5 Ways Top Digital Teams Use Heatmaps to Unlock New Insights into User Experience

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
September 30, 2020

The difference between creating average digital experiences on your website or app and industry-leading experiences often boils down to increasing one key thing: visibility into how customers behave and feel.

While traditional web analytics solutions offer a great starting point to discover the ‘what’ behind user behavior, they’re not designed to pinpoint the ‘why’ behind user experience (UX) issues. In fact, 42% of professionals say their analytics systems just don’t meet current needs, which is why top digital teams rely on other resources.

So, what exactly do top industry-leading teams do differently to augment their limited user data?

Collaborating with conversion expert Jay Baer, the founder of Convince & Convert, we spoke to analytics experts from 8 top brands about their approach to optimizing user experiences. One key theme that came up in our discussion was the use of investigate tools like website heatmaps to shed new light on how users behave on websites and apps.

As Sharon Flynn, Senior Manager for Digital Analytics at Bank of Montreal, indicates: they have “Adobe Analytics deployed on every single digital touch point” while using Decibel’s heatmaps as a “diagnostic solution to immediately evaluate datasets.”

With aggregate user behaviors visualized on any webpage of your choice, heatmaps unlock insights behind your most popular metrics like conversion, abandonment, engagement, and plenty of others.

To perfect user experiences like a top industry-leading digital team, we’ve nailed down five ways you can use heatmaps to generate new insights from your traditional web analytics data.

1. Prioritize high traffic pages when investigating user experiences

It’s only logical to prioritize improving user experiences where it’ll most make a difference, right?

Tony Lloyd, VP Digital Customer Experience at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, notes: “I think you start embracing things like customer journey, and it’s not just macro anymore. There are these micro journeys that really define the overall user experience, so we evangelize it from a brand and digital perspective.”

As Tony implies, nowadays you simply can’t afford to neglect those micro journeys. To put theory into practice, focus on investigating website or app pages with the highest user traffic, as well as those closely tied to your key business goals whether it’s engagement, retention, or something different.

However it shakes out for you, with a wide range of heatmap types – including click/dot, hover, scroll, behavior, and attribution maps – you can dive into how experiences on certain pages affect user journeys and impact the overall success of your website or app.

2. Pinpoint user frustration hotspots with behavior heatmaps

Ever wonder what’s causing spikes in abandonment? Too often it’s due to user frustration, as 70% of customers abandon purchases because of bad user experiences.

Rachel Bader, Digital Product Manager Chipotle assures that you need to “identify and eliminate potential points of friction, so customers have a seamless experience and can quickly navigate our site to place an order.” But how can you do this efficiently?

While frustration goes undetected by standard web analytics solutions, behavior heatmaps highlight instances of friction and confusion on any given webpage, which allows you to easily remedy issues on your website or app clearly causing users to abandon.

Perhaps you’re seeing users drop like flies on your home and resource pages. Leveraging behavior heatmaps, you might discover frustration hotspots on video elements failing to load properly, which allows for targeted web optimizations.

3. Discover which page elements drive user engagement using click and dot heatmaps

Keeping users engaged seems easier said than done: roughly 2 in every 5 users will stop engaging if they find the content or layout of a website or app shabby from the get-go.

To fine-tune your pages for engagement, you’ll need an understanding of the best and worst performing page displays and layouts. Leveraging web analytics to separate high and low engagement pages, you can then use click and dot heatmaps to determine which designs, wireframes, buttons and more keep users engaged versus turn them away.

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You may discover your best performing layouts involve interactive elements like photo carousels and search bar filters. Conversely, the worst engaged pages have walls of text with missing call-to-actions. With these findings, optimizing for engagement becomes much simpler.

4. Identify how web content affects time on site with scroll and hover heatmaps

Plain and simple: attention is a hot commodity for your website’s success.

Director of Content at Visit California, Gwynne Spann emphasizes that you need to “keep people in an inspirational place and to have them get ‘lost’ in the site,“ while still moving users through the journey.

So, to definitively distinguish captivating versus boring content, you’ll need to investigate time on site data. With scroll and hover heatmaps surfacing behaviors between clicks – like scrolling down pages, hovering over images, and mouse reading over text – you can pinpoint what’s keeping users on your site and propelling them through the user journey.

Investigating time on site data, you may find visual content like videos and images draw users in and lead to longer sessions, whereas pages with walls of text and limited visuals result in prompt bounces and shortened sessions. Now you can cater exactly to your users’ interests.

5. Understand exactly how user behavior relates to conversion using attribution heatmaps

Given that every $1 invested in UX brings $100 in return, identifying page elements directly connected to conversions could unlock highly lucrative web optimizations. Luckily for you, attribution heatmaps can help do just that.

With attribution heatmaps calculating and crediting each component – from a dropdown menu to a call-to-action button – with a percentage of site clicks, revenue, and more, you can truly learn how certain aspects of your website contributes to profits.

For instance, learning a certain call-to-action on your site generates more revenue than others, you can work to optimize design, layout, and usability so this button gets more visibility and engagement to boost profits and return on investment.

Learn to maximize digital customer experiences from top teams across industries

Combining heatmaps and web analytics, you can finally drop the weight of any uncertainty bearing down on your web optimization efforts. With user behaviors out in the open, you can stop the guessing games, unlock new insights, and nail digital experiences.

As you and your team strive to put together and fine-tune the best possible experience on your website or app, wouldn’t it be nice to have top experts guiding you along the way?

Collaborating with conversion expert Jay Baer, the founder of Convince & Convert, our latest guide features sage advice from top teams at brands like Chipotle, Marriot Vacations, and Web.com, and more. Download What Top Teams Do Differently to Optimize Digital Customer Experiences to model and align your practices with notable industry experts.

Topics: Analytics, Heatmaps, User experience, Website Performance
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