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Shared Carts: Not for the Faint of Heart

Tony Schwartz • May 6, 2016

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If you’re an eCommerce retailer managing multiple brands, you may have considered whether or not to introduce a shared cart on your website. That’s when customers add products to a cart from one website and then add additional items from a second website, with both carts reflecting all items.

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A shopper adds this Gap one-piece to the shopping cart.

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Next, the same shopper adds this Banana Republic suit jacket to the shopping cart. The shopping cart now displays two items.

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Once the customer is ready to pay, the shopping cart reflects both the one-piece and suit jacket.

This is a classic example of how a shared cart works. While this example is well executed and appears seamless, implementing shared carts on your eCommerce site isn’t a piece of cake. What’s considered a merchandiser’s dream is often viewed as an eCommerce manager’s nightmare.

Actually, in reality, implementing a shared cart isn’t a nightmare. Yes, it’s complex and requires serious technical chops, but with proper planning and architectural analysis it’s very doable.

Before you implement a shared cart on your eCommerce site, here are several things to consider:

  • Your cart’s look and feel: What brand logo and color scheme will you display?
  • Order management: Which of your brand’s websites will you route orders through? Some of them? All of them?
  • Customer service: What brand will respond to customer service inquiries? Can the brand resolve customer service issues for all your brands, or just one?
  • Shopper confusion: Just a dab will do. Any time a customer is confused, you run the risk of abandoned carts and reduced sales.

If you feel confident after understanding the above variables, here are some custom solutions we recently tried with a Fortune 500 client that requested a shared cart among five brands:

  • Created multiple CSS structures that allowed each brand to maintain its own look and feel, depending on what website the customer entered through
  • Orders were routed through a single order management system
  • Products were searchable for all brands within any of the store environments
  • Implemented SEO canonicalization methods to inform search engines of the intentional duplicated content
  • Reduced overall management costs because only one base site was maintained with multiple graphic designs

If you’re highly motivated to implement a shared cart solution, then the above methods may work for you. While there’s detailed planning, analysis, and design involved, shared cart solutions can give your customers an unparalleled shopping experience they wouldn’t find elsewhere. And isn’t that a key goal of any eCommerce website?

Tony Schwartz is a senior Demandware technical architect at Lyons Consulting Group (lyonscg.dcxdemo.net). He has led eCommerce platform implementations for top retailers such as Columbia Sportswear, RadioShack, True Religion, Eastern Mountain Sports, and more.


Tony Schwartz

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Tony Schwartz

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