Learn / Guides / Ecommerce guide
How to use session recordings to increase ecommerce sales and improve UX
Rows and rows of analytics data will never tell you exactly what’s happening as customers browse through your ecommerce store. But session recordings let you watch how visitors interact with every page, giving you valuable insights to improve user experience (UX) and convert more visitors into happy customers.
Last updated6 Jan 2023
In this guide, we take you through six actionable ways to use session recordings to improve your ecommerce store. We show you how to:
Start collecting session recordings on your ecommerce store 🔥
Sign up for a free Hotjar trial and see why shoppers convert—or bounce.
What is an ecommerce session recording?
An ecommerce session recording (aka user recording or session replay) is a recreation of real visitor behavior and user interactions—mouse movement, taps, scrolls, clicks, and typing—across your store’s website.
💡Pro tip: using session recording tools doesn’t have to mean sacrificing user privacy. If you’re using Hotjar, sensitive keystroke data (like credit card details or phone numbers) is not collected or stored on any servers by default. Instead, you’ll see asterisks in the place of numbers, making it easy to comply with the GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, and other privacy regulations.
Why use session recordings on your ecommerce store
Ecommerce session recordings grant you behind-the-scenes access to the full customer journey, giving you data-backed insight to:
Build empathy for your customers
Watching customers struggle to use your website helps you put yourself in their shoes and come up with creative solutions to improve user experience.
Increase ecommerce conversions
By seeing how real users interact with your site, you’ll spot areas to troubleshoot and fix; you’ll also get ideas for improvements and A/B tests that could lead to increased conversions.
Get automated insights without technical knowledge
Not all recordings are going to be equally useful, but the right session replay tool can help you skip straight to the most impactful replays.
Recordings are also tagged with a frustration and engagement score, which make it easy to find user sessions where shoppers experienced issues that need fixing (high frustration) or examples of what’s working well (high engagement).
6 ways to use session recordings to grow your ecommerce store
If you’re not sure how to use session recordings to optimize your ecommerce store, here are six ideas to get you started.
1. Find usability issues that frustrate potential customers
Visitor recordings help you find the hidden bugs and places where potential customers get confused or encounter something that doesn’t work as it should. By removing annoying barriers, you can simultaneously improve user experience and increase conversions.
For example, agency Ecommerce Warriors used Hotjar Recordings on fashion ecommerce brand Red Dress Boutique (you may remember them from Shark Tank! 🦈). The team saw that shoppers repeatedly rage-clicked 'Add to bag' on certain products because they didn’t realize a size needed to be selected to continue.
The team A/B tested tweaks to the size selector element and messaging to make its functionality clearer. Problem solved!
If you’re using Hotjar, filter Recordings by rage click (Add filter > Rage click > occurred, then click 'Apply') or sort by frustration level to get straight to session recordings that show users having problems with your store.
2. See why visitors aren’t converting
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) helps you increase the percentage of visitors who become customers on your ecommerce website. Instead of following generic best practices that might not work for your website and customers, use session recordings to see exactly what needs to be changed to improve conversion rates.
For example, promotional products store Totally Promotional used Hotjar Recordings to find out why a new line of custom pens wasn't selling well. The team saw that visitors did not appear to understand the order process and often exited without making a purchase.
After sharing the insight with the design team, they made changes to the order form and added information to clear up any possible confusion—leading to a 300% increase in pen purchases.
3. Understand the behavior behind analytics reports
Traditional web analytics tools, like Google Analytics (GA) or Shopify Analytics, make it easy to track what happens on your store: how much traffic each page gets or how many sales you make in a month. But session recordings show you the real, qualitative user behavior behind the numbers.
The problem is that Google Analytics on its own isn’t enough. It tells me that 100 people have visited a page, whereas Hotjar shows how one specific person engages on a specific part of the page—that’s invaluable!
For example, Gogoprint, an online print shop, used Hotjar Recordings to understand why a product page wasn’t converting. Google Analytics showed the big-picture issue—a page with a high bounce rate—but only session recordings revealed the culprit: the pricing table. The team used this information to split-test new layouts, and the winning design decreased bounce rate by 7% while increasing conversions by 2%.
💡Pro tip: if you’re using GA4, bounce rate is now measured as the percentage of visitor sessions that are not ‘engaged’, i.e. sessions that lasted less than 10 seconds, logged no conversion events, and where users only viewed one page.
To view a list of your store’s web pages by bounce rate in GA4, go to Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens. Click the Customize report pencil icon in the top right. In the REPORT DATA sidebar, click Metrics > Add Metric, select 'Bounce rate', then click Apply.
4. Optimize the checkout experience
The checkout process, where people input their payment and shipping details, is the final conversion barrier stopping website visitors from becoming customers. Session recordings help you reduce checkout abandonment—and therefore increase conversions and sales—by showing you exactly what stops people from getting to the end of the process.
For example, Materials Market, a construction supply ecommerce store, used Hotjar Recordings to help reduce checkout abandonment. The team could see visitors were bouncing while being forced to set up an account and add their information over multiple pages.
To solve the problem, they reduced the number of checkout steps, collected all details in one pop-up modal (helping reduce cognitive load), and changed the checkout button text from 'Sign up' to 'Secure Checkout' to put users at ease.
The result: checkout abandonment decreased dramatically, from 25% to 4%.
5. Home in on your most valuable segments
If you’re troubleshooting a specific issue, or trying to do more of what works, session replays can be filtered to only show you data from the segments that matter most to your ecommerce store.
For example, CRO agency eShopWorld used Hotjar Recordings alongside Google Analytics to assess conversion fluctuations. GA showed the team which customer segments were affected (e.g. customers from certain countries or those using certain browsers or mobile devices).
Filtered Hotjar Recordings showed how shoppers in each segment behaved—where they did or didn’t click, and where the point of friction was. The team was able to quickly find improvements because they were focused solely on the segment that mattered.
6. Make sure your store is mobile friendly
If you get traffic to your landing pages from mobile devices, mobile or tablet session recordings help you understand how non-desktop visitors experience your store, which in turn allows you to spot issues and learn ways to improve mobile conversion rate.
In Hotjar, mobile recordings are almost the same as desktop ones: you’ll see screen taps, scrolling, and keyboard inputs. Go to Add filter > Device > phone to filter by mobile users. You can add additional filters like rage clicks or u-turns (same as with desktop recordings) to find areas for improvement. And remember to review mobile session recordings to see if key CTAs are getting noticed, as they will appear further down the page than on desktop.
It’s time for a Hotjar Watch Party!
Now that you know exactly how to use session recordings to grow your ecommerce store, it’s time to grab a snack (try pizza 🍕like the Spotahome team or a breakfast smoothie 🥤like Andrew from Materials Market) and start your Hotjar Watch Party!
When you’re ready to take your ecommerce insights to the next next level, combine recordings and heatmaps (what customers do) with surveys, feedback, and user interviews (what customers think and feel) to get the complete picture of what happens on your website so you can make it work better for customers and your business.
See your ecommerce store through your shoppers’ eyes 👀
And use these insights to provide an experience no competitor can beat.