Continue Shopping Means What?

Continue ShoppingYou’ve added your item to your cart, but you’re not finished shopping. So, you look for the “Continue Shopping” link to thrust you back to…to what? The product page? The category page? The home page?

Most sites don’t give you a clue where you’ll end up. GrokDotCom mentioned this in Grok’s Biggest Gripes about the ecommerce experience, and an informal survey of the author’s contemporaries revealed 100% of them found this irritating.

I’ve observed a number of different ways to handle “Continue Shopping” navigation in my online shopping escapades. I decided to check out 100 of the top internet retailers and round up the methods used and the frequency of each. The following is a rundown on “Continue Shopping” options, frequency and examples for your inspiration, curiosity and comments.

AJAX Pop-Up – 19%

Love or hate Web 2.0, 17 out of 100 retailers use an AJAX popup to indicate an item has been added to the cart. Though this is nice and convenient to keep the shopper on the product page, it can be hard for inexperienced online shoppers to notice what’s happened. Some sites are more obvious than others.

Patagonia and Moosejaw Mountaineering use a roll-out notice in the top right of the product page. You must click to close this box, but both retailers place the close button in the same place, with the same icon. This is Moosejaw’s:

Moosejaw Mountaineering Example

Can you figure out how to close this window?

GAP‘s “x” icon is more intuitive:

GAP Example

The above examples remain until the customer closes the box. HP, PC Connection, Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters use a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t approach. A box rolls out and disappears which could confuse customers.

Home Page – 17%

Comment from the Grok article:

I almost never want to go back to the home page once I’ve meandered into a site. If I’m considering adding another item to my cart, the home page usually takes me too far back in the qualification process. Imagine you’re shopping in a grocery store for milk. You put the milk in your cart, stare at your cart to make sure it’s actually there, then decide you’re going to get a few more things. Except the store lifts you from the dairy department and plunks you back at the entrance. Joy!

Still this is one of the most common destinations.

Back to Category Page – 17%

reminds you where you were beside the Continue Shopping button, so you know where you’re going. Nice touch.

Walmart Example

Karmaloop shows a page of Top Sellers in Brand and Category with an option to “shop more” (back to the category page) or check out.

Karmaloop Example

I love how Nine West‘s makes it nice and obvious with an overlay over the product. Creative and effective:

Nine West Example

The Continue Shopping button leads back to the category page.

Back to Product Page – 15%

A frequent destination is back to the product page. This seems like an odd choice, unless you expect the customer wants to re-evaluate the item or check out cross-sell options.

What Happened? – 11%

These are examples of very subtle indicators of cart update. Can you find the shopping cart summary in each example? Look closely…


Romanicos Example

Brooks Brothers:

Brooks Brothers Example


Anthropologie Example


ShopNBC Example


Ibuydigital Example

PacSun has a neat feature, after you click the cart button, it changes to “Adding To Bag.” Then a red sentence appears notifying you the item’s added.

PacSun Adding To Bag

PacSun Added To Bag

At JC Penney, first challenge is to find the cart button!

JCP Example

It’s not that hard to see the notification in this next screenshot, though. But I bet many customers don’t “notice” it.

JCP Example 2

These ones aren’t that bad but still very subtle – perhaps too subtle.

Bed Bath & Beyond:

Bed Bath Beyond Example

Lake Champlain Chocolates:

Lake Champlain Example

Multiple Link Options – 8%

This is my favorite approach to Continue Shopping – giving the customer a choice where to go next.

Drs Foster & Smith:

Drs Foster & Smith Example

Yep, you saw right. That was a ferret beret in the cart. Don’t knock it ’till ya try it.

Ferret Beret


J.Crew Example

Food Network Store:

Food Network Example


REI Example


I love this example because you see options appear after you click the Continue Shopping button. You don’t clutter the page with a bunch of links for customers ready to check out, and you give your customer a choice where to go next.

Lowe’s Example

eBags is similar, but a bit more detailed:

Ebags Example

Domestications has links in 2 places:

Domestications Example

None – 6%

Widget With Cross Sells – 4%

Let’s kick off with Amazon, because Amazon was likely the pioneer of this design. The shopping cart appears along the right side after an item is added to the cart, and the customer is presented with a page of cross-sells, without a Continue Shopping button.

Amazon Example

I have to chuckle at the “Oh, you like jewelry? People who like jewelry also like DVDs. Add a DVD!” But I bet it works. Supermarkets only wish they could sell DVDs in the impulse buy display instead of Bic lighters and US magazines.

RepairClinic has a very unique approach. Every time you add an item to your cart, it adds a thumbnail to the side.

Repair Clinic Example Example

Cabelas is similar with a mini-cart and cross-sells. But it’s not clear whether you’re in the cart or not. It says “Item Added” (would you have noticed without the red arrow?) but also shows item detail which cart pages usually do. The continue shopping link is very understated (and wordy) “Back to Destination Polarized Sunglasses.” I like it because it’s clear where the link is going, but personally I scan for a continue shopping button so this is easy to overlook.

Cabelas Example

Log-In Page – 1%

I was expecting to catch a few more like this, but there was only one retailer that took me to a login page. But it’s Costco so maybe there’s a good reason?

Costco Login

Catalog Page – 2%

Northern Tool‘s Continue Shopping link is hard to find. Can you spot it?

Northern Tool Continue Shopping Link

But the destination is unique as it takes you to a sitemap-like catalog of products. Not a bad idea.

Northern Tool Example

Personally I like Amazon’s method of showing a mini-cart off to the side, and presenting cross-sells in a few different categories (providing they are relevant). Karmaloop’s Top Sellers in {Brand} and Top Sellers in {Category} appeals to me.

Which approach do you think is most effective?

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17 Responses to “Continue Shopping Means What?”

  1. Marks and Spencers is a good UK website that has cross sell/up sell functionality which kicks in at the add to basket process. It contains a mixture of the items above.

    I think this process is a great way of creating a personal shopper experience. “You added a white shirt to your basket, why not have this striking red tie too”.

    One point from Amazon is that they use persuasive copy. Rather than saying “Buy this now to make us more money” they suggest that other people have bought these items making the user think, well if other people did it maybe I should!

    David Sealey

  2. Very nice breakdown of what’s out there and what works. I wish more shopping cart developers would put more design effort into controlling the shopping experience and allow customers freedom to return where they want and not where the cart wants them to go (or not go).

    Rob – LexiConn

  3. My ‘Continue Shopping’ link goes back to the previous page. People can click the ‘Add to Cart’ buttom from my Home, category or item pages, so I felt this was the best choice for my company.

  4. Even if I usually dislike animaions this one is excellent when clicking the Add To Cart button:

  5. Cara says:

    Crate and Barrel has a cart “footer” that appears when you put something in your cart. It adds a thumb of the item and stays with you as you shop.

    You can edit the cart items without ever leaving the page you are shopping on. Very nice execution of all important shopping principles.

  6. Great comments Linda.

    You make a great point about our cart, and while the cart retracts as soon as the user does anything,I can definitely see how it’s confusing. I’ll definitely address this concern in our very next site QA.

    Love the Madness,

    Gary Wohlfeill

    Creative Director

  7. [...] Get Elastic reader asked an interesting question this week regarding the tips included in Continue Shopping Means What? article, which recommends you direct a inform a customer where the “Continue Shopping” [...]

  8. Great article, gives you something to think about when you are designing a web-shop! Thank you ;-)

  9. I think sites need to give more options and this really helps you pick out the best of the best

  10. Hey thanks for the heads-up Linda! All seems to be working well here.

    I like Amazons method because I find it quite easy. But I would like to find someone to help me learn about a more advanced shopping cart feature that I could put my own SKU’s in to and change things up a bit.


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  12. Jewelry says:

    I like Amazons method because I find it quite easy!

  13. Daniells says:

    You can implement methods from other stores. There are many methods that may increase sales.

  14. Brandon says:

    I think amazon has a great shopping cart experience. I’m surprised at how in depth you went with this article, it’s amazing to see all the different kinds of carts and how they work. Would be interesting to see the conversion rates on each of these.

  15. You make a great point about our cart, and while the cart retracts as soon as the user does anything,I can definitely see how it’s confusing. I’ll definitely address this concern in our very next site QA.

  16. Bob says:

    I love the mini cart option, this is a great feature.

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