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Troubleshooting Your Ecommerce Store: What to Do When No One's Buying

When sales slow down, here are five areas of your business to check first.
Troubleshooting Your Ecommerce Store: What to Do When No One's Buying
Image credit: Shutterstock

As an online business owner, you’ve likely encountered the frustration of low sales. And that's a conundrum because you've reviewed your ad data and seen that customers are clicking on your product ads. You've consulted site analytics and seen organic traffic flowing into your site, with visitors moving through to product pages.

Related: 5 Ways to Win Back an Abandoned Shopping Cart

Yet, despite the traffic, the number of people adding products to their carts is minimal; even then, most of those carts have been abandoned and no one is completing a purchase.

In situations like this, you might want to jump straight to conversion optimization: Maybe, then, making small changes and conducting testing will reveal what’s holding customers back . . . right?

Maybe not. Before you start testing ideas you've read, about mastering conversion optimization, always take the “research-before-action” approach. Here are a few things to look into when your products aren’t moving.

1. Do price comparisons.

Whether it’s a new product you haven’t been able to move, or a sudden slowdown in product sales, know that a good place to start that’s easy to research is the price of your product. Don’t limit yourself to just looking at competitors, though. Get broad with your product search.

Look at marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, and check Google Shopping Ads, as well as competitor sites. Is the product available in stores? At what price? Along with the listed price of the product, are other popular sites or stores offering discounts that can lower the price? Consider the shipping cost of each provider as well, as these could change the final cost.

When comparing prices, look at the final cost for the customer, not just the retail price point. Research shows that customers typically comparison-shop, often visiting up to three websites before making a purchase decision. Ninety-four percent of customers take the time to find the lowest price for a product before they buy it.

If they can find it cheaper elsewhere, they’ll buy it there, causing your sales to fall (or to never materialize in the first place).

Related: 4 Strategies to Stop Shopping Cart Abandonment on Mobile

2. Review your audience targeting.

You have pretty tight control over the audience you send to your site through PPC ads and social promotions. So, if the clicks are coming, but no one is purchasing, you need to review your audience targeting.

You may have a general idea of your audience, but you may still need to narrow your focus further so that you’re targeting the people most likely to purchase. “Our online behavior tells platforms a lot about our buying intentions,” says Rocco Baldassarre, CEO of Zebra Advertisement. “By combining data from different sources, Facebook is able to tell who is in the process of buying a given product.

"Therefore, you can target people who are looking to buy something specific -- for example, new vehicle shoppers in the market for a luxury SUV.”

3. Create an exit survey.

If you’re getting decent traffic volume, but purchases are slim to none, implement an exit-intent popup. Rather than offering a discount, create a simple survey visitors can answer with a single click. For example, ask them what made them decide not to purchase, and offer as answers options like "price," "browsing for later," "didn’t like the choices," etc. Remember to include an “other” option that allows visitors to briefly describe other reaons why they left.

You won’t get 100 percent participation, but you should get some insight into why customers are leaving.

“There’s no way around it -- it still sucks when people point out where you’ve failed them,” says Alex Turnbull, founder of GrooveHQ. “But actively collecting and leveraging that feedback has become one of the most important drivers for continuous improvement.”

4. Check for common friction points.

There are dozens of reasons why someone might abandon a cart, making it impossible for you to pinpoint a single factor. For this reason, it's helpful to run through a list of the most common causes of cart abandonment to see if any apply to your site. Common friction points to watch out for include:

  • High shipping costs
  • Forced account creation
  • Site too difficult to navigate
  • Not enough payment options
  • Shipping costs and information not readily available
  • Complex checkout process

5. Review your metrics.

Your site analytics provide a wealth of information and insight into why customers may be bailing before making a purchase. Check the behavior flow in your Google Analytics to discover the path customers take through your site, along with their top exit pages. Ask the following questions:

  • Where are they leaving from?
  • What path are they taking through the site (and does it line up with your expectations)?
  • Where are they coming from -- is there purchase intent when they arrive on the site, or are they visiting for blog content, but not staying to purchase?
  • How long are they spending on your product or landing pages?

6. Check product positioning.

While checking your metrics, take a few minutes to compare the data from any ad campaigns you’re running. Are you sending traffic to product pages, categories or your site’s home page? If your ads are generating interest and traffic, but that traffic is bouncing or not making a purchase, check the destination. Make sure customers are landing on a page that’s relevant to the ad, and that your copy is capturing interest and clearly stating your product’s value.

Your images play a big part in connecting with the customer, as well. Review your product pages for clarity, and load them up with high-quality images that support your compelling product descriptions.

“Showcasing your products with high-quality images can also be the winning difference between a conversion and no sale at all,” says Jeff Delacruz, co-founder of Products on White Photography. “This is particularly true if you’re also distributing your products on marketplace sites like Amazon, where they are displayed alongside those of your competitors, or [if you're] selling on visual platforms like Pinterest.”

Also, try to determine whether or not you’re effectively establishing trust. Even if the customer wants the product, he or she may hesitate to buy from you if you’re missing product reviews, contact information, security certificates and similar trust signals on your site.

Related: 5 Things Ecommerce Customers Actually Want From Your Store

In many cases, reviewing the above recommendations can help you identify problem points when products aren’t selling. Ultimately, you should be able to move the needle when you have a good product that’s represented well to the right audience, at the right price. When all else fails, look to your product/market fit and consider whether or not the product is something your customers actually want or need right now.