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7 CRO strategies for ecommerce businesses to boost conversions, improve UX

Success in the world of ecommerce depends on easily converting users into paying customers. A strong conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy is the best way to meet your customers’ needs and deliver a solid user experience (UX).

But building a user-friendly ecommerce site that converts can be a challenge—and it’s often tempting to make quick fixes that bump up purchases and subscriptions rather than spending time to deeply understand your users and give them the product value they came for.

Last updated

1 Dec 2022

A customer-centric CRO strategy can help you both improve the user experience and boost your sales, long-term. We’ve compiled a list of seven actionable steps to help you improve your conversion rate—and delight your customers. 

Ensure your ecommerce conversion strategy is meeting user needs

Use Hotjar to uncover valuable insights and make user-centric decisions to improve your website's conversions.

7 ways to increase conversions on your ecommerce website

Designing and optimizing your site with your users in mind motivates website visitors to move through the customer funnel toward conversion, and creates loyalty by encouraging existing customers to come back again and again.

Use our list of 7 key CRO strategies to understand your customers more deeply and increase your ecommerce conversions.

Let's go!

1. Understand your customers 

A recent survey on 111 failed startups showed that 35% listed 'no market need' as a top reason for their inability to get conversions. Clearly, they didn’t understand their audience and what they were looking for.

Prioritize discovering your customers’ pain points, what they want, and what makes them convert—then shape your pages and product around what you learn. 

To gain valuable customer insights, use techniques like:

  • Running focus groups with potential new customers or existing ones

  • Asking customers for feedback after a live chat, an email exchange, or interaction with customer support

  • Asking customers discovery or follow-up questions using surveys

Pro tip: use Hotjar’s Surveys and Feedback tools to ask users key questions about their product experience (PX) in real-time and discover whether your website is meeting their needs. You can set up Surveys to appear: 

  • Immediately when a page loads (a good option for getting general feedback or first impressions) 

  • After a specified time delay (if you want to ask users a question once they’ve already spent some time on your site) 

  • When the user abandons a page

  • When the user scrolls halfway down the page

Choose when and how you want Hotjar Surveys to appear

2. Optimize your checkout process to reduce cart abandonment

Imagine a customer just added an item to their cart and is one step away from converting. They arrive at the checkout page and...they click away. Sound familiar? A recent study showed that a whopping 70% of users abandoned their shopping carts on ecommerce stores.

Ouch.

So what causes cart abandonment? In many cases, it's down to a lengthy or complicated checkout process that requires customers to fill out long forms, create an account, or click through several steps before seeing key information like shipping, taxes, and fees.

Here are a few tips to optimize your checkout process and make it more user-friendly:

  • Reducing the number of steps or pages in your checkout flow

  • Including progress indicators to show customers how far they have to go

  • Automatically filling in customer information where possible (e.g. an autofill for shipping address)

  • Making it easy for customers to change or edit their order

  • Displaying shipping, taxes, and fees at an early stage

In the case of a one-page checkout process, all the elements—like the progress bar and form fields—should be above the fold (the content a viewer sees before they scroll down the page) so users see them.

Product experience insights tools like Hotjar (👋) help you see where dropoffs happen on key checkout pages. Maybe you discover that customers are exiting a checkout process late in the game—which indicates that while they want to make a purchase, they’re getting blocked or frustrated along the way, or changing their mind due to some new information.    

Use Hotjar Session Recordings to see how users interact with your checkout pages across a full session. Filter to view Recordings for users who’ve dropped off the purchase process to understand what went wrong. Maybe you see they’re getting frustrated clicking on a form field that doesn’t work, so a quick bug fix will solve the issue. Or they could be growing impatient with multiple form fields or pages, so adding an autofill feature will help.  

3. Collect user feedback with on-page forms

On-page feedback forms let you directly ask your users how they feel about your website, a product they've purchased, and anything else related to your brand and business. This helps you optimize conversions by removing blockers and tailoring your site and products to what users want to see.

Add feedback forms to key ecommerce pages—your product pages, landing pages, checkout page, and/or post-purchase pages—to hear what users are thinking ‘in the wild’ as they interact with your site. Make sure they’re short, streamlined, and easy for users to address in a few clicks. 

Consider these on-page surveys and feedback options across your site:

Survey popups

Set timed, targeted surveys to pop up at certain points in the customer journey on your site, or in response to certain user actions. Design short, compelling surveys that will attract users to take the time to respond. Avoid popups that seem 'in your face' or block key content—Hotjar’s unobtrusive Survey tools are a great choice.

For example, you can use Hotjar exit-intent Surveys to understand why visitors are exiting your site to address their issues and make future users more likely to convert.  

Use the following questions as starting points:

  • Quick Question: if you decided not to [action e.g. signup/buy] today what stopped you?

  • Quick Question: what's your biggest concern or hesitation about buying our product?

  • Quick Question: what's missing on this page?

#Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience
Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience

Inline or embedded forms

An inline form shows up as part of your actual content, similar to a contact form. Inline forms are a good option for engaging with users on specific pages. For example, you could place an embedded inline form on the page customers see once they’ve successfully completed checkout to get feedback on their purchase process.

Feedback widgets

Subtle feedback widgets that show up as side tabs or floating buttons are a great way to let users tell you their opinions or issues as they browse. With the Hotjar Feedback widget, users can rate their customer experience (CX), answer questions, and add screen captures of website elements they had problems with. 

For example, a Feedback widget on a product page might ask customers, 'How likely are you to buy this product?' with answer choices ranging from 'Very Likely' to 'Not Likely', and a follow-up question for users to explain what they liked or disliked about engaging with your site.

This type of feedback gives you valuable context on what users are thinking and feeling as they consider making a purchase, helping you quickly remove any blockers to conversion before they affect more customers.

#Hotjar’s Feedback widget is the quickest way is to get feedback from users
Hotjar’s Feedback widget is the quickest way is to get feedback from users

4. Identify barriers in your customer journey

Your customer journey is an important path that leads your prospective buyers toward conversion. 

A simple ecommerce sales funnel might look like:

Homepage > Product Page > Cart > Checkout

Identify specific barriers in your user's journey where you’re losing potential customers and focus your ecommerce funnel optimization on areas of friction. 

Use website analytics software like Google Analytics to identify which pages users are visiting, how long they’re spending on them, and where you’re losing potential customers. 

Then, use Hotjar to collect qualitative and quantitative data on customers’ experiences throughout the funnel, and use it to improve their path. For example, watch Session Recordings of customers who exit or bounce to see what happened on their journey. Maybe they’re rage clicking or u-turning because of a broken link or a bug—and a quick fix will decrease dropoffs. If they were clicking around in confusion and couldn't find what they were looking for on your site, you may want to optimize your site navigation and search features. 

You can also ask users directly what's blocking them using Feedback and Survey tools. Perhaps they’re losing interest on key pages because your copy and images aren’t conveying the value of your products—so refreshing your content could boost conversions.  

5. Understand how customers respond with A/B testing

Use A/B testing to try out different versions of a page or feature, and see which performs better in terms of conversion rate and user engagement. You can also ask users to give you feedback on test pages and check for website bugs through your A/B experiments. 

A/B testing is great for checking how real users respond to new page elements like headings, sales copy, and calls to action (CTAs), helping you understand which changes will bring your customers closer to conversion. 

For example, you can run an A/B test to compare headline options: split users into groups and show them a page with a 'New arrivals for the season' headline and another saying 'End of season sale – Up to 50% off'.

Then, check sales conversion rates for both groups across a certain timeframe. Once you’ve established which variation leads to stronger conversions, use Hotjar Recordings, Heatmaps, Surveys, and Feedback tools to get deeper, more granular insights from your A/B tests. Hotjar also integrates with A/B testing tools like Optimizely, Omniconvert, and Google Optimize.

6. Invest in high-quality product images

Product images help customers visualize what a product is like and how it could fit into their lives, making them more likely to convert. Compelling graphics are also a great way to capture users’ attention as they scroll through pages.

Users who search and shop on their smartphones at least once per week say product images are the feature they turn to most—using relevant, high-quality images is a key CRO strategy.

Make sure your product photos are high-quality, clear, and bright. Showing the product in use gives customers a better idea of what they're looking at and its value.

Think like your customers: what would they want to see before buying? What kind of presentation would catch their attention? For example, a shot of a coffee mug placed on a table with a laptop, books, and other items that suggest productivity and creative thinking might be more effective than a picture of the same mug against a plain white background.

7. Include compelling CTAs

A great CTA makes sure shoppers know what to do—and feel confident doing it. Your product pages should have a compelling CTA that clearly conveys the value of your product and encourages users to take action. 

Design the CTA button to draw users’ attention with a bright color or an eye-catching shape. Effective CTA design is about finding and testing the right combination of size, color, placement, and wording. 

CTAs are also an opportunity to add additional key messaging or paths to information users might need, like:

  • Special offers details 

  • Product trends information

  • A link to your delivery and returns policy

Your CTA placement can determine how effective it is at getting users to click. Place your CTA prominently on the page, above the fold where possible, and make sure it stands out from the rest of the page content.

But how do you test if your CTAs are getting the job done or getting lost on the page? Use tools like Hotjar Heatmaps to see whether users are clicking on your CTA or whether it’s being overlooked.

# A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most
A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most

3 common CRO mistakes ecommerce retailers make—and how to avoid them

Anticipating common pitfalls in ecommerce CRO can make a big difference to your conversion rates and overall sales. Make sure you're on the right track by avoiding these three mistakes:

1. Not having clear KPIs for your CRO project

Jumping into your CRO project without setting clear objectives, benchmarks, and KPIs sets you up to lose focus and team alignment. You won't have a way to measure the effects of the changes you're making, and it will be difficult to show the impact of your efforts to stakeholders and get more buy-in. 

To avoid this, set clear KPIs from the start, both for macro conversions (like the number of visitors who make a purchase) and micro conversions (smaller actions like a user watching a promotional video or adding an item to their cart or wishlist). Set clear targets for each, like a 5% increase in macro conversions over a six-month period.

2. Testing without a roadmap

If you run CRO tests without a clear plan, you risk getting inaccurate results. For example, if you don’t think about timing, you may end up running ecommerce tests during the holiday season, when page variations tend to show no difference from the control simply because people are already in a spending mood. 

Avoid this by creating a clear roadmap for your tests. This will help you plan ahead and track your experiment’s timelines and progress at every stage for more reliable results.

3. Changing too many design elements at once

Page changes, updates, and optimizations are important because they help you improve customers’ experience on your site. But too many changes can frustrate users—or confuse your tests.

For example, if you're testing two different designs and both have entirely different layouts, colors, and images, it can be hard to determine which design is performing better. In most cases, it's best to make small changes and test them one at a time. This way, you can isolate the change and see how it affects your conversion rate.

Unless you’re doing a complete rebranding, it’s a good idea to avoid sudden, dramatic design changes. Small, incremental changes are less likely to disrupt customer loyalty and brand recognition, helping you optimize your site without sacrificing your brand identity.

Raise conversions on your ecommerce site with user-centric CRO strategies

Conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process. As your business grows and changes, your CRO strategy should evolve. Continuously test and make small improvements to optimize your site to its full potential and turn more users into customers.

Understanding your users, identifying where—and why—they drop off, optimizing key checkout and product pages, and running high-quality experiments help you make informed product decisions that drive more conversions.

Ensure your ecommerce conversion strategy is meeting user needs

Use Hotjar to uncover valuable insights and make user-centric decisions to improve your website's conversions.

FAQS about CRO for ecommerce websites