U.S. Patent Application 12,973,070: Inter-net Shopping “Cart”
It’s true, every Bandcamp-powered site now has a shiny new shopping cart. You can add stuff to it, remove stuff from it, and even umm…check out. And yet we’re sincerely excited about it, and think you should be too. Why? Well that requires a story. It’s kind of long, but as you’ll see, that’s kind of the point.
The other day I received an email from one of my favorite artists announcing her new record. I clicked the buy link in the message (click count = 1), which then took me to her label’s (non-Bandcamp) site, where I was immediately redirected to a page prompting me to either log in or create an account. I clicked Create Account (2), filled out required fields for name, sex, date of birth, phone number, email address and home address, clicked OK (3), arrived at a page congratulating me on creating an account, clicked Continue (4), and then finally landed on a page containing her record (it was in the middle of a page with nine records by others artists, but that’s another topic). I clicked the Add to Cart button (5), but nothing happened. I clicked it again (6), and this time the page flashed. That seemed like an important clue, so I carefully scanned the page, and up in the corner noticed some oh-so-subtle text that said “Shopping Cart now in your cart 2 items.” The “2 items” part was a link, so I clicked that (7), and was taken right back to the log-in page (apparently I’d spent a little too much time looking for the cart link). I logged back in (8), was taken back to the product page, clicked the “2 items” link again (9), was taken to a cart confirmation page, changed the quantity from 2 to 1, clicked Checkout (10), and was then informed that I would be charged an additional £5.88 in shipping (incidentally I’d already changed my currency to USD on the previous screen). I clicked Continue (11), and then — and I swear I am not making this up — I was asked to log in again. I did that (12), clicked the cart link yet again (13), and was taken to a screen informing me that “This is currently the only payment method available to use on this order: PayPal Website Payments Standard.” Well all-righty then. I clicked Continue (14), saw that my quantity was still set to 2, not 1, clicked Edit (15), checked out again (16), saw the quantity was still wrong, and realized that instead of changing the quantity and then clicking Checkout I needed to change the quantity, click the Update Cart link and then Checkout. I did so (17 & 18), clicked Confirm again (19), and there, after 19 clicks, 13 field edits, two log-ins and one Ativan, was a PayPal screen. The saga didn’t end there (I still didn’t have the music, after all), but for the sake of brevity (!) let’s pretend it did and move on.
This particular buying experience may sound like an extreme case, but it is, sadly, not at all unusual. In just the past few months of casual music shopping, I’ve ended up on sites that sprung major shipping and handling fees on me only after collecting all my payment info, sites that required me to go through onerous account creation processes, sites that bungled basic currency conversion, sites that waited until the very end of the checkout flow to inform me that a limited edition item was already sold out, and even one site that required me to grant a Facebook app permission to do everything short of inspecting my underwear drawer before I could make a purchase. Throughout all this I kept asking myself one question: why’s it gotta be so damn hard to give some money to the artists I love?
The worst of it is that these sorts of hurdles don’t merely annoy customers – they prevent them from buying at all. If 10 of your most dedicated fans were faced with the checkout gauntlet described above, how many would make it through? One? Two? The result is that something as banal as an online shopping cart can actually end up doing something as catastrophic as keeping artists from making a decent living. Helping artists make a living is of course Bandcamp’s raison d’être, so when we set out to add a shopping cart to the site, we made it our objective to knock every last one of those hurdles out of your fans’ way.
Here are a few of our cart’s more noteworthy features:
* It doesn’t add a single additional click to the existing checkout flow. If your fans want to use the cart, it’s there, if they’d rather bypass it and check out immediately, they still can.
* It’s conspicuous. When a fan adds an item to the cart, they won’t be left wondering where their cart is or how to checkout.
* It doesn’t require an account. The cart’s contents are still remembered in between sessions per machine (so a fan can always come back to it, or use it as a wish list), but there’s no cumbersome account creation process for your fans to slog through.
* It uses location wisely. Once a fan sets their location, they’ll be able to see an item’s shipping costs up-front, view pricing in their native currency, and even checkout in their own language.
* It not only works across all Bandcamp sites, it works across custom domains too. So if you’re a label with custom Bandcamp URLs like digital.fangisland.com and store.omar.com, fans can buy items from both artists in a single checkout.
The cart is active on every Bandcamp site now; there’s nothing for you to do other than sit back and bask in the cha-chings. However, if you’re selling physical goods, please read about how combined shipping works – you may want to make a tweak or two to your shipping settings.
The final reason we’re excited about the cart is that it means we can now get on with the business of giving your fans more ways, and more stuff, to add to it. Please try it out yourself so you know what your fans are experiencing and, as always, let us know if you have suggestions for improvement. Enjoy!
- bandcamp: Check out Ryan@bandcamp’s sounds of selling sounds: http://t.co/BIcEhJ3 . Nuts! July 11, 2011
- bandcamp: Lo, new feature! Effortless album pre-orders: http://wp.me/pkeJ4-yE May 11, 2011
- bandcamp: Behold the new official API developer docs, now with a big bag of Getting Started and Reference. http://bandcamp.com/developer April 20, 2011