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9 user-driven tools and methods for ecommerce website analysis
When you think of analyzing your ecommerce site, you probably think about ecommerce tracking data like bounce and exit rates, average order value, checkout flow, and conversion rates, and maybe running an SEO audit and/or checking your site against competitors.
Last updated18 Aug 2022
That’s all useful for learning how your site is performing and seeing what happens when people use it, but many questions still remain unanswered:
Why are visitors coming to my site? What brought them here?
Why aren’t they clicking the CTA on our product page?
What are they looking for? How can we help them find it?
Why are so many people abandoning their shopping carts?
Traditional analysis can’t quite help you get to the bottom of these questions. But a user-driven approach (which means analyzing your site from a user's perspective) will.
In this piece we show you nine ways to run ecommerce website analysis by focusing on your users. We cover:
What is ecommerce website analysis?
Ecommerce website analysis is the process of analyzing and testing an ecommerce site’s performance with the goal of improving the experience for visitors and customers and ultimately increasing revenue.
Ecommerce website analysis tools help you understand your visitors’ experience through qualitative and quantitative data so you can make the right changes to your site.
📚 Read more: we polled 30+ growth strategists, marketers, SEO and e-com managers, designers, and content creators and asked them which analysis tools they use and recommend. Are you familiar with all of them?
Ecommerce metrics you need to monitor on your website
As we said earlier, there are some traditional metrics that often come to mind at the mention of ‘ecommerce web analytics’—and rightly so, because a lot of traditional metrics are useful for measuring your site’s performance, and for gaining a general understanding of how your website is used.
For example, here are just three of the traditional ecommerce metrics you should check and analyze regularly, and what they mean for your ecommerce site:
1. Bounce rates
Your site’s bounce rate is the percentage of sessions that result in a bounce—which is what happens when a user lands on your site and exits without interacting in a meaningful way, like clicking on a call to action (CTA) or navigating to another page on your site.
What bounce rate means for your ecommerce site: since the success of your site depends on users visiting more than one page—for example going through a sales funnel like homepage → product page → shopping cart → checkout—if visitors bounce from your homepage without converting, it may indicate an issue that needs investigating, possibly with page design or user experience (UX).
Important note: bounce rate is a metric that shouldn’t be analyzed out of context. When you check bounce rates for your ecommerce site, keep in mind that the metric is only a starting point for investigating user behavior (more on how to do this later).
2. Exit rates
Your site’s exit rate tells you how often users exit after visiting any number of pages on your website.
What exit rate means for your ecommerce site: monitoring exits helps you understand how specific pages are performing; high exit rates on certain pages could potentially alert you to usability issues. For example, if your ecommerce site has a high exit rate on the last page of a sales funnel (i.e. the payment or checkout page), that could be a sign that something’s going wrong on the page which is preventing visitors from converting.
Important note: exit rate is another metric that shouldn’t be analyzed out of context, considering the fact that 100% of your visitors will exit your site at some point. When you check exit rates for your ecommerce site, keep in mind that the metric is only a starting point for investigating user behavior—exit rate alone won’t tell you why visitors leave when they do.
3. Average order value (AOV)
Average order value (AOV) measures the average total of every order placed with your online shop over a specified amount of time.
What AOV means for your ecommerce site: measuring and monitoring AOV can help drive business decisions around topics like ad spend, pricing, and campaign building (like upselling, cross-selling, or offering promotional deals and discounts). Knowing your ecommerce site’s AOV can also bring up questions around conversion rate optimization (CRO), which can lead to improvements to the user experience (UX) like an updated site design or shop layout.
💡 A note from the Editor: what we’ve covered here is by no means an exhaustive list of which traditional ecommerce metrics you should monitor on a regular basis, but since you presumably came here to learn which user-driven tools and methods can help you move beyond traditional metrics, we’ll stop here.
Keep reading to learn why you can’t rely on traditional ecommerce metrics alone, and how a user-driven approach to web analysis can help paint a fuller picture.
Where traditional ecommerce website analysis gets it right (and what it’s missing)
Traditional website analysis can answer questions like how many? or how often? and the answers are typically numerical—the data can be measured. Depending on which tool(s) you use, you can track different types of data to analyze performance: traffic sources, conversion rates, average order value, checkout flow, and session duration (to name a few).
This type of analysis will give you quantitative data about what happens on your site, but it can’t help you understand why it happens—which is a problem, because when you need to develop hypotheses for improvement or identify how to fix specific pain points, your perspective will be incomplete (and yes, you will be left guessing what will work for your users or customers rather than knowing about it).
💡 When quantitative data is not enough: a practical example
Spencer Wong, Head of Digital Experience for online retailer MADE.com, began analyzing MADE’s site to learn how customers landed on, moved through, and eventually left the website (these steps are collectively known a the ‘ecommerce customer journey’).
He started with traditional analysis in Google Analytics to gain insight on metrics like unique pageviews, the average time people spent on each page, and how people were using the site’s search bar: “I first did a real data-based approach, like I looked at all the channels people were coming in on, what the conversion rate was, and tried to look at where the opportunities I thought were in those different journeys, but just from a data perspective.”
Eventually, Spencer reached a point where his insights from GA weren’t enough. He was able to develop some ideas about possible UX issues, but the data wasn’t specific enough to validate his theories about why MADE.com’s website visitors were taking certain actions on the site, or why they were ignoring key elements on certain pages.
To truly understand how people were experiencing the site, Spencer needed to find more answers and dig deeper into the customers’ journey. For this, he had to look for user-driven insights that would complement his traditional ecommerce analysis.
Spoiler alert: he ended up using heatmaps and on-site surveys to accomplish this. Keep reading to find out how.
How user-driven ecommerce analytics helps you see the full picture
So you’ve got data about what is happening on your website, but you’re still unclear about why. That’s when you need a complementary type of ecommerce analysis that can give more context to the insights you’ve already collected and help you focus on the user experience—we call it the ‘user-driven analysis’, which will answer questions you have about your visitors’ needs and expectations:
Why they come to your site in the first place
Why they take specific actions (or not)
How you can help them find what they’re looking for
User-driven analysis is based on the tools and techniques we cover below.
4 user-driven ecommerce website analysis tools to help you understand user behavior
Here are four user-driven analysis tools that will help you understand your website from the users’ perspective, plus a few examples of how they can be used to analyze and improve performance:
1. Heatmaps: to see on-page interaction
Numbers and data from traditional analysis are valuable for measuring your site’s performance in a quantitative way. But like in the example above with MADE.com, eventually you’re going to reach a point where numbers and charts aren’t enough; you’ll need to dig deeper to understand what’s really going on when people visit your site.
Heatmaps can help you understand data in an easy and visual way, and put your numbers and charts into context. For example, the quantitative (traditional) data on the left of this image is the same as the data on the right, but heatmap analytics show you how customers are moving around and what they are clicking on the page, instead of only telling you that clicks are happening across different elements.
💡 Using heatmaps to improve mobile conversion rate by 63%
Back in 2019, online retailer of beds and bedroom furniture Time4sleep had 200K sessions/month and a large mobile audience, whose conversion rate they wanted to improve.
The ecommerce company used heatmaps (among other tools) to understand how potential customers were interacting with their product pages. The scroll map on the left shows what the page used to look like: the gradual change in color demonstrates that people were actively scrolling to the very bottom of it… but for once, that wasn’t a good thing. Customers were not able to find what they were looking for, and kept scrolling and scrolling through the entire length of the page before giving up.
You can read the complete story of how Time4sleep improved conversion rate for mobile users, but here is the main highlight: after looking at this heatmap and comparing the insight with other sources, changes were made to the page that produced a 63% increase in CR.
2. Session recordings: to understand the customer journey
Traditional website analysis will tell you which pages people visit on your site, or which buttons they click, but it won’t show you how they got from point A to point B, and if they experienced any blockers, website bugs, or other issues along the way.
With user-driven site analysis, you can gain more actionable insights. The tool for the job here is session recordings (also known as session replays or visitor recordings), which lets you watch how real, anonymized users interact with different elements and pages across your site. Session recording software shows you people’s mouse movements, hovers, clicks, and taps, so you can see how your visitors interact with each page, and how they move from one page to the next.
💡 Finding and fixing bugs across the journey
Jon Kern, Manager of Strategic Products at Intelliquip, used Hotjar Session Recordings to identify bugs and issues during a website launch that would affect nearly 10,000 users—and did it all while walking:
“I have a walking treadmill and a standing desk flanked with monitors. And the first day [of launch], I was walking on the treadmill and watching Hotjar videos. I would start at the top, and the ones that were the most fascinating, confused-user-type videos, I'd tag, I'd hit the share button, I'd toss the URL over to our UX guy, and say ‘Check this out’.”
Jon and his team went through several rounds of intensely watching their recordings as soon as they started receiving error notifications. They quickly saw that people were getting stuck into an endless loop caused by problematic information architecture, and got sufficient context from recordings to develop and deploy a fix. You can read the complete story here.
3. On-site surveys: to learn more about what your customers need
The quantitative insights you get from traditional website analysis can tell you where a person exits the sales funnel: for example, you might have numbers and data to indicate that a shopping cart has been abandoned or that someone has dropped off your site on the product page. But why? Where did these potential customers go, and what could you have done to get them to stay (and convert)?
To get this type of answer, you can use on-site surveys (also known as on-page surveys or polls) to collect feedback from your visitors when they visit a specific page or perform a specific action. For example, you can ask open-ended questions like “What’s the ONE thing that’s missing from this page?” or close-ended questions like “Did you find what you were looking for? (Yes/No)”; you can also set up surveys with a numerical element to help you track and analyze the customer experience:
A Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey for when you want to track the likelihood of customers recommending your brand/product and driving word of mouth
A Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) survey for evaluating your customers’ level of satisfaction (or lack thereof) with their experience
A Customer Effort Score (CES) survey for measuring the level of effort your customers need to exert to complete a goal (making a purchase, resolving an issue through customer support, etc.)
💡 How to understand your (new) customers: an expert’s take
When cards, gifts, and flowers retailer Moonpig.com started seeing new customers and website visitors during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, UX researcher Aly Abel used on-site surveys to find out who they were and what they needed. She and the team could not use traditional in-person research, so they had to “think more quickly, because the product team needed answers quick. So that's when [an on-site survey] plays a much bigger role because it's there, everything's subtle and it can take three to five minutes max to run one.”
Aly and her team placed an on-site survey on their homepage, and explicitly asked their customers how they were feeling and how best the Moonpig team could serve them. This story comes from a video interview we recorded with her in April 2020, and you can find out more about what she and the team learned by watching it here.
4. Feedback widget: to hear directly from your customers
Let’s go back to a common ecommerce scenario and say you have data that tells you a shopping cart has been abandoned, or that someone has dropped off your site on the product page without adding anything to their cart. While the data may be useful for measuring your site’s performance in a quantitative way, it’s not actionable insight—if you don’t know why people leave your site, how can you fix it for them?
Feedback tools like Hotjar’s Feedback widget let your customers give you candid feedback and input about your website. Customers can highlight specific elements or features on your site to give you actionable feedback, letting you know exactly what needs to be fixed or improved to create a better experience for them.
💡 A feedback widget for ongoing optimization
eShopWorld’s Conversion Analyst, Noelle Smith, uses Hotjar’s Feedback widget on the checkout page as part of an ongoing effort to help ecommerce clients improve conversion rates (CRO) and to better understand conversion rate fluctuations.
“We love Feedback because it gives us instant feedback from shoppers. It doesn’t interrupt the checkout flow, and it allows us to fully understand our shopper’s experience, in real-time. This helps us study performance trends and identify shopper concerns.”
Extra reading: Noelle uses Feedback with other user-driven analysis tools, and you can read about her process here.
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5 more user-driven ways to analyze your ecommerce site
User-driven analysis gives you a better understanding of your web visitors’ behavior and helps you identify what’s most important to them in their user journey. The data you get from user-driven analysis will help you decide what changes you need to make to improve the user experience, making people more likely to come back to your online store to shop again in the future.
But analysis isn’t only about the tools you use; it’s also about how you use them, and why. In addition to the four tools we mentioned above, here are five more ways to analyze your ecommerce site with a user-driven approach for any ecommerce business. Clicking on the links below will take you to a separate piece with specific instructions and how-tos so you can apply each technique to your website:
Studying your customers and web visitors based on characteristics and traits like values, desires, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices helps you learn what is most important to them when it comes to their journey across your brand.
2) Market research:
Using research techniques to gain a better understanding of your target market can help you design better products, improve the overall user experience, reach quality leads, and increase conversion rates.
Observing web users’ behavior to test your site’s design and functionality can reveal whether your users understand how to navigate your site or if they can carry out tasks across its pages. You can also see how they react when they encounter pain points in their customer journey.
Collecting feedback from your customers lets you learn directly from them in their own words—and it doesn’t have to come just from website surveys, like we showed you above: you can also get on a call with your customers, or read through Customer Support tickets and/or Customer Success calls notes. You can use what you learn to improve your products, sales funnels, and the overall customer experience.
When you combine qualitative and quantitative data about your visitors, you can see how and why they interact with elements or pages on your site. Understanding the full picture of your visitors’ experience will help you pinpoint the changes that need to be made to your site to improve it.
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10+ web analysis tools to help you understand your users [including 5 Google Analytics alternatives]
If you want your visitors to keep returning to your website—to increase traffic, improve conversion rates, and ultimately grow revenue—you need to understand what’s happening when they reach your site.
How to set up a free Google Analytics heat map
If you’ve come here to learn more about Google Analytics heat maps, we have both good and bad news for you.
The bad news: Google stopped supporting its heatmap add-on in 2017, and recent reviews confirm that it doesn’t work anymore for a lot of users.
The good news: there's another way for you to get a free heatmap using Hotjar, and we guarantee it will work.