What is Mini Cart?

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Mini cart definition

An online mini cart is a compact shopping cart that contains essential order details and floats over the pages of an e-commerce store to show consumers what they're buying without leaving the page they’re currently on.

Effortless online shopping, excellent e-commerce metrics

A pop-up mini cart with real-time updates can be a great addition to a traditional, full-sized shopping cart page. It might not seem like much at first, but when done right, it helps online stores speed up the whole checkout process and even increase the Average Order Value (AOV) and conversion.

A mini cart example with selected products, order value and shipping costs from IDEAL OF SWEDEN
A mini cart example with selected products, order value and shipping costs from IDEAL OF SWEDEN

The difference between a mini cart and a full-size shopping cart page

Conventionally, online shoppers head over to a small cart icon or bag icon in the upper right corner of an online store, which takes them to another page with the full cart contents. It means customers leave the page they're browsing to modify their selection and see what to expect from checkout before they continue shopping.

Traditional shopping cart example with order value and delivery costs from ARKET
Traditional shopping cart example with the order value and delivery costs from ARKET

A mini cart, on the other hand, appears over the store's homepage and individual item pages, allowing the consumer to track the order summary and make changes on the go. It can be a cart icon or a bag icon that reveals the order summary when moused over, or it may also be a sidebar that pops up once the visitor adds a product to the cart. Easy shopping with minimum hassle.

Benefits of a mini cart for e-commerce websites

Let's review what causes shoppers to abandon shopping carts and how a mini cart setup helps online stores resolve that — and more.

Smooth, user-friendly shopping experience

Online checkout experience makes or breaks sales. If it's not user-friendly, it leads to frustration and cart abandonment, which means your customers choose to drop out of the shopping process to go elsewhere. Your overall website experience plays a key role in steering conversions, revenue and customer loyalty.

Online mini cart makes a small change for a big impact. It adds a natural fluidity and clarity to the whole shopping journey. It also acts as a smooth notification when the user adds a product to their cart.

Switching between multiple product tabs or loosing one's browsing progress can be frustrating as it is. No need for you to fumble the bag with your shopping cart on top of that. It's also possible a customer will add a t-shirt to the shopping cart, only to realize at checkout that they added a pair of slacks instead — they got the product pages wrong. Letting shoppers keep track of the shopping cart content and value without going to the actual checkout screen makes online shopping just... seamless.

Lower risk of shipping cart abandonment

Abandoned shopping carts mean your online shoppers choose not to continue shopping — and it happens more often than you think. The average shopping cart abandonment rate in e-commerce business remains as high as 69.8%. You're missing out on 70 out of 100 potential orders.

Most common reasons include poor user experience (UX) design, account creation, unexpected delivery costs, inconvenient shipping methods and so on. Having a mini cart with essential order details allows you to avoid an awkward back-and-forth and be as transparent as possible from the get-go.

Total order estimates and delivery times

As mentioned, consumers tend to abandon their carts when you hit them with extra costs for delivery they weren't aware of. It's the most common cause of shopping cart abandonment — it accounts for about half of abandoned online orders.

Be clear about your delivery costs upfront. We're way past the point where the total cost of delivery belongs at the end of the checkout journey. Add it to your mini cart — make it one of the first things your consumers will encounter and expect.

You can similarly add a zip code field through your delivery management provider and display an accurate delivery promise when it comes to shipping times and available methods.

Cross selling and upselling opportunities

Related items, matching accessories or popular products, commonly known as a 'People Also Buy' category, can easily be shown inside a mini cart to encourage (more) purchases.

Mini cart cross selling example from Your Kaya
Mini cart cross selling example from Your Kaya

Speaking of relevant deals. Another way of incentivizing a higher order value and ultimate purchase would be free shipping or premium delivery options after reaching a certain order total. If it's visible in the mini cart pop-up before the main checkout page, the chances of conversion go up.

Free shipping indicator displayed inside the IDEAL OF SWEDEN mini cart — powered by Ingrid Delivery Platform
Free shipping indicator displayed inside the IDEAL OF SWEDEN mini cart in the Dutch market — powered by Ingrid Delivery Platform

Successful online mini cart example: Nudient

Take Nudient as an example. Their mini cart actually serves as an e-commerce checkout page, making it easy to double-check the order summary, choose from available delivery options and place the order in just a few clicks.

E-commerce mini cart best practices

From the mini cart, consumers can either close it by clicking on the X in the upper right corner to continue shopping or go straight to the checkout button, or even press 'Buy Now' to skip checkout altogether.

Here’s what you need to include into your mini cart:

  • Names of the added items with a link to the product pages;
  • Visual representation of the customer's exact choice;
  • Size, color, dimensions and other relevant item attributes;
  • Product quantity, with an option to change it;
  • Product price, order total and applicable discounts;
  • Shipping costs, free shipping progress bar and delivery methods;
  • Navigation buttons to the next stage, especially a checkout CTA.

Small changes for a big impact

Shoppers often add products to cart so that they can review the order summary, check if the total value fits the shopping budget or if they qualify for free shipping. From this you get an idea why the mini cart is an important user experience component of your online store. It makes it easier for your customers to interact with your online storefront, which means they'll be more likely to follow through with your call to action (CTA) and hit your conversion rates KPI.

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