How to troubleshoot an online store that’s not getting sales

how to troubleshoot an online store

I see a lot of people asking advice on improving their shop, so I thought I’d do a little post about troubleshooting when you’re not getting the results you want.

This is a proven process, used in big and small online stores all over the world. In order to go through it you need Google Analytics and/or other analytics tools, so you can see your click rates, bounce rates, add-to-cart rates etc. Based on these data, here is the process:

Question 1: Do your ads generate traffic?

If no, change the ads and/or the targeting.

If yes, leave as is and move on to question 2.

Question 2: Does your landing page retain customers? (Usually measured in bounce rate, where bouncing = exiting within a very few seconds of entering, without interacting. A low bounce rate is good, a high one is bad.)

If no, fix the landing page. Something is turning people off immediately, so find out what it is and fix it. It could be that your shop is looking unprofessional, you lack proper product copy, you have bad product photos, you have the wrong price point or something else.

Also remember that you could be leading people to the wrong landing page. A single product ad with narrow targeting should lead to a single product page; a product range ad (focusing on say watches or workout gear) should lead to the corresponding collection page (showing all watches or all workout gear). A very general ad leading to your front page will hardly ever work.

If your landing page bounce rate is acceptable (I’d say 50% or less is OK), move on to question 3.

Question 3: Are you getting add to carts?

If no, investigate every detail of the process from the landing page to deciding to buy. (Observing and getting feedback from actual customers is the best way.) It could be that the range and variation of products is not sufficient (often the case with a collection landing page, when you see traffic drop off witout clicking through to single product pages) or it could be that you don’t have the size range or colour selection the customer wants, or something else. Fix all the problems you find.

If you are getting add to carts, move on to question 4.

Question 4. Are people completing checkouts?

I assume no, or there wouldn’t be a problem. So scrutinize every single step in the checkout process closely. Again, working with real customers is best. Wherever the traffic flow stops is where the problem is. Could be lack of payment options, too long delivery times, too expensive freight charges … could even be a purely technical issue.

Fix all the problems you find.

Most importantly: Don’t give up! Running an online store is a scientific process, and if you have a good product at the right price, everything else is just a matter of identifying problems and fixing them.

Also, I advise you to keep ad spend to an absolute minimum, even nothing, while figuring out your problem spots. Save your money for ads until you know they will actually generate sales. You just need enough traffic to see what’s actually happening in the shop. You should have conversion rates of 1% or higher (1 visitor in 100 completes a purchase). Established online stores have about 3% and a few exeptional ones are way over that.

Good luck!


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