In this article, we're exploring engagement rates, bounce rates, the distinctions between the two, and the underlying factors behind user bounces. Plus, we'll discuss some effective techniques we use to enhance engagement rates for our clients that you can implement in your e-commerce store. So, let's dive in!
How bounce rate and engagement rate are calculated
In its simplest form, bounce rate is the percentage of users that land on your store then leave without doing anything significant; they don’t visit any other pages, they don’t interact with the site in any meaningful way, and they certainly don’t buy anything.
The most common way of measuring bounce rate is through a web analytics tool like Google Analytics. Up until recently, Google Analytics defined a ‘bounce’ as a single-page session on your site. A ‘session’ is a period of time when a user interacts with the website. Bounce rate was calculated by taking the number of single-page sessions divided by the total number of sessions.
However, recently, Google Analytics updated to ‘GA4’, and with it, the definition of a ‘bounce’ and how it’s calculated.
With GA4, Google ushered in ‘engaged sessions.’ For a session to be considered engaged, it needs to meet at least one of the following criteria;
It lasts longer than 10 seconds
It has a conversion event
It has at least 2 page views or screen views.
Engaged sessions are used to calculate an ‘engagement rate’ - the percentage of sessions that met one of the criteria above and were therefore ‘engaged.’
Following the introduction of GA4, bounce rate is now defined as the opposite of Engagement Rate. For example, if you have 100 sessions on your site, and 60 of them were classed as engaged, and the other 40 were not, your engagement rate is 60%, and your bounce rate is 40%.
A good bounce rate can vary from merchant to merchant but around 35% - 45% is around the average for e-commerce sites – anything above 50% could be cause for concern.
In e-commerce, a bounce is almost always a consequence of a site not meeting a user’s needs or expectations, and that can be caused by a variety of common issues across the site – a higher bounce rate indicates greater issues with your site.
Common causes for high bounce rates
When you experience a high bounce rate there are typically three areas to consider: traffic (where the user came from), the landing page (where the user ends up when they first navigate to your site), and how fast the site loads.
If traffic is the reason behind your high bounce rate, it’s likely channels like Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. aren’t accurately describing what a user can expect from your site. You should review your meta titles and descriptions for these channels to ensure they’re clear and correct.
If it’s site speed, Apps can be a major culprit for dragging down the speed of a Shopify site – go through your installed apps and remove any that you don’t need. Next, check your images and videos; unoptimized content can harm your load times.
Finally, landing pages could be impacting bounce rate. There are a ton of ways to tackle landing page issues, which we’ll dive into deeper below.
Optimizing your website pages
It’s likely your homepage is your site's most popular landing page, so improving the experience there can be instrumental.
Product Education: Naturally, merchants are experts in the industry they sell in, but that can sometimes mean they overlook the complexities of their industry or product for new users buying their products for the first time. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to run some user testing to determine how easy it is for a new user with no knowledge of your product to find a product and purchase. A section in the navigation with links to essential information or a few well-designed, informative homepage sections can be all it takes to cut through the confusion and turn a bounce into a buy.
Navigation is an integral pathway for users to make their way around a store, find what they’re looking for, or discover new products – so it’s important to get right.
Keep your menu categories concise – 4 to 7 categories are the norm, any more than that, and it can quickly become complex and overwhelming.
Avoid being too concise – having a ‘Shop’ or ‘Products’ category in your navigation, with all your collections listed under that can be more complex. This structure provides users with no visual inspiration and generally makes things harder to find.
Be intentional – consider the order of your navigation categories. Typically, the first few and last few categories in the nav get the most interaction. You can test yours using a tool like Hotjar and reorder your most popular categories accordingly.
Consider adding images to your navigation, especially on mobile – pairing the name of the category with a product image helps draw users’ interest and provides inspiration.
For more, check out our full article on navigation bar design here.
Engaging Design & Content: Following the release of Shopify 2.0, merchants have more flexibility than ever around the placement of content-engaging sections. So, consider implementing sections on your home page or landing pages to showcase product imagery and craft engaging content.
Product Media: Images are the first thing users are going to look at when landing on the page, so investing in compelling, visually striking product shots can really boost engagement rate.
Adding videos also helps captivate users when they land on product pages, especially when set to autoplay and positioned in the first slot in the gallery. Videos are a great way to demonstrate how products work, move, and look.
Sections: Sections are a great way to keep customers engaged after they’ve scrolled past images and videos.Layering highly stylized sections can form a product page that showcases the craftsmanship of your products, informs the user about the features and keeps them interested.
Copy: Copy is important, it let’s customers know everything they need before making a purchase; if it’s an accessory, then the products it’s compatible with and its battery life will be key, for fashion brands, it’s sizing, fit, materials, and available colours.
Ensure that key information is obvious and visible on your product pages and that customers don’t need to scroll too far or dig around to find it. User testing is really useful here; asking new users to find a key piece of information or whether the page contains all the information they’d need to purchase can provide invaluable insights. Check out your competitors too and see what kind of information they display high up on their product pages.
Collections pages are typically some of the most common landing pages on an e-commerce store, so optimizations here can hugely reduce your bounce rate.
Break the grid: If you look at most collections pages, you’ll notice they are almost always a product grid. This is understandable as e-commerce brands typically stock a lot of products, and a grid is a great way to display that amount of information for easy browsing. Still, it’s not exactly the most visually engaging page on the site, and it can be hard to stand out here. That’s why we sometimes like to ‘break the grid.’
You can break up the monotony of a traditional grid by splicing a few larger images into your collections page grid (especially glossy lifestyle shots or videos).
Social proofing: According to TINT, 75% of consumers are likely to search for reviews and testimonials before making a purchase, so showcasing product review ratings on the product cards on collections pages can be a quick and easy way to immediately add credibility to your products and encourage click-throughs to your products.
While neither bounce rate nor engagement rate are concrete indicators of a commercially successful e-commerce store in their own right, that doesn’t mean they are metrics you can safely ignore. If you’re working hard to create brilliant products and spending money to drive traffic, it makes sense to ensure you’re showcasing them as effectively as possible.
Bounce rate and engagement rate are a couple of indicators you can use to assess that, and digging into the reasons behind a lack of engagement on various key pages on your site to fix them aligns your thinking with that of your users and helps develop a laser focus on their needs, which in the end is where real e-commerce success comes from.
Andrew joined We Make Websites in 2021. He joined with a strong background in both Project Management and Product Management, across a number of award-winning digital agencies. He's worked across a host of e-commerce platforms, from Magento 1 and 2, Shopware, BigCommerce and Shopify and has delivered a large number of successful projects for happy clients.
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