Learn / Guides / Ecommerce guide

Back to guides

4 types of ecommerce conversions and how to optimize them

In ecommerce, the word ‘conversion’ has become synonymous with ‘sale.’ But ecommerce conversions are so much more than that. They’re the footprints shoppers leave on the path to a purchase.

Last updated

8 Feb 2023

Reading time

8 min


The customer journey is often complex, with shoppers jumping from search engine to blog, and from product page to cart. And at each point in the journey, a less-than-ideal user experience (UX) can cause them to bounce.

Expanding your definition of conversion to include the smaller wins along the way—those moments when the user takes the next action toward purchase—lets you find more ways to reduce friction and optimize your site

This guide explores four types of ecommerce conversions, why they matter, and ways to optimize each, so you can see purchase rates and customer satisfaction soar.

Increase ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Use Hotjar’s product experience insights to help you improve the user experience and boost conversions

What is an ecommerce conversion?

An ecommerce conversion is an event when a shopper takes a desired action on your site. 

Ecommerce conversions fall into two broad categories: micro-conversions are small wins when a potential customer takes any step in the right direction, like signing up for an email list, and macro-conversions are the end goal, typically a purchase.

No matter what types of conversions you’re tracking, you use the same formula to calculate them: divide the number of conversions by the total number of visitors, and then multiply this figure by 100. 

For example, if your website had 22 email sign-ups and 300 visitors last month, your subscriber conversion rate would be (22 ÷ 300) x 100 = 7.3%. 

4 ecommerce conversions (and tips to improve them)

When it comes to the customer journey, the shortest route to a purchase is usually the best. It presents the least friction and the fewest opportunities for the buyer to veer off course. 

But often, the buyer takes a more circuitous journey as they price compare, consider alternative options, or build trust in the brand. 

But how do you know if your customer is still on the purchasing path at all? You track and optimize conversion rates along the way.

Here we’ll dive deep into four types of ecommerce conversions and actionable tips to improve yours today:

1. Completing checkout

Ahh, that moment when a customer commits to completing the transaction. 

For an ecommerce store, building customer relationships and loyalty is amazing, but you need people to complete their purchases to drive revenue. 

According to research by Baymard Institute, visitors abandon 69.99% of all ecommerce carts. So how can you drive purchase rates up

It all starts with a cart design that makes customers happy. While golf apparel retailer Bad Birdie’s cart design looks clear and uncluttered, it still features all the elements a shopper might need for a smooth cart experience.

#Bad Birdie’s shopping cart design anticipates concerns shoppers might have.
Bad Birdie’s shopping cart design anticipates concerns shoppers might have.

3 cart design tips to encourage shoppers to ‘complete checkout’

By reducing friction and removing potential roadblocks, you, too, can keep shoppers on the path to purchase and avoid racking up another tragic abandoned cart. Here’s how to emulate Bad Birdie’s amazing cart design:

  • Provide different payment options: today’s customers typically have a go-to payment method. If they don’t see it, they might bounce. Bad Birdie includes buttons for three common digital wallet options, so customers know they have a payment shortcut even before they start to check out. 

  • Include a help icon: Bad Birdie shoppers with last-minute hesitations can click on the help icon in the lower-right corner. Here, a menu pops open with two tabs: one for self-service FAQs and one for accessing a chatbot. 

  • Provide product recommendations: for customers trying to get over the magical free shipping threshold before checking out, Bad Birdie offers similar bestsellers they might like. 

💡Pro tip: put a Hotjar Feedback widget on your checkout page to gather customer insights on specific user interface (UI) elements that might affect their experience or disrupt the flow.

For example, when eShopWorld, an enterprise commerce solution for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, notices a dip in conversions, they always check feedback from these widgets first. Then, based on the trends they see, they create a plan to gather more information and make tweaks to their site.

Noelle Smith, eShopWorld’s conversion analyst, says, “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.”

Feedback widgets are a quick way to get input from customers, who can even provide their reaction to specific UI elements.

2. Adding products to cart

Add to cart is a key conversion metric to track in ecommerce. Just like in a brick-and-mortar store, an online shopper needs to add an item to their cart before they check out.

Not all visitors to your website will be in a position to complete the purchase at that moment in time, so tracking events such as add to cart is critical to gauge which products are driving the most consideration among users.

Milo McMahon
Founder and Lead Strategist, Outdoor eCommerce

According to research by Kibo Commerce, the average add-to-cart rate is 11% in the US. That means that for every 100 site visitors, approximately 11 will add an item to their cart. 

If your rate is lower than this benchmark, it’s time to look at ways to increase add-to-cart conversions—and the best way to do that is to optimize your product pages.

#A product page at Maisonette encourages shoppers to add to cart—or in this case, ‘add to bag.’
A product page at Maisonette encourages shoppers to add to cart—or in this case, ‘add to bag.’

3 tips for product pages that increase ‘add-to-cart’ conversions

Online children’s clothing and toy boutique Maisonette optimized its product pages to increase conversions and eliminate shoppers’ doubts. Here are three ways you can emulate their above-the-fold product page real estate to compel visitors to convert: 

  • Use crystal-clear, high-quality photography: Maisonette’s front-cover photo shows the toy in detail with a clear, white background. To see alternative views, including the toy in use, customers can scroll through a carousel of images.

  • Create urgency and desirability: above the product title in stand-out red font, Maisonette includes the labels ‘selling fast’ and ‘most wished.’ The first label creates a sense of urgency and fear of missing out (FOMO): the item may sell out soon. The second label creates an element of social proof without actual product ratings: if other people want this item, I should, too.

  • Include a detailed description: although the toy on Maisonette’s site stands a mere 10 inches tall, the company includes a two-paragraph product description. Not all shoppers will read the entire description, but some details could nudge an undecided shopper to ‘add to bag.’ When possible, aim for product descriptions in the 200-500 word range to improve your online store’s SEO.

💡Pro tip: create a problem-solving protocol for your ecommerce shop. This four-step process works well for optimizing add-to-cart conversions—or any conversion metrics.

Step 1: use a traditional web analytics tool like Google Analytics to monitor add-to-cart conversions. If you see a drop, it’s time to investigate. 

Step 2: look for trends in aggregate behavior patterns, like scroll depth or clicks, on your product pages using Hotjar Heatmaps

Step 3: follow up with recordings to identify confusing user interface elements on product pages. When you watch a recording, you see how users scroll, click, and shop. You’ll know when a user has trouble clicking through the photo carousel or gets frustrated when they miss ‘add to cart’ prerequisites (like size or quantity). 

Step 4: create a hypothesis and test improvements on your site, checking Google Analytics to see if add-to-cart rates rise.

Hotjar's Recordings tool lets you identify UI elements causing friction for your shoppers and preventing them from adding items to their cart.

3. Searching the site

Sometimes shoppers head straight to a product page from their search engine. Other times, they turn to your ecommerce site’s search bar to find items of interest. 

Although it may not seem like an obvious ‘win,’ a site search is a micro-conversion that could end in a purchase. Shoppers who use an internal search function often know what they want to buy; they just need to find it. These shoppers typically convert at higher rates than non-searchers, so it makes sense to optimize your search bar for them.

#On the Bath & Body Works site, a banner with popular items and commonly searched items drops down when a user accesses the search bar.
On the Bath & Body Works site, a banner with popular items and commonly searched items drops down when a user accesses the search bar.

3 ways to optimize your online store’s internal search

By tracking internal site searches with web analytics tools, you learn insights like how long shoppers stayed on your website after a search and the most-searched terms on your site. For example, if you discover that 'red sweatshirt' is far and away the term shoppers search for the most, you may want to list your most popular one as a featured item on your homepage.

But how do you encourage users to use the internal site search and increase this ecommerce conversion metric?

  • Make sure your search bar is visible: users won’t use the search bar if they can’t find it in the first place. On desktop ecommerce sites, most users expect it on the upper middle or upper left; on mobile, users look for a magnifying glass icon to tap. No matter what device they’re on, users should see the search bar on all pages—home, category, and product pages.

  • Provide ideas of popular searches: search engines powered by artificial intelligence (AI) show customers the most popular searches, like in the Bath & Body Works example above. This saves users time and improves their overall experience on your site. 

  • Test your search bar: the best way to see how your ecommerce site’s search function works is to test it. Use Hotjar Recordings to check the placement of your search bar and see how store visitors use it. If you notice sweeping cursor movements that indicate confusion and rage clicks that show frustration, you’ll know you need to improve the UX.

If a website visitor struggles to locate something on your website, the natural thing for them to do is to type it into your website’s internal search bar. It’s a great idea to analyze this data on a regular basis to get inspiration for products you may wish to add to your product line in the future, and understand which items users search for most commonly, so that you can make them more easily accessible via your navigation menu.

Milo McMahon
Founder and Lead Strategist, Outdoor eCommerce

4. Signing up for emails

Almost every ecommerce store has an email list—or should. Why? Because an email list lets you nurture customers, build relationships with them, and inform them about new offers. Ultimately, email marketing helps you increase your customer lifetime value (CLV).

But it’s no small feat to get shoppers to relinquish their email address to yet another company that wants to wedge its way into their already full inbox.

To improve your email opt-in conversions, you need to know your customers and consider what they’d like in exchange for their email addresses.

#Edens Gardens, an essentials oil ecommerce store, asks for shoppers’ email addresses using enticing marketing strategies.
Edens Gardens, an essentials oil ecommerce store, asks for shoppers’ email addresses using enticing marketing strategies.

4 tips to increase email sign-ups

Let’s take a look at how Eden Gardens encourages users to sign up for its newsletter and how your business can emulate them:

  • Appeal to your customers’ values: aromatherapy shop Edens Gardens knows its shoppers value a healthy lifestyle, so they describe their newsletter as  ‘rooted in wellness.’ 

  • Provide a discount: today’s savvy shoppers appreciate a free shipping code or a savings offer. Edens Gardens includes a ‘sign up & save’ button that triggers a 20% off coupon code for an essential oil sampler set. 

  • Start a loyalty program: your brand’s biggest fans might look for a path to continued savings. Here, Edens Gardens includes a ‘join free’ call-to-action (CTA) button for its loyalty program—which also requires an email address.

  • Focus on your CTAs: the design, placement, and copy of your CTA buttons all affect email sign-ups. Use a high-contrast button with carefully selected power words like ‘free’ or save,’ and place your email sign-up CTAs in multiple spots. Then, check Hotjar Heatmaps. If users aren’t scrolling all the way to the CTA or seem to miss the button, make changes to improve the UI.

💡Pro tip: avoid using email capture pop-ups right at page load. At this point, visitors haven’t had a chance to engage with your website and offers, so conversions may be lower.

“We recommend using a tool like Hotjar to analyze your website visitors’ average session duration, and trigger your popup to show about 50% of the way through the average session. This helps you capture more emails from users who are more likely to come back and complete a purchase when the time is right,” says Milo McMahon, Founder and Lead Strategist of Outdoor eCommerce.

The Hotjar Dashboard displays key metrics like average session duration.

Understand user behavior to improve ecommerce conversions

Optimizing each step in the customer journey is essential to create a positive customer experience (CX) and improve the success of your store. 

By tracking various types of ecommerce conversions—and exploring your users’ behavior around them—you shape the buying experience and see positive changes in customer satisfaction rates and sales.

Increase ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Use Hotjar’s product experience insights to help you improve the user experience and boost conversions

FAQs about ecommerce conversions