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5 reasons your eCommerce website has a high bounce rate – and what to do about it

By Tom Jenkins, Solutions Specialist at JH

Seeing your website’s bounce rate rise can be a soul-destroying feeling – it might feel like all that hard work you’ve done to bring new customers to your eCommerce store is wasted. However – all is not lost! There are ways to find out what’s causing customers to leave your site – and once you find the root cause of the issue, there’s plenty you can do to fix it.

What is the average bounce rate in eCommerce?

Across all eCommerce industries, the average bounce rate in 2020 was 47%. The average varies across devices too – the average bounce rate is 43% on desktop, 51% on mobile, and 45% on tablet.

The numbers vary too depending on the kinds of products you sell – how does your bounce rate compare to the averages below?

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So, now you should know how close the bounce rate for your eCommerce site is to the average for your industry. If yours is above average – or even slightly below – there’s always room for improvement to get two steps ahead.

Read on for the 5 most common causes we see in eCommerce, and our advice for what action to take to bring that bounce rate back down.

1. Something isn’t working correctly

While a high bounce rate can be a good indicator of a wider issue, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything on it’s own. Getting to the root cause of the issue is all about analysing the data behind it.

Everything is always about context – many merchants don’t look deeper than the surface level numbers. Knowing you have a high bounce rate on it’s own isn’t helpful – it’s more important to look at the data behind it, like average site session duration, number of pages viewed, and goal conversion rates to locate the root cause of the issue and solve any blockers for your customers.

Single page issue

Since bounce rate is based on a site-wide average, it could be a single issue on a single page that’s skewing yours. Time to dig into Google Analytics and analyse the traffic – is it your product pages, your homepage, your blog content that is the problem? Once you’ve figured that out, it’s just a case of finding the cause – is a feature or button broken, is there key information missing, is the page out of date, is the product out of stock? 

Unengaging product pages

It could be a little more abstract than an obviously broken button, though – for example, how interesting are your product pages? Can a customer landing there – that came, say, from organic search – easily access information on shipping options, payment methods, or detailed product information? Not everyone will land on the homepage (in fact, as an eCommerce site matures, less and less do), and as you work on SEO for the whole of your site, thinking about the user’s experience is key to converting new customers.

Poorly targeted PPC

Looking at the source of the traffic can be helpful too – bounce rate from ads tend to be a lot higher as it’s the customer’s first visit, but organic search tends to have a lower bounce rate. What referral source is your high bounce rate attributed to? Even if it is your PPC ads causing the bounce rate to soar, there are steps you can take to mitigate this. Do you have specific landing pages for your traffic from ads to properly introduce your customers to your brand and products? Using custom landing pages for specific campaigns or ads can increase your conversion rate (and decrease your bounce rate) with more of the information a new customer would need to make a purchase decision.

2. Your site is slow to load

Websites with performance issues create frustration for users, and in eCommerce, that’s only exacerbated. Studies from Google have found that rising customer expectations, as well as increased usage of smartphone devices for shopping are amplifying the need for speed across mobile and desktop. Research shows that if an eCommerce site takes 5 seconds to load, 38% of users have bounced by then. By 10 seconds, it’s jumped to 65%. If your site has issues with page load speed, the length of time before a user can interact with it, or elements shift around the page too much, then one or all of these could be causing your high bounce rate; and it’s not just bounce rate that poor performance could be affecting.

The good news is – it might not take a complete site rebuild to fix the issue. There’s plenty of low-cost alternatives that could make a difference: from properly sizing images and removing unused features to bundling Javascript and lazy loading. For merchants who have already implemented those fixes – or have particularly complex user journeys – there’s the option of switching to a PWA build for a super-fast eCommerce site. For more on optimising your site’s performance, check out this in-depth rundown we posted of the top 10 things you can do to improve your site speed.

And remember – it’s not all about the homepage here. Customers could easily land on your product and category pages too, if your marketing team have done their job correctly – so ensuring those pages are just as fast is worth your time and investment too.

3. Customers can’t find what they want

If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for on your eCommerce site, they won’t keep looking for it indefinitely – they’ll assume it isn’t available, and dip out to head for a competitor’s site. Not necessarily a problem if you didn’t have what they were looking for – but what if you did? Your site’s design, copy, and navigation should all be working together to signal to potential customers what your business is all about – helping them find what they need, quickly.

Of course your site navigation is key to this – an easy to use, well-organised site menu will work wonders to both summarise your brand’s offering to new users, and help them get to where they want to go. But it’s not the end of the story…

We find that especially for companies with larger catalogues, search is a key part of their customer journey – up to 30% of eCommerce site visitors will use internal site search, and not only that, but those that do are 2-3x more likely to convert into customers. The reason for this is pretty simple – for a customer who knows what they want, it’s easier to find particular products or ranges through the search rather than using navigation – especially with a retailer who has a huge product catalogue. Ensuring your site search works correctly, regularly checking it returns relevant results, and even upgrading to an AI-based system like Live Search from Adobe could be an investment that directly increases your conversion rate, while making the purchase process smoother for your customers.

4. Your UX is bad, or just plain annoying

Few things will make users dip out of a page faster than immediately being bombarded with pop-up surveys, email subscribe buttons, and chat boxes – and the problem can be even worse on mobile devices, especially if coupled with menu layout issues, or difficulty finding commonly used features like the search box.

We regularly work on UX improvement projects for our clients – often these can involve in-depth research into the user journey, but smaller projects might consist of making little design tweaks to improve mobile experiences. It’s important to be proactive and think about outside influences too; for example, how the upcoming iOS 15 update might cause serious design issues for your eCommerce site.

5. The purchase journey isn’t mobile-friendly

We’re in a world where people do a lot of browsing and research before they purchase. A customer might be coming back to your site 4 or more times before purchasing – often via mobile or a tablet – and early UX issues could seriously dent your brand image, ultimately ending that purchase journey for them.

It’s not just your homepage or product page that matter here – how is the mobile purchase experience for your customers from ads? Are mobile payment options offered? Picture this: your ideal customer is sat on their sofa, watching their favourite show, phone in hand, scrolling through Instagram in a TV ad break. They come across your ad and it interests them – they’ve clicked through to your site, and spotted a product they want. They’ve gotten all the way through to the checkout… but alas! You don’t offer Paypal, or Apple Pay, or Klarna, any of the other mobile wallet payment options they prefer to use. Instead of checking out and paying with a tap of their thumb, your new potential customer now has to go off upstairs and find their wallet, type in all their card numbers and fill in all their information. They might even have to go through multiple checkout pages filling in shipping and billing information – information they could have passed over to you simply by logging into a service like Paypal. Maybe they do all that – or maybe their show’s starting again, or they can’t be bothered, or they start to think twice about the purchase – “do I really need this?” And either they decide not to buy from you at all, or they drop out of the purchase journey leaving you to try and coax them back later with further ad spend.

Adding payment and checkout options that make the journey faster and easier for customers skyrocket conversion rates. Millennials and Gen Z are heavy users of Klarna and other BNPL systems, making up 75% of the user base, and transactions via mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay are expected to double in the next 5 years – if you don’t offer these services, customers will go somewhere that does. There’s always a competitor out there who can offer the same (or similar) product – and price isn’t always the main reason people will make a decision. It’s about convenience – payment options, delivery, and reviews all play into that purchase decision alongside price.

Which of these do you think would make the most difference to your bounce rate?

When you’re busy with the day-to-day, it can be difficult to spot where your current strategy might be going wrong. If you need support uncovering areas for improvement, or building a roadmap for future UX projects, get in touch with us – with over 10 years of experience supporting eCommerce businesses with their UX strategies, our team can help you with everything from research and recommendations to a full eCommerce build project. Drop us a line at thrive@wearejh.com or call +44(0)115 7940060.