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How to reduce bounce rate on your ecommerce site: 3 tools + 8 expert tips

October 17, 2019 by Fio Dossetto

A high bounce rate on your ecommerce site could be a sign that something isn’t quite right for your customers—which will definitely hurt the bottom line. Put on your detective hat and find what's causing your bounce rates with the help of 3 essential tools—heatmaps, recordings, and on-site feedback—and guidance from experts who have done it before.

Table of contents

What is bounce rate on an ecommerce site?

Bounce rate is a web analytics metric that quantifies the percentage of visitors who view a single page on a website and then leave without further interaction with the rest of the site.

In ecommerce, examples of bounce include visitors who:

  • landed on your store homepage and left without taking further action
  • landed on a product page and did not interact with it before leaving the site
  • landed your contact information page, found the information they wanted, and left

As you see, in one out of three scenarios (the third one) the bounce was not problematic, because the visitor managed to do exactly what they wanted. However, a high bounce rate on non-service pages could usually be problematic because:

  • You failed to persuade a customer to make a purchase (and lost revenue as a consequence)
  • Your rankings may be negatively affected: because bounce rate is a ranking signal (the higher the number, the worse your ranking) fewer people will find you in the future

What is a good bounce rate for an ecommerce website?

Data from CXL suggests that ecommerce sites have lower average bounce rates than other kinds of sites, between 20 and 45%:

bounce-rate-benchmarks-website

However, as with all averages, there is more to the story. Consider these two situations:

  • Visitor A arrives on one of your product pages and clicks away after a few seconds
  • Visitor B arrives on one of your product pages and spends a couple of minutes on it before leaving

Without extra context, you could assume that Visitor B is interested in your products because of the time he spent on the page, and argue that his bounce is more problematic than Visitor A’s, who showed less interest by staying for a shorter time.
Then again, Visitor A might have been expecting something very specific she couldn’t immediately find and left in frustration, while Visitor B could have had zero desire to purchase anything and just kept reading out of curiosity.

In Google Analytics' eyes, there is no difference between either scenario: they're both a bounce. But for you as a website owner, manager, or optimizer, knowing what happened in scenario B—where something was either broken or impossible to find—might be the key to improved conversions.

So what are you to do? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question: I’m about to tell you in the next few paragraphs.)

3 user-centric tools you need to investigate high bounce rates further

As we just established, Google Analytics cannot tell you why people bounce away from your page, and you could make assumptions all day long without ever getting close to an actual explanation. Before doing anything else (including jumping straight in and fixing the situation), you need to collect additional data and insight—that’s where your detective hat comes in.

There are 3 tools you will need to use:

  • Heatmaps
  • Session recordings
  • On-site surveys

1. Heatmaps show you what your users see and interact with

A first important source of information is heatmaps, which you can place on your high-bounce pages from within the Hotjar interface:

create-heatmap

A type of heatmap called scroll map will help you determine if people are seeing the most important content on landing, and how far down the page they tend to go.

Are people seeing the most important content when they first land on the page?

The content a visitor sees on her screen when she first arrives on a page is called ‘above the fold.’ Ideally, you want the most important information, brand messaging, or product specs to live in that space, enticing visitors to remain on the page and click further into your site.

Scroll maps automatically calculate the average fold on your page; in the example below, you can see that products aren’t fully visible in the above-the-fold section.

Adventure Cats store heatmap

Investigating what appears above the fold will tell you if the most important elements are immediately visible on desktop and mobile. If they’re not, people might still be seeing them—which brings us to the second question:

How far down the page are people scrolling?

Any scroll map will show you how far down the page your users travel and give you the percentage of people who make it (or don’t) to specific points. Look at where users stopped scrolling and consider the content they encountered up until that point:

  • Did they find the information they wanted, so they no longer needed to scroll further?
  • Or did they abandon the page halfway through because they couldn’t find what they wanted?

In ecommerce, this is especially important on individual product pages:

  • Is the most important information about the product above or below the fold?
  • Are visitors viewing the full page?
  • Does the page need to be redesigned, or do product specs need to be moved up?

Bonus insight: are people confused by non-clickable elements?

We’ve covered scroll maps so far, but a second type of heatmap can be useful when investigating bounce rate: click maps, which display where users click with a mouse on desktop or tap the screen on a mobile device.

non-clickable-elements

Obviously, users who bounce have not clicked any active links or buttons—but you could use click maps to investigate A) where people do, in fact, click on average and B) if people are confused by your site’s design and are trying to click non-clickable elements.

For example, the mobile clickmap above clearly shows that some users tapped on a testimonial logo, probably expecting some sort of interaction that never happened. They could have bounced away as a result.

2. Recordings reconstruct what happened during a session

Session recordings help you review individual anonymized user sessions, so you can see what people actually do on the page before leaving it.

In Hotjar Recordings, you can segment sessions for users who bounced:

  1. Click Add filter> Exit page
  2. Enter the URL of the specific page you want to view
  3. Sort by # Pages and pick the sessions where the number = 1.

By doing this, you will only see users who visited that page before bouncing.

Hotjar session recordings

Now you can watch visitors navigate the page. Some things to take note of as you watch:

  • Do users seem confused or frustrated? Are they repeatedly clicking on non-clickable elements or scrolling up and down in search of something?
  • Which areas of the page do they linger on, and which sections do they seem to miss entirely? This can help you identify which areas are persuasive to prospective buyers and which areas may act as deterrents.
  • What are users doing immediately before they leave? Did they leave when they saw a certain item was out of stock? Did they abandon the page after several attempts to click a non-clickable element?

3. On-site surveys help you collect your customers’ feedback

On-site surveys allow you to ask users for feedback about their experiences. Within Hotjar, you can set up a poll on the specific URLs you’re investigating and hear directly from your customers about their questions, frustrations, and expectations:

poll-url-set

Use on-site surveys to poll users about their impressions of your site by asking questions such as:

  • Does this site/page feel trustworthy to you? (follow-up question: Why?/Why not?)
  • What do you like about this page? What do you dislike?
  • Would you consider making a purchase from this website? (follow-up question: Why?/Why not?)
trustworthyness

Hearing directly from your customers helps you collect valuable qualitative data that you can then evaluate and analyze. Based on the results, you will be able to make changes to your site’s design and even business structure as needed: for example, you may learn that you’re losing potential sales because you don’t ship internationally, and the data can assist you when making an informed decision about your existing policy.

8 expert tips for reducing bounce rate on your ecom site

Heatmaps, recordings, and on-site surveys will help you run a thorough investigation into your bounce rate, determine some of its causes, and come up with solutions. But you don't have to do it all on your own: we asked several ecommerce-optimization authorities to recommend their favorite/most used/most efficient ways to reduce bounce rates, too—and here is what they told us.

Tip #1: reduce page-load speed

Slow-loading pages can be one of the biggest culprits behind high bounce rates: would-be customers get frustrated or lose interest and click away to websites that can meet their needs faster. “The general agreement in the industry is that a three-second load time is the maximum for any landing page on an ecommerce store,” says Adam Pearce, head of marketing and partnerships for Blend Commerce.

Testing the speed of your website is a fundamental part of any website analysis, and there’s a variety of tools you can use to do it: for example, Google’s PageSpeed Insights scores and compares your site’s performance on both mobile and desktop:

amazon-mobile.png
The folks at Amazon may have some work to do on their mobile site

Tip #2: find and fix usability issues

Much like slow-loading pages, usability issues are one of the most common ways to drive away visitors: if people can’t progress on a site that doesn’t work, the bounce is almost inevitable.

Some common usability issues to look out for include:

  • Websites that don’t render or respond well on mobile
  • 404 errors
  • Technical glitches, such as broken links or faulty drop-down menus

Usability testing can help you identify technical errors on your site, and one of the simplest forms of usability testing is watching session recordings: include your high-bounce pages in the review and take note of any problems visitors may run into or glitches they experience—and then fix them promptly.

Tip #3: investigate paid campaign traffic

Joel Klettke, the CRO expert behind Business Casual Copywriting, recommends evaluating your traffic sources. In GA, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown and choose Source as a secondary dimension for any URL you’re interested in. Take a look to see where your traffic is coming from and the average bounce rate associated with each source:

Google Analytics_1

If you’re using display ads, paid search, or shopping campaigns and are unhappy with the bounce rate of the users you’re bringing in, it may be worth re-evaluating your strategy. Here’s a pro tip from Joel: “Check whether the copy on the page aligns with the keywords driving in traffic or the promises being made in your ads.” If you’re paying to drive traffic to your site, make sure your ads properly reflect what users will find on that specific page.

Speaking of copy:

Tip #4: fix irrelevant copy

Like Joel says, words matter. If the copy on your page is clear, informative, and persuasive, it can lead visitors to take action: adding a product to cart, reaching out for more information, browsing through a few extra pages, or whichever step is next. If the copy is poorly written or doesn’t answer key questions, users may quickly click away.

To fix copy that doesn’t work, you first need to know what parts of it don’t work. That’s where you need direct feedback from your customers:

  • Set up a Hotjar poll and make it appear halfway down the page:
poll-set-up
  • Ask specific questions depending on the nature of the page itself.
    For a product page → What do you think of the product information on this page?
    For an information page → Can you find the information you’re looking for?
    For any page → What’s the ONE thing we should change on this page?
hotjar-short-form-answer.width-750

Tip #5: make sure your site looks trustworthy

Your site should inspire confidence in prospective customers on their very first visit: much like you wouldn’t buy from a website that looks spammy or untrustworthy, it’s unlikely they would, either. 84% of people won’t make a purchase if they are dealing with an unsecured website—and this is where first impressions may count quite a lot.

Here are a few steps that ecommerce growth consultant Rachel Jacobs recommends:

  • Eliminate or reduce the number of content-blocking pop-ups on the page (they can overwhelm or frustrate a visitor) unless they are relevant and valuable to your visitors
ecommerce popup discount code
This pop-up has value to potential buyers because it offers a discount.
  • Add high-quality, professional photos throughout. These guidelines Rachel shared on BigCommerce will help you get started even on a very tight budget
  • Incorporate user reviews and testimonials to build social proof
  • Continue to monitor GA, use heatmaps + recordings, and collect user feedback to evaluate the effect of any changes you make

Editor’s note

One of my favorite optimization stories comes from lingscars.com, a car leasing site that is outwardly the least trustworthy site I know of. At the time of editing this article, the owner is live streaming from the middle of a homepage that has so much stuff going on it took me a full minute just to get to the bottom of it (and there’s no chance of me bouncing, as I’ve clicked on about 17 buttons just to see what happens next):

lings

Again, this is not what you would call a traditionally trustworthy page. But it turns out the owner had a turnover of £40million in 2017, and the site's been getting so much press for a decade that I suspect it’s just kept growing since. The moral of the story? Not everything that looks downright bonkers is untrustworthy, and not everything that looks trustworthy on the surface will turn out to be.

As always, your best bet is to listen to what your customers need from your site and from your products, and use that insight to give them a valuable overall experience.

Tip #6: optimize your product pages

Optimizing your product page is usually the top priority for ecommerce brands, as these pages are the heart of your business,” Rachel told us. “Making sure that the product images are clearly and accurately displayed, add-to-cart functionality is easy, and reviews are visible is a good place to start.”

According to her, if you want people not to bounce away, the page has to:

  • Be branded
  • Take advantage of white space
  • Use imagery
  • Have an ‘Add to cart’ button that stands out
  • Feature the most important information about the item at the top
  • Include important information such as product specs or a sizing chart
patagonia-product.png
(Sidenote: I was looking for examples of good product pages, and now I kind of want this)

Use Hotjar Recordings to see how visitors interact with your product page, where they click, and how often they’re scrolling up and down. In addition to checking the recordings where visitors viewed the product page and bounced, use the ‘URL contains’ function to review longer journeys where people saw it in addition to others, which gives you a better sense of the overall context around their actions:

recording-filter

If their actions are still unclear (and they may well be), continue the investigation by placing an on-page survey after a 30-40 second delay and ask them what information they’re still looking for:

poll-set-up-2
info-page-3-hotjar-poll-example-crop.width-750

Tip #7: identify user objections

When researching why people abandon your site, Hotjar CEO David Darmanin recommends focusing on a group he calls ‘the undecided explorers’: potential customers who fit your ideal customer profile but require additional persuasion before committing.


Your job is to find out why these prospects aren’t making it through to more than one page of your website; one way to do it is to run a post-purchase survey and ask your newly converted customers what almost made them not convert. It’s possible that the barriers they managed to overcome are proving too difficult for other, less motivated visitors—and armed with this knowledge, you can proceed to fix whatever needs fixing for everybody who comes to your site in the future.

Tip #8: inspire visitors to browse

Not everyone will fall in love with the first product they see on your website; if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they may quickly click away. However, in Rachel Jacobs’ experience, you can still incentivize them to stay by helping them discover other products they might want or need. This is known as cross-selling: a sales tactic that aims to increase sales by suggesting additional, related, or complementary items to a customer.

For example, when you view a bed frame on Wayfair, the product page suggests related products you may need, such as bedding:

wayfair cross-selling
Rachel's tip: the best time to cross-sell to customers is when they are on product pages and at checkout

“Make it easy, from a UX perspective, to explore relevant related products if the existing one is not a fit,” Rachel tells us. “Grouping together ‘You may also like’ or complementary products may encourage someone to keep searching if what they're seeing isn't immediately what they need.”

🔥Additional pro tip: you can see how well your related product setup is working by placing heatmaps on product pages and noting the percentage of visitors who click the additional recommendations. If they aren’t paying attention to the section, you may need to experiment with it: test moving it around or making it more eye-catching, or ask customers to tell you if the recommendations are irrelevant.

Final thought:

Traditional website analysis tools will always play a part in assessing your ecommerce site’s performance, but heatmaps, recordings, and on-site surveys take you one step further. When you understand and empathize with the real needs of your users, an improved bounce rate will be a byproduct of you fixing whatever is not currently working for them. Give your customers what they want and need, and they’ll reward you by sticking around.

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Fio Dossetto

Fio manages editorial production at Hotjar, generally over-uses em dashes, and makes sure we publish specific, actionable pieces—with a sprinkle of our signature style on top.