Jul 18 2012

Exploring the Benefits of eCommerce Usability Tracking Tools

eCommerce Usability Tracking ToolsAt Blue Acorn, we like to draw a distinction between websites and eCommerce sites because they serve distinctly different purposes. When it comes to eCommerce sites, their usability – the ability for visitors to easily find what they are looking for – cannot be overstated. Anything on an eCommerce site that hinders a visitor from converting to a customer is considered a point of friction. Whether it be a checkout process that is unnecessarily long or an “Add to Cart” button that is too hard to find, more friction equals fewer conversions, so we find it extremely helpful to be familiar with the tools available that help identify friction.

Usability tracking tools are available to help you find areas on your site that might need improvement or cause friction. Tracking can be used for either eCommerce behavior studies or usability testing with specific tasks set for each test participant. Both studies provide the end user with the ability to analyze a number of different metrics. This article will focus on three tool types – eye movement, mouse movement, and mouse clicks – in order to determine which is the most useful and cost effective for decreasing friction. But first, we must understand how each element relates to eCommerce.

Eye Movement

These days, there are a number of tools available to track your visitors’ eye movements as they move through your site. In the past, study participants had to wear glasses that physically tracked their eye movements. Today, eye tracking can be achieved using a visitor’s webcam. Not only does this method allow for less intrusive data collection, but it also reduces the cost of data collection. Such advances have been made for good reason. Scientific research has linked various types of eye movements with different types of brain function, and most studies track two different types of eye movement: saccades and fixations.

Eye Tracking Ad Before and After

Saccades are quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction, moving from one eye fixation to another1, and they are associated with the suppression of vision and information processing. This means that during saccadic movements, site visitors are not thinking about what they are focused on instead they are simply collecting information.

Another type of eye movement which is often measured is fixation. Fixations occur in between saccadic eye movements – when the eye literally fixates on something – and are the moments when cognitive processing is taking place. This means that during fixation, users are thinking about what they are focused on, important information for eCommerce sites. Are users fixating on a point because they are going forward in a conversion funnel, or are they having a difficult time completing a conversion task?

Using this knowledge (and extensive algorithms), this tools is able to provide detailed information about the visual path visitors use to find what they are looking for on your site and what type of brain function is occurring along the way. This information may or may not be combined with other data collection tools (click tracking, mouse tracking, user surveys, etc.), and such combinations may provide more robust conclusions. More information on eye movements can be found here.

Eye Movement Tracking Options:

Mouse Movement

Mouse movement data collection is exactly what is sounds like, and it is relied on by some as a more affordable data collection tool than eye movement thanks to the thought process that your mouse will move to where your eyes lead it. However, more recently published research indicates conflicting views on whether or not mouse movements directly correlate with eye movements. Despite the possible disconnect between eye movements and mouse movements, tracking your visitors’ mouse movements can still be a very useful usability tool.

Tracking mouse movements is much simpler than tracking eye movement and only requires a javascript to be inserted into your site code. Once data begins aggregating, you will be able to view a heatmap of mouse movements on a page. The heatmap will allow you a view into the mind of your visitors as far as where they are pointing their mouse when visiting your site. Although this may seem like a less than valuable metric, think about how you behave when browsing. Do you just look at a site and then click a link, or do you use your mouse to help view a page? Most people use their mouse to browse a page, and therefore, mouse movements will tell you which areas of your page visitors are fixating on the most and which ones they are fixating on the least.

Mouse Movement Tracking Options:

Mouse Clicks

Measuring mouse clicks is an excellent way to determine which site links are receiving clicks. Like mouse movement tracking, mouse click tracking is not intrusive and only requires inserting a javascript into your site code, and the information it produces can be very useful. For example, let’s say you want visitors to click a specific link, but your mouse click tracking report shows they are clicking on a different link. Such information lets you know that you need to make the link you want visitors to click more appealing than the link they are clicking. Measuring mouse clicks also gives you a direct insight into what visitors are looking for on your site by knowing what they clicked. Pairing this click information with keyword reports can give you huge insight into what visitors are looking for on your site and whether they can find it. For example, if the keyword “blue” is driving a large segment of traffic to your site, but nobody clicks on the blue link because it is hidden below the fold, you may want to consider changing your layout.

Mouse Click Tracking for eCommerce

Mouse Click Tracking Options:

Why These Metrics Do Not Fully Correlate

When trying to decide which tracking tool is appropriate for your site, it might be tempting to think that because there can be a direct correlation in the data collected from each type of tracking, you only need to use one tool. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although eye movement and mouse movement tools have been grouped together as equivalent, further research data has become available, which indicates that these two data sets may not be completely correlative. Some studies2 find a correlation between the two, while others3 do not. It should be noted that most eye tracking and mouse movement studies investigate search result pages and not eCommerce sites. So if you’re interesting in learning more about your own site using clicks or mouse movement analysis, do not assume your results will correlate with eye movement.

Which Tool is Most Useful for an eCommerce Site

When trying to determine which tool you should use for your eCommerce site, you should consider what it is that you are trying to learn and what is your budget. Eye tracking – when combined with mouse movement – is very useful for website usability studies. Comparatively, mouse clicks and mouse movement – when combined with keyword analysis – can give provide huge insight into why visitors came to your site and if they could find what they were looking for.

Typically, mouse movement and click tracking will give you the most information for the money. Mouse click data is – in my opinion – the most important tool for an eCommerce site, and such studies are usually bundled with mouse movement tracking services. Together, they provide very actionable insight into what site visitors are doing while visiting your site. Eye tracking can also provide significant data, and it can be extremely useful when working towards optimizing an eCommerce page or funnel, giving feedback on whether or not site visitors can easily complete conversions.

Reducing the friction and increasing the usability of your eCommerce site is very important, but it might not be your top priority. If that’s the case, please feel free to contact Blue Acorn to see if it would make more sense for us to handle this task for you.

Blue Acorn


Jul 31 2012

Great recommendations for tools – While Google Analytics is a great tool on it’s on it doesn’t hurt to try other tools and then compare the findings!

Jul 14 2015

Great article! Very helpfull information, thanks!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *