From Dreaming to Deciding: The Role of Wish Lists in Online Purchase Journeys

From Dreaming to Deciding: The Role of Wish Lists in Online Purchase Journeys

Alex Sheppard
Alex Sheppard • 14/12/2023

Online Shopping and Decision Paralysis

When shopping online, we are exposed to an abundance of choice. There are so many products, brands and retailers to choose from that we often get trapped in a state of ‘decision-paralysis’ – finding ourselves unable to decide due to the fear of choosing the wrong product.

The information-overload which now characterises online shopping, combined with an increasing desire for value-for-money caused by global financial pressures, has caused purchase journeys to become longer. (Google).


As a result, wish lists have become a valuable tool for consumers who wish to evaluate their options, conduct price comparisons, or wait for deals or discounts.

Wish lists benefit both retailers and consumers. For consumers, they create a better shopping experience by adding the ability to save products rather than just trying to remember them. For retailers, they provide valuable customer data and can help increase the likelihood of purchase.

Why Do Consumers Make Wish Lists?

Wish lists give consumers the benefit of time.

For 39% of Brits, the main reason for using a wish list is to consider for a future purchase. Consumers are rarely in-market to buy the first time they visit a website with 56% preferring to research a product online before buying it (GWI) and as a result, wish lists save consumers from having to make an immediate decision.

Wish lists also give flexibility and time for financial considerations. Consumers are savvy. 55% spend time looking for the best deals (GWI) and as part of this, use wish lists to their advantage. Almost a quarter of Brits (22%) use wish lists for price drop/discount notifications while for 14%, they are used to save a product until payday.

Source: GWI November 2023 Zeitgeist: Online Purchase Decisions, UK, Reasons for Adding Products to Wish Lists, Number of Responses: 2,549

How Do Consumers Make Wish Lists?

When it comes to how consumers make wish lists, direct on a brand’s website is the most popular, with this being done by 42% of Brits. Another method is to add a product to basket but not purchase, with just under a quarter of Brits having done this. This may seem like a lost customer but, this can be advantageous for brands.

On platforms like Facebook and Instagram marketers can create custom audiences and retarget shoppers who have added to cart or create lookalike audiences to target similar users to drive high engagement and conversion rates. Leveraging platform data is crucial to keeping your brand front of mind and increase the likelihood that consumers return to purchase.

Source: GWI November 2023 Zeitgeist: Online Purchase Decisions, UK, Wishlist’s for Online Shopping, Number of Responses: 1,874

What Makes a Consumer Purchase from Their Wish List?

Price-reductions are the most likely factor to cause consumers to purchase from their wish list, followed by exclusive promotional/coupon codes, the product becoming available in their size, and limited stock alerts. Wish lists give consumers fast access to any price or stock updates, creating urgency and enacting fast decision making. Price drop alerts have been shown to re-engage customers and produced profit gains between 25-95%.

Brands are leveraging these wish list purchases drivers to drive sales. British online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS are currently running a ‘giftmas’ promotion  which gives customers a chance to win their entire wish list if they make a £50+ purchase and use a discount code. Brands know that consumers are on the journey to purchasing when they’ve added to their wish list so combining with an exclusive promotion can help push customers from consideration to purchase.

Source: GWI November 2023 Zeitgeist: Online Purchase Decisions, UK, Reasons for Purchasing Products from Wishlist, Number of Responses: 1,239

What Deters Consumers from Purchasing?

Wish lists are not guaranteed sales and there are various factors that stop customers from purchasing.

For those who have abandoned a purchase recently, expensive shipping costs was the top reason for 43% of Brits. In the UK, 66% cite free delivery as their top online purchase driver (GWI) and it has also been found to improve AOV with 78% of consumers willing to buy more to qualify for free delivery.

Source: GWI November 2023 Zeitgeist: Online Purchase Decisions, UK, Audience: Have Abandoned Shopping Cart Recently (Sample: 1,258), Reasons for Not Completing Purchase, Number of Responses: 1,760

The second most likely reason that a purchase was abandoned was because they found a cheaper alternative.

Just because someone has added to their wish list, the likelihood of purchase is by no means certain. Therefore, it is crucial to not just sit back and wait for your potential customers to return but instead, be present throughout the journey.


While wish lists are not guaranteed sales, they are shown to improve conversion rates. Shopify’s wish list app ‘Wishlist Plus’, which enables customers to bookmark their favourite products has reported that app users spend 20-30% more than other customers and also have 36-50% higher order sizes.

Consumers are increasingly relying on wish lists while they consider a purchase and personalised marketing efforts can keep your brand front-of-mind as consumers move from consideration to purchase.

How Can Marketers Effectively Leverage Wish Lists?

How Can Marketers Effectively Leverage Wish Lists?

Wish lists can be leveraged from a marketing perspective in the following ways:

  • Targeted promotions – use wish lists to offer personalised discounts or deals from items directly from the wish list
  • Reminder campaigns – targeted ads that remind consumers of items in their wish list
  • Wish list-specific events – take an approach like ASOS and host sales for wish listed items to engage customers
  • Re-marketing campaigns – re-engage inactive customers with reminders of the products on their wish lists

And also from a user experience perspective:

  • Seamless purchase process – reduce the risk of drop offs by allowing direct purchase from wish lists
  • Notifications – notify customers about price drops or restocks for items in their wish list

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