Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Post
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009 at 8:54 am

An Analyst’s Wishes for Wish Lists (Say 3 Times Fast)

By Brendan Regan
February 3rd, 2009

This post is for anyone who’s using some sort of “Wish List” feature to encourage visitors to save something for (hopefully) later purchase.

This feature has become ubiquitous, probably due in part to the “Let’s Copy Syndrome.” I encounter it on nearly every “first date” I go on with a website.

I agree with the concept of saving items pre-purchase.  It’s a great micro-conversion to start measuring and optimizing.  It’s a natural step for Early Stage or Middle Stage buyers.  And for more complex or high-dollar purchases, it’s a way to store an item until consensus can be built.

But every time I try to use one, I disagree with the execution of it, the positioning of it, and the requirements put in front of it as a barrier.  It all adds up to a lousy customer experience and lack of adoption for a feature you’re paying for.  I think our poor implementations of Wish Lists Internet-wide are actually training shoppers to mis-use the Shopping Cart feature!

A scenario:

  1. An Early Stage buyer comes to a website to do some researching and maybe a bit of comparison shopping.
  2. On a favorite product detail page, she has several options (usually bookmark the page, email to someone, add to cart, add to wish list, etc.)
  3. She isn’t yet persuaded to make the purchase, but is well on the way.  She clicks “Add to Wish List,” which is highlighted as a secondary call to action.
  4. She’s asked to register an account (we all know what a painful interrogation that can be) or leave the shopping process to at least enter a little personal information.
  5. She balks at this request and backs out of the Wish List
  6. She knows that the Shopping Cart will save the item just as well, and because you can remove items from the cart before you checkout, can also be used as a storage or comparison function.
  7. She adds the item to the Shopping Cart.

Not the end of the world, right?

But here’s a few things to think about from an analytics standpoint:

  • If you’re measuring “Add to Cart” as a micro-conversion, or as the success in a test scenario, you’ve increased your count by 1, but that increment is invalid traffic.
  • If you’re measuring views to the Add to Cart page as some sort of KPI, you’re measuring someone who’s mis-using the feature.
  • If you’re measuring “Cart to Conversion” as some sort of goal or funnel report, it’s skewing your conversion rate down because some people in that funnel weren’t persuaded in the first place.

Now, let’s go to the retail world to see how this should really work. A store visitor walks into a clothing store, browses around, checks some prices, maybe holds a few things up in front of a mirror.  We are nowhere near “conversion” at this point.  Eventually, the visitor picks out a few things and asks their significant other to “hold this.”  Or, seeing that the visitor is starting to amass some items of interest, a helpful store clerk volunteers to put the items in a dressing room or hold items at the register so the visitor doesn’t have to lug them around the store.

The store clerk doesn’t ask for email address (twice!), password (6 to 10 characters, at least one alpha and one numeric, and no special characters!), First Name, Last Name, Daytime Phone, etc.  NO!  They simply lighten the visitor’s load and hold the items.  No strings attached.

Back to your website.  A visitor clicks “Add to Wish List.”  She’s notified that the item has been saved, and how to access it.  She’s also told the item is saved during this visit only, and to save it for longer, she’ll need to register an account.  Done.  You’ve just “lightened her cognitive load” in a simple, helpful way.  And you’ve started to sell the value of registering with your site!

As they say on the TV show, We have the technology.

If you can leverage your technology to make a feature that’s easy to use, and that adds value to your visitor’s shopping experience, then by all means use a Wish List :)

If your Wish List isn’t attractive to an Early Stage or Middle Stage buyer, if it requires full registration, or if it doesn’t test out as a value-add to your bottom line, it’s clutter!  It’s distraction!  Remove it!

Add Your Comments

Comments (9)

  1. [...] Regan at [Futurenow] has some thoughts on the “Wish [...]

  2. So what do you think about the ‘comparison’ options on sites. Do you think they do the same thing as what you’ve suggested or do you see it really cluttering things up?

  3. @ Tao: I like comparison options, but I feel like the act of comparison maybe comes before the act of putting in a wish list. Comparison features make sense within a category or sub-category, but don’t make much sense across categories, i.e. I don’t want to compare a bird feeder against a gas grill.

  4. It would be better if there would be more guts and creativity in on the web. I think this is a great post.


  5. i read a omniture white paper about their visitor tracking id, that solves some of the cart goal issues…

    i thought if you use e-commerce tracking you solve the first issue about returning visitors/how many visits till a sale…

  6. [...] Brendan Regan explains the problem with wish lists including how they may actually increase cart abandonment, ironically. Check out his wish list for wish lists. [...]

  7. The perfect wish list should allow you to ‘store’ items’ in here for a limited period, such as 7 days and then it is automatically deleted if you don’t go ahead with a purchase. I haven’t found a wish list that offers this function as yet, does anyone have a positive experience of a wish list?

  8. Having to register for a wishlist, or even to add items to a cart is going to alienate potential buyers for sure. If possible, let the cart and wishlist be cookie or session based and when it’s time to “checkout” thats when registration should take place. =o

  9. It’s sound good.

    Thank you very much.

Add Your Comments


Print this Article

More articles from Brendan Regan

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: