9 Questions to Ask When Your Online Store Isn’t Making Any Sales

There’s nothing more frustrating than driving traffic to your online store, only to see it turn around and walk back out. There are a million possible reasons for visitors to bounce, and it can be difficult to comb through the site you’ve already poured weeks or months into, looking for the one thing that’s driving them away.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a broken link or a minor change that needs to be made. So don’t throw in the towel yet. By honestly answering the questions below, you can objectively evaluate your online store to identify the root cause of the problem. Let’s dive in.

online store evaluation

1. What’s the First Impression of Your Online Store?

Your homepage is like the display window in a brick and mortar store. It’s designed to showcase your brand and urge people to come in and shop. Having crappy photos or typos or a mish-mash of design styles is like having a bunch of garbage piled up in your display window. Visitors are going to think your store is crap, and they’re not going to waste their time digging further to find the diamond in the litter box that is your site.

Think about your color palette, your fonts, your logo and your images. Everything should fit together and look professional.

If you’re not sure how to present a consistent brand identity, check out Hatchful, Shopify’s free logo maker. You can use it to generate a logo (even if you already have one), then use the colors and style as a visual guideline for your whole shop.

Whatever style you use, make sure your design is clean and easy to use. Make liberal use of white space while still providing all the necessary details so customers can navigate your site without feeling overwhelmed. It shouldn’t take more than 1.2 seconds for visitors to figure out exactly what you’re selling and how to buy it.

A word about photos: Shoppers use the images on your site to judge the quality of your products. If your photos suck, they’ll think your products suck, too. If you need better photos but you don’t want to break the bank, check out our guide to taking awesome product photos for less than $20.

product photography

2. Is Your Navigation Streamlined and Easy to Use?

Rule #1: Make sure there’s a “Shop” link in your menu (duh). It should take people to a collection page or feature a drop-down menu of product categories.

Rule #2: You need an “About Us” page. Customers want to know that you’re not some shady Nigerian prince who’s going to scam them out of their hard-earned cash. Somehow, making up a few sentences about your passion for cell phone cases or whatever you sell makes people think you’re more trustworthy. So just do it.

Some other pages that are a good idea to have in your header menu: Contact Us, FAQ and maybe a Size Guide. Any non-essential pages should be linked to down in the footer menu. These are pages like Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Returns & Exchange Policy and maybe Customer Reviews. You don’t want them cluttering up your header menu because your #1 goal is to get people to click on “Shop”.

Now, click on each and every link in your menu and make sure it goes to the right page. Seriously. You would not believe how many people skip this step and realize months later that their “Shop” link was taking customers to their FAQs or blog or whatever.

3. Do You Write Words Real Good?

Copy is important. Next to your photos, it’s probably the most important thing on your site.

The biggest mistake you can make with your text is writing it without a target audience in mind. If you’re trying to write for everyone, your copy will speak to no one. You want your ideal customer to open your site and say, “This company gets me.” If you want to learn how to write like that (and you’re into breakfast food), read our copywriting guide.

The second biggest mistake is writing long, boring paragraphs that are difficult to scan. Your homepage copy should be kept to a minimum, and your product descriptions should be scanable and to the point.

Check out Tesla’s homepage. Not including the menus, I counted just 38 words on the whole thing. Keep it simple.

The third biggest mistake is having typos. When a visitor sees a typo on your site, they think something like, “Hmmm, this dummy used ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’. That’s not a good sign.” If they see a second, third or (Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid) a FOURTH typo, they think, “This idiot can’t even spell correctly. He’ll probably screw up my order just like he screwed up his grammar. I’m out.”

Even if you’ve proofread your online store a thousand times, get a friend (or even a professional copywriter) to take another look. It’s easy to become blind to your mistakes when you’ve read the same thing 467 times.

4. What Are Your CTAs?

A CTA (or call to action) is a strong sentence or phrase supported by a clickable button. It basically tells visitors what to do next. Shop now, see our latest styles, complete checkout – these are all calls to action.

Does each and every page on your shop have a clear call to action? Pretend you’re a scientist who’s designing a maze for rats. But you don’t want any dead ends – you want your rats to get to the end of your maze as quickly as possible.

The checkout page is the end of your maze. So you want to lead your customers from the homepage to your collection of taco accessories. Then on to a specific taco accessory. Then to the cart page. Then to the checkout! Use CTAs to move them step by step through the process.

Make sure your homepage has just one crystal clear message that resonates with your target audience and compels them to act (click the button). If you don’t have a strong CTA or you have a bunch of competing messages, visitors won’t know what to focus on. Remember, they’re rats (sounds terrible, but just go with it). You’ve got to make it easy for them to get to the cheese at the end.

It’s okay if you have a secondary message that you want to call out, such as free shipping or a sale on certain products, but it shouldn’t compete with your main CTA. Use an announcement bar and small text to keep the focus on your main message.

5. Is Your Online Store Mobile-Friendly?

Most ecommerce traffic comes from mobile devices. So if you’re only looking at your store on a desktop, your customers might be seeing something completely different than you. So check out your site on your phone and any other devices you can get your hands on.

Pro tip: Use the Inspect tool on your browser to see what your store looks like on various devices. Just right-click on your homepage and click “Inspect”. You can then click on the little square icons to toggle between desktop and mobile views.

inspect online store

Make sure your store looks good and loads quickly on every device. You should also click around a bit to make sure everything functions properly.

6. Do You Seem Trustworthy?

Which would you trust more – a soccer mom in a minivan with one of those little stick-figure families on the back or a skeezy looking dude in a windowless cargo van with “free candy” spray-painted on the side? Duh, the soccer mom. Make your online store the equivalent of soccer mom’s minivan.

Here’s a few ways to do that:

+ Live chat – Customers like companies that answer questions and respond quickly. Installing a live chat app is a great way to make that happen. Some apps can even be programmed with automated messages and responses so visitors can get answers 24/7.

+ Social media accounts – You don’t have to be on every social media platform out there. But having at least one active social media account makes you seem more legit, especially if you’ve got some customer engagement on it.

+ About Us page – As mentioned before, writing a few sentences about your company’s commitment to developing blockchain shampoo really goes a long way in making people feel like they can trust you.

+ Payment methods – Offering multiple payment methods with highly recognizable logos means visitors won’t be worried that you’re some fly-by-night company that’s going to steal their credit card info and use it to buy $800 worth of cheeseburgers.

7. What Are Your Visitors Doing?

You can use an app like Hotjar or Lucky Orange to see how your visitors interact with your online store. The apps record visitor sessions as videos you can later watch (Big Brother is watching you).

Hotjar will also create heat maps that show where visitors are clicking and spending the most time on your site. So you can see exactly where people are struggling or what they’re looking for, then improve your site to make it easier for them to get to the checkout.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have a search bar on your site. Shopify will show you the top searches on your store, so you can see what people are looking for. Then you can make those things easier to find, maybe even adding the most popular search terms to your menu.

8. What Do Your Analytics Show?

What page are customers dropping off at? Are they making it to the cart and then abandoning at checkout? Are they even adding products to their cart? Your Shopify analytics will answer those questions and help you figure out where people are bouncing.

If customers aren’t even adding products to their cart, you might need to add more photos, make your “Add to Cart” button more obvious or edit your product descriptions.

add to cart

If they’re adding products to their cart but then abandoning it at checkout, it’s probably an issue with either shipping or the payment methods you offer. Ask yourself:

+ Is your shipping rate too expensive?

+ Can you offer a free shipping threshold (like free shipping with any $50 purchase)?

+ Do you offer enough different shipping options, from inexpensive standard shipping to pricier express shipping?

+ Do you offer a wide variety of payment methods, like PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay?

If that’s all good, try these ideas to minimize and recover abandoned carts:

+ Add a pop-up offering a discount on a customer’s first purchase.

+ Add a “Buy Now” button to your product pages so they can get through the checkout process faster.

+ Include shipping details (pricing and speed) on your product pages so customers know what’s up before beginning to checkout.

+ Send out an abandoned cart email with a discount code.

+ Send an automated sequence of abandoned cart emails with different offers.

Be sure to test the checkout process yourself all the way to the end. It could simply be that people are trying to buy your stuff but your checkout is broken.

9. What Else Could It Be?

If you’ve gone through all of the above and everything looks good, ask yourself these questions:

+ Is your niche clear and well-defined?

+ Are you selling the right products to the right audience?

+ Are you driving the right traffic to your online store?

+ Are you collecting emails from visitors to nurture them through the buying process?

+ Have you asked for feedback from anyone other than friends and family?

Posting your site in the Shopify forums or Shopify subreddit is a good way to get unbiased opinions on your site. Internet strangers won’t sugarcoat their thoughts like your friends and family might.


If people are visiting your store but then turning around and walking right back out the door, there’s got to be a reason. Double check that everything is working and that your website appears well-designed and trustworthy.

Getting traffic is the hardest part. Turning those visitors into buyers could just require a few simple tweaks.

About the Author

Gennifer is the Marketing Manager at ByteStand, where she lives and breathes customer service education while sipping coffee in her pajamas.

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