Need to Increase Sales in Your Brick-and-Mortar Store? Offer Customers a Shopping Cart!

6668942879_ff4beae67b_oThe lowly shopping cart, otherwise known as a buggy, carriage, trundler, wagon, or a trolley if you live in the United Kingdom or Australia, can be an easily overlooked sales tool in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

However, in reality, the shopping cart can play a huge role in helping increase the average number of items sold per transaction.

So, why is the shopping cart so important? The answer is more obvious than you might think: Humans only have two hands to carry things.

Customers Have Their Hands Full

The fact that humans only have two hands to carry things can be an extremely limiting factor.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that Paco Underhill devoted a whole chapter of his book “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping Updated and Revised for the Internet, The Global Consumer and Beyond” to this problem. He also offers strategies that retailers can use to combat the issue.

In the book, Underhill mentions that people often enter a store carrying a purse, a briefcase, or an umbrella if the weather is bad. And, in the winter, customers often take off their bulky coats if they plan to shop in a store for a lengthy amount of time. Therefore, it is easy for customers to be down to one hand before they even start shopping.

Add to this the fact that many customers are now using their smartphones while shopping, and the hand issue now gets even more complicated.

That is why offering a shopping cart or a hand-held shopping basket to customers is so important.

“We’ve made a direct link over the years between the percentage of shoppers using a basket or a cart and the size of the average transaction,” says Underhill in the book. “Want people to spend more money? Make sure more of them are using a shopping aid of some kind.”

Supersize the Shopping Cart

Many retailers understand that offering larger shopping carts can lead to more sales.

To illustrate the point, Underhill states, “When we studied its stores, the dinnerware maker and retailer Pfalzgraff was already providing baskets as well as shopping carts to its customers. But at the checkout, we noticed that many of the carts were filled to capacity with dishes and bowls and so on. The supersizing of grocery carts was a retail trend that Pfaltzgraff hadn’t yet acknowledged. The company immediately replaced the carts with new ones that were roughly 40 percent larger. Just as fast, the average sales per customer rose.”

Underhill also warns, however, that larger carts can decrease shopping cart usage, because some customers enter the store thinking that they are only there to get one or two items. These customers started to skip the shopping cart, because they didn’t feel they needed such a large cart to get the few items that they had planned to purchase.

Often, however, as these same customers get into the shopping process, they realize that a shopping cart would have been a good idea after all.

Instead of making these customers walk to the front of the store, Underhill suggests strategically placing shopping baskets throughout the store. If nobody uses them, try a different location.

The Shopping Cart as a Sales Tool

Training sales associates to offer customers a shopping cart or a hand-held basket is a no-brainer.

Underhill instructed one of his clients to have associates offer baskets to customers seen holding three or more items.

As he points out, “My drugstore client gave it a shot. And because people tend to be gracious when someone tries to help, shoppers almost unanimously accepted the baskets. And as basket use rose instantly, so did sales, just like that.”

Final Thoughts

Now that more people have started using their mobile devices to help assist with their purchase decisions, offering them a place to put the items that they intend to purchase has become more important than ever before.

As this post points out, offering shopping carts or hand-held baskets to customers allows them to take more items to the checkout with less hassle, and thus can lead to more sales.

After all, customers can only carry so much with their two hands.

Photo credit: Polycart on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: