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Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2008 at 8:21 am

Preventing the Add-and-Abandon; Making a more user-friendly wish list

By Natalie Hart
July 22nd, 2008

wishlistEver wonder what happens when you watch your customers put loads of merchandise in their shopping cart; spend a significant amount of time on your site and then all of a sudden abandon it?

Ever get frustrated that they didn’t utilize the wish list tool? Your online shoppers may be falling into the “add and abandon” method of online shopping.

There are 3 core reasons people don’t utilize your wish list.

1.    Sites often require you to fill out loads of personal information prior to even creating the list.

Recently on I found an amazing pair of shoes, and rather than behaving in my traditional add and abandon method, I chose to create a wish list. Upon entering the link, I was overwhelmed by the personal information that I had to fill out.  An array of blank fields loomed in front of me, awaiting for me divulge all the information that categorizes me as an individual in the online realm.


Gathering information from your customer is great, but make sure they see the mutual value in entering their personal information. Rather than overwhelming you customer with questions simply allow them to create a list, in the same format as the “add to cart” list.

After they add their items ask them if they’d like to save their wish list by registering to save it for another visit. During this stage it is ok to ask for your customers information or create a login with password, but not before. With a call to action such as “register” or “join” there is an implied sense that personal information will be required. It prepares your customer for what is coming.

The call to action of “create a wish list” does not imply the same expectations and when presented with a page such as this, it can appear that you’ve presented something they didn’t ask for.

2.    There’s no add to cart option

Another feature of the wish list that is frustrating is that seldom is there an offer to transfer your wish list directly to your shopping cart. Some sites will offer an link from the item in the wish list that goes back to the product page where the item can then be added to their cart, but a one click process that can transfer either a few or all of the items from the wish list to the cart will help get your customer to the checkout sooner.

In other words, wish lists can act as a dead-end if you don’t create an opportunity for them to purchase. Allowing them to take action from this page is a win-win, they get an easier checkout process and you get them to spend money. Boom!

3.    You don’t get a running total

Wish lists often appear as a list of the products. Some offer pictures of the products but seldom do they include all the tax and shipping costs that might be associated with the order. Often people want a running total of their desired purchases, especially if they are operating within a budget.

Wish lists are a great tool for both you and your shoppers; just make sure yours is easy to use and appealing.

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Comments (16)

  1. Thanks so much for the suggestions. We definitely will be following up to try to improve our wishing experience for you.

  2. One thing I’m asking myself after reading the article:

    Why have a wish list at all?

    Isn’t it just confusing to the customers to offer both a wish list AND perhabs a persistent shopping basket?

    Isn’t it basically the same? And are we not just confusing our customers when we give them options like this?

  3. Soeren,

    Never assume that a technical similarity automatically translates to a psychological similarity.” A wish list is like a registry, and merely “tagging” something for a someday maybe list (or a “please buy me this” list) has a completely different psychological feel to it than adding it to your shopping cart. As an example, Amazon has both a wish list and a persistent shopping cart and I guarantee you that the vast majority of customers do not use the two features in anywhere near the same way.


  4. Well, I have a suspicion that users today has grown so eCommerce-savvy, that they know that they can use the shopping basket to store items for a later visit.

    But whenever they want to make a list of items they can send to someone else, they use an actual wish list. That can also explain why the one at Amazon works, as they mostly sell items that you’ll actually wish for.

    Atleast that’s a behaviour I’ve seen a couple of times in the past months.

    “Never assume that a technical similarity automatically translates to a psychological similarity.”

    Well, isn’t there a clear psychological similarity between the two also? I think there is, if the user knows that the shopping basket can be used for an “item placeholder” that you can go through later on.

    Atleast this psychological similarity is what got me thinking if you don’t run a risk of confusing the customer with offering a feature they might not understand, and that it might be easier and simpler just to communicate that you can use the shopping basket for a sort-of wish list also.

    Or maybe I’m just damaged from working too much with not-so-internet-savvy customers in the clothing industry :-)

  5. Thanks so much for responding Heidi. I’m a huge fan of and think you guys are doing a nice job at creating an e-commerce site that speaks to the different personas.

  6. Soeren- I think you have an interesting suggestion in terms of communicating with your customers of the different uses of the shopping cart. My fear, however, stems from when sites are doing testing (and you should, as the Eisenberg’s new book is titled, Always Be Testing). If customers utilize the shopping cart as a placeholder, how you will be able to track conversion, since often it is tracked through the shopping cart? Perhaps there is a mutual need for the wish list, because it allows businesses to track the conversion rates more efficiently by keeping these add-and-abandon shoppers at bay.

  7. Natalie, #2 is the one I run into most often as both a developer and a shopper. So many wish lists, even when they allow you to add the product directly, make you do it one product at a time. It’s so nice to stumble on a site that allows you to add the entire list with one click. And being able to check/uncheck items to add? Do you like that? It seems like a good thing, but could result in a higher interaction requirement than just clicking a single button. I haven’t seen this on a site, but I’d like to play around with one that has it – so if you have a link to share, I’m all ears. Thanks :)

  8. I have to 100% agree with the article. When I’m shopping online, I want to shop for what I want, put it in my cart/wishlist, and then, only when I’ve completed my shopping, know my totals, and am ready to check-out do I want to give away any personal information.

    Until that point, I haven’t made up my mind if I’m really purchasing from this merchant. I may just be checking prices.

    Newegg’s system is absolutely perfect in my opinion for online shoping.

  9. [...] Buchanan gives 3 reasons why your wish list doesn’t convert. This makes a lot of [...]

  10. Hell, Natalie Hart.

    Thank so much for suggestion.

  11. Thank you. Good suggestion. ^_^

  12. I had thought, but I never do. cause I don’t like ads abandon too.

  13. I appreciate this very article.

  14. Because I am fluent in all languages when it comes to understanding things said about foods I wish to consume, I understood quite well when the man behind the counter explained, in German, that the drink never comes with cream, anyway. ,

  15. Great post!

    I have to 100% agree with the article.

  16. It is a very old post, but I just find this site, there are many useful articles for me, thanks.

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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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