from some bad user experience design. This is a great example of a service that delivers a box of wine to your doorstep, yet they use a basket-type cart. You could argue that if you were shopping for wine in a store you may use a basket, but we'd recommend a change here.

Screenshot of web design for NakedWines.com

When to use it

A physical Basket is held for a shorter duration of time versus a Cart and holds just a handful of items per shopping trip - the digital equivalent should mirror that type of shopping experience.

  1. Your physical store uses baskets
  2. Your customers typically only purchase 1-6 items in a session
  3. A typical shopping session is short and the products are generally easier to understand
  4. You sell small items

 

Box

A box as an e-commerce construct is rare. Boxes are typically only found on store sites that allow their users to curate from a limited selection of inventory items or a package of goods that may fall into just a handful of price points, usually tiers.

There may be physical stores that allow shoppers to fill a box for a certain dollar amount but this is rare as well.

Who uses Box?
Boutique stores, packaged goods, and subscription type services, items that need to be regularly replenished would be good candidates for using ‘Box’ versus the typical cart. We could potentially see stores selling large merchandise - think televisions and appliances to utilize a Box type cart.

 

Butcher Box
Butcher box is a great example of a site utilizing the Box type cart. As a customer, I can tell you that the process of their site involves building a subscription of foods that are delivered in an insulated box. This is the proper use of this cart type.

Screenshot of web design for Butcher Box

When to use it

  1. You deliver your goods to shoppers in pricing tiers
  2. Your products are shipped regularly in a subscription format
  3. Your products fill a timely need/resupply customers

Bag

A Bag type of cart can very often be found in high-end, luxury, fashion, and boutique store sites - anywhere you could envision a physical, branded bag (think malls & outlets) a bag would be appropriate.

There may be physical stores that allow shoppers to fill a box for a certain dollar amount but this is rare as well.

Who uses Bag?
Direct to consumer stores that sell branded merchandise, apparel, or items that typically leave a store in a branded bag often use Bag as their cart type. Online stores like Nike, Adidas, and Apple are a few businesses using a Bag cart type.

Screenshot of ecommerce design for Adidas

When to use it

  1. You have brick-and-mortar stores that use bags as a primary way of packaging. higher-end goods or boutique items, soft goods, or others.
  2. Your products are generally a special occasion or non-regular purchase.

Other

There are often-times businesses that sell such specific products that neither Cart, Basket, Box, or Bag fit the need. These are generally niche businesses where the users/customers are in-the-know about the typical checkout process, generally, of a physical experience.

Ecommerce businesses that come to mind could include farms/nurseries, fisheries, and B2B sites selling very specific materials and quantities - perhaps cases, container loads, or other a-typical packaging types.

If your business sells online and requires a unique ‘Cart’ pattern, you must make sure it aligns with the real-world customer experience (if there is one) and that it is obvious to users, especially if it’s a new concept or business model.

Ultimately your choice between Cart, Basket, Box, or Bag needs to align with your brand, how customers shop, and the analogous marketplace.

Who uses Box?
Direct to consumer stores that sell branded merchandise, apparel, or items that typically leave a store in a branded bag often use Bag as their cart type. Online stores like Nike, Adidas, and Apple are a few businesses using a Bag cart type.

The Takeaway

If your online store matches a physical store experience that is always the best option. 

If you don’t have a physical location - you have options - but the experience needs to align to your brand, your product, and your customer behavior.

When in doubt - test, test, test your options.

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