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Mastering metrics: micro-conversions vs. macro-conversions

Whether you sell perfume or pick-up trucks, your conversion rate—the percentage of your users who go on to do business with you—affects your bottom line. It’s crucial to understand how to measure your conversion metrics and what factors affect them, so you can learn how to drive that figure higher.

But obsessing over that one, pivotal conversion moment can keep you from understanding the big picture of how your admirers become customers. After all, when users land on an online store, smashing the ‘add-to-cart’ button is never their first move.

That’s why it’s so insightful to analyze the small steps that lead up to a business transaction—micro-conversions—as well as the transactions themselves—macro-conversions.

Last updated

31 Jan 2023

Reading time

6 min


Understanding your micro-conversions can help you romance customers into a macro-conversion—a sale, or the equivalent win for your line of business. This article explains the difference between micro-conversions and macro-conversions and shows you how to track both

Spot signs of customers about to macro-convert

Hotjar helps you understand your customers and identify the little moments that lead up to a sale—so you can optimize them.

What’s the difference between a macro-conversion and a micro-conversion? 

A macro-conversion is your primary business goal—the main action you’re driving customers to take. In ecommerce, a macro-conversion is usually a sale. However, depending on your business model, it could also be:

  • An event signup

  • A new community registration

  • A consultation booking

It’s the part where customers give you money (for example, if you run an online shop) or commit to using your service and paying you at some point in the future (if you run a consultancy firm, for example). 

Micro-conversions are the little wins for your company that show a user’s likely to make a macro-conversion eventually. Once a user completes a micro-conversion, it’s game on to nurture them into doing business with you. 

Here are some common metrics businesses often track as micro- and macro-conversions:

As you see from the above chart, it’s easy to spot a macro-conversion metric, since this is the action that visibly drives a business forward. However, there’s a much broader range of actions that can be considered micro-conversions—from users engaging with your business’ content to any step in the customer journey. 

To be more specific, there are two main types of micro-conversions: process-based and secondary actions.

The 2 types of micro-conversions

Process-based micro-conversions are small actions your customers make along the customer journey that show they actively intend to macro-convert. Think: clicking on your ads, adding products to cart, and entering shipping information. Other examples include:

  • Spending a long time on a product page 

  • Adding their card information 

  • Requesting more information about your service

Secondary actions are micro-conversions that show someone is engaging with your business in ways that aren’t direct steps on the path to conversion. For example, when a user starts following your business Instagram account, they’re not yet in the process of converting. However, that action shows they’ve got enthusiasm for your product, and might convert in the future. Other examples include:

  • Registering to receive your newsletter

  • Sharing one of your blog posts

#Mailing list signups are a ‘secondary-action’ micro-conversion that many businesses track. (Source: Izzymcfarlanedesign)
Mailing list signups are a ‘secondary-action’ micro-conversion that many businesses track. (Source: Izzymcfarlanedesign)

The micro-conversions you pay attention to will vary depending on your industry,  your product, and your customers’ behavior. To find which are most relevant to you, identify moments of user engagement that correlate to sales numbers (or your other macro-conversion metrics.)

For example, perhaps your data suggests that around 40% of your mailing list signups eventually buy a product. In that case, mailing list sign-ups would be a good micro-conversion to track. 

Why it’s important to track macro-conversions and micro-conversions 

Macro-conversions are one of the main metrics you should use to judge whether your business is attracting new customers at a healthy rate.

Tracking macro-conversions lets you:

Though micro-conversions don’t directly affect your bottom line, sweating the small stuff (in this case) helps you spot opportunities to grow your business.

Studying your micro-conversions is powerful because:

4 ways to monitor and improve your macro- and micro-conversions 

Here are the four steps to getting an overview of your conversion metrics, big and small:

1. Track quantitative data

Use a product analytics tool to track how many macro-conversions you’re getting and when. These hard numbers are also known as quantitative data. Depending on your line of business, there’s a good chance your platform has a basic analytics tool—for example, if you run an online store hosted by an ecommerce site like Shopify, Squarespace, or Wix—or host events through a provider like Eventbrite or Hopin. 

If the macro-conversion you’re tracking is sales, then set up Google Analytics (GA) to start gathering data about your customers’ purchases and average order value. The dashboard lets you compare your sales rates across different time periods, so you can spot trends.

#In Google Analytics, find your transaction data under Conversions > eCommerce.
In Google Analytics, find your transaction data under Conversions > eCommerce.

In terms of your micro-conversions, you’ll need to use several tracking tools. You can use a traditional website analytics software, like GA’s custom events tool, to measure the frequency of small actions users take on your website, including pdf downloads, how many times customers add a product to their wishlist, or the number of new registrations to a group. 

Micro-conversions based on engagement with your business’ content (i.e. a secondary action micro-conversion) are even easier to measure. To track new followers of your business’ social accounts, use a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. To track mailing list subscribers, use email marketing software like Mailchimp, Mailerlite, or Hubspot. 

2. Track qualitative data   

Quantitative data about how many conversions your customers completed is far more powerful when combined with qualitative data about their behavior during the action. Analyze your customers’ behavior whilst they’re micro- and macro-converting to spot any UX-related roadblocks, so you know what you need to do to optimize your conversion rate

To collect this data, use a product experience (PX) insights tool like Hotjar to set up events that record videos of users’ cursors as they complete a macro- or micro-conversion.

For example, perhaps your micro-conversion is when users add your product to cart. Watching playbacks of this happening, you might notice that users often spend a long time looking for shipping information. This would suggest that moving shipping information somewhere more obvious could boost your micro-conversion rate.

#Session recordings lets you watch customers on your website while they’re in the process of a micro-conversion.
Session recordings lets you watch customers on your website while they’re in the process of a micro-conversion.

Watch those macro-conversion moments

Hotjar records your users’ mouse movements at crucial moments, so you can learn how to increase conversions.

3. Map out your customer journey 

To truly wrap your head around how your micro and macro-conversions fit into your business’ daily operations, create a customer journey map (CJM)—a visual overview of all the different touchpoints customers have with your business before they make a purchase—like finding a product page, adding an item to cart, and entering their payment information.

This helps you identify process-based micro-conversions, understand how your micro-conversions eventually lead to macro-conversions, and spot which ones are likely to have the most direct impact on your bottom line

To create a customer journey map, first, use surveys to ask users how they heard about your business. Then, use a tool like Google Analytics to understand their navigation path to finding your site, and a PX insights tool like Hotjar’s Heatmaps to understand where users click on a page—like whether they spend time reading product information or investigating shipping information. 

#Hotjar’s Heatmaps help you understand which parts of your webpages your customers spend the most time looking at.
Hotjar’s Heatmaps help you understand which parts of your webpages your customers spend the most time looking at.

Once you understand all the touchpoints customers typically go through between hearing about your product and making a macro-conversion, put them down on paper or screen. Circulate this map around your team to create a shared understanding of how your users turn into customers. 

4. Report the data regularly

Your conversion data is most powerful when presented in a way you can understand at a glance. Commit to producing regular reports on your micro- and macro-conversion rates—weekly, biweekly, or monthly—especially if you’re gathering information from multiple platforms. 

Sharing conversion reports with the whole team promotes successful cross-functional collaboration, helping every department remain aware that their work fits into a wider strategy. Whether your teammates are sales representatives pitching to clients, product managers deciding which features to prioritize, or marketing assistants creating ad campaigns, transparent reports help them keep one eye on the metrics that matter.  

Take care of the micro-conversions, and the macro-conversions will take care of themselves 

Whatever line of business you’re in, success hinges on tracking your macro-conversions and trying to increase them. But so often, the key to increasing your macro-conversions is to think small and start paying close attention to your micro-conversions.

Use product experience insights to study the little actions leading up to a business transaction—when customers enter their shipping details, sign up to your mailing list, or hit add to cart—and you’ll learn how to entice more users to take them, so they complete those larger, more valuable actions you really care about—whether that’s purchases, registrations, or a different business win. 

FAQs about macro- and micro-conversions