April 14, 2003, 12:00 AM

Who’s got the cookies?

As more web users disable cookies over privacy concerns, shopping cart functionality can suffer, as TShirtKing.com discovers.

As more web users disable cookies over privacy concerns, shopping cart functionality may suffer, as TShirtKing.com discovered last year. Mountainair, NM-based TShirtKing.com, an online retailer of licensed t-shirts, designed a new shopping cart for itself when it wasn’t getting the sales-to-visitor ratio it expected after moving from a local ISP to a larger hosting company. When sales still lagged, further investigation showed that part of the problem remained in the new cart.

Among other issues, the carts were losing items that some shoppers had placed in them, so TShirtKing head of technology Josh Bauguss added test code to see if the browser-based cookie system used to load up the carts was working.

“We found out that about 30% of our traffic had browsers that didn’t use cookies or had their cookies turned off,” he says. “Cookies are becoming unpopular, and more and more people are just turning them off.”

Using PHP, an open source scripting language, TShirtKing redesigned its cart using a session management system instead of cookies to track what shoppers put in their carts. That improvement plus other refinements to the cart boosted sales to the target level, actually since then exceeding it by 20%, the company says.

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