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Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics e-Commerce
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

Out of any other type of website, e-commerce websites stand to benefit most from implementing digital analytics to understand conversion and measure their potential to increase revenue. Google Analytics makes this, and so much more, possible.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + errors and get the checklist we follow and keep in mind when setting up Google Analytics reports.

Without any customization whatsoever, Google Analytics comes configured to track website visits by sessions, pages and visitors. This data is organized in five sections:

  • Real Time
  • Audience
  • Acquisition
  • Behavior
  • Conversions

Each of these has further sections that allow us to observe different aspects of visitor behavior. But not all metrics are equal in how useful they are to track and analyze.

On the first page of Google Analytics, you’ll see the number of visitors, sessions, pages visited and bounce rate. You’ll probably notice that, while interesting, they’re not very revealing.

Google Analytics Audience Report Overview
Google Analytics Audience Report Overview

Clearly there was a spike in pageviews just before February 24th, but that really doesn’t tell us much. What caused it? Where did they come from? What were they looking for? Is this repeatable or a fluke?

We need enough information to analyze so we have more answers than new questions.

What kind of data do we need to improve the efficiency of the website as an e-commerce business?

In Google Analytics, we can look at the following sections of reports:

  • Audience reports, such as Geographic, Language, Interests, New and Returning visitors and Age
  • Acquisition reports containing channels through which user land on the website such as direct, organic search, social networks, ads, etc.
  • Behavior reports contain the data on the way the visitors interact with the site, such as which pages they visited, for how long, page load speed etc.
  • Conversion reports tell you how many and what proportion of visitors fulfilled the goal you expected them to

Let’s look at what information can we derive from these reports, and how to apply them to e-commerce businesses.

Audience reports

Audience reports, without any customization, can offer us insights into potential site problems or inefficiencies. We can spot them relatively easily and take immediate actions to remedy the issues. And this is just the small part of what you can do.

We all want to know who are the visitors, where they come from, what language they speak, what operating system and device they use to access our website and basically everything else. How can we use this data?

Google Analytics Language Report Overview
Google Analytics Language Report Overview

Looking at the above report we see that a significant proportion of our visitors speak English, but do not have a very engaging experience on the site (or the average session duration and conversion rate would be higher). To begin fixing engagement issues, however, we need to drill down to find out exactly where we’re losing people.

First we look at the browser report to see whether a specific browser or operating system might be having trouble accessing the website:

Google Analytics - Browser report in Technology Section of Audience Report
Google Analytics – Browser report in Technology Section of Audience Report

The red flags for browser compatibility issues are higher than average bounce rate and/or low conversion rate. If this is the case, we can alleviate this problem and make the site more accessible to this category of visitors.

When deciding what problems to tackle first, pay attention to significance. There is little point in spending hours of developers time to fix an issue affecting 0.1% of visitors who use Internet Explorer 6 browser or Windows 95 operating system, for example. However, if the issue affects 10% or more of your visitors, it should be addressed as soon as possible.

Any insight derived from here must be tested directly by accessing the website using the problem browser (or accessing via the problematic language, etc.) to ascertain the best way to alleviate the issue. In other words, if Firefox users seem to be having trouble, try accessing your website via Firefox yourself before asking a developer to fix the issue.

Your quickest wins for revenue and conversion will come by identifying these big issues – big issues which are also relatively easy to fix (though you may have to hire a developer to do it).

Acquisition reports

These reports are very important for the e-commerce websites because they tell you where your visitors are coming from. With a little bit of customization, these reports can yield extremely valuable insights.

The most common channels are Direct, Social, Search and Referral.

Channel Reports - Google Analytics
Channel Reports – Google Analytics

To get the insights you need, you’ll first have to link Google Analytics with your adWord account. This linking of accounts enables Google Analytics to automatically track all the adWord campaigns in progress, accurately attribute conversions and track costs/benefits of marketing campaigns using this channel.

This is possible for other paid channels, such as Facebook ads, Bing Ads and other providers of paid search and PPC, although cost data must be manually imported to enable the cost/benefit analysis. You only have to make sure that every campaign and ad includes the custom campaign parameters or UTMs.

What is a UTM? A UTM code is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. This enables Google Analytics to tell you where searchers came from and what campaign directed them to you.

Without the UTM attribute, Google Analytics report will not be able to distinguish between the different campaigns and ads coming from the same channel.

Behavior reports

The reports from the Behavior section, except for events, don’t provide much insight for conversion optimization – unless we customize Google Analytics. The most useful of the ‘out of the box’ reports are the landing pages reports, where we can see the performance of each of the site landing pages and look for possible problems, inhibiting the visitors from engaging with the page the way we expect.

The Behavior section becomes much more useful by adding event tracking and search to the website. Event tracking enables us to judge user engagement, popularity of the individual content on the page and other useful stuff.

Adding event tracking is not optional for e-commerce websites.

Setting it up may pose a challenge and involve some work, but the results make it worth the effort. For the detailed guide to setting up event tracking you can check our Google Analytics event tracking for e-commerce.

Adding a search to your site, beside providing the visitor with better user experience, allows you to catch a glimpse of the search terms the visitor may use on organic search. This insight can be then exploited in SEO.

Conversions reports

The Conversion section is where e-commerce businesses can find the numbers they are most interested in. These reports have everything to do with how many visitors actually end up purchasing and how they get to that point of conversion.

The first subsection under Conversion is Goals. The Goals report works in Google Analytics without the need for additional customization. All you have to do is go to the Admin tab of your Google Analytics account, go to View, and ‘add Goal.’ The moment you add Goals, Google Analytics will start tracking how many visitors have achieved the goal and report it.

Goals can be anything, from reaching a page to clicking a particular link or button on the web page. Each goal can be assigned a value. They are the most rudimentary way to track conversions on the website. Goals are easy to set up and do not require much more effort than a few clicks.

A more complex (and more comprehensive) way of tracking conversions is by enabling Enhanced e-commerce for Google Analytics. You can do this in your Google Account by going to the Admin tab and clicking on e-commerce on the View section.

Google Analytics e-Commerce Setup
Google Analytics e-Commerce Setup

Once we click on highlighted option, we reach the screen where we can customize the way business on the website is reported to Google Analytics and in turn, to us.

Enabling e-Commerce Reports in Google Analytics
Enabling e-Commerce Reports in Google Analytics

Enabling and setting up e-commerce tracking depends heavily on the e-commerce platform the website uses. Some platforms enable users to complete all the preparations for tracking by using a graphical user interface (GUI) while some require additional coding.

Whatever the case may be, once properly set up, it will allow Google analytics to track and report:

  • Transactions
  • Items sold
  • Categories and brands of products
  • Revenue

If properly integrated with adWords and other PPC, it will enable us to accurately attribute contributions from every online (and a number of offline) marketing channels.

Multi-Channel Funnel & Attributions

In addition to goals and e-commerce, Conversions reports contain two very important reports sections – Multi-Channel Funnel and Attributions.

Why are these sections important? After all, we already see the direct results of our business activities in the first two sections.

Google Analytics - Funnel Visualization Report
Google Analytics e-Commerce – Funnel Visualization Report

We want to see these sections and analyze them thoroughly because they will give us information about how productive our advertising spend is. We want to know not only if we are increasing revenue, but also if our costs are as low as they can be.

Analyzing this multi-channel funnel will show us which of the conduits leading to our site is currently the most effective. If we see the ad campaign is faltering, we can discontinue it, eliminating the cost. Or, we might see that an ad campaign is bringing more visitors with higher conversion and reinforce it.

These are just a few of the many options with which analyzing the multi channel funnel will provide us.

Attribution model

One of the most complicated aspects of analyzing conversions is trying to figure out how much impact each individual action has on the visitor’s ultimate conversion.

The unfortunate answer to the question ‘which interaction most contributed to the conversion?’ is “It depends.” To get at the real answer, you’ll need a comprehensive analysis of the business activity, business cycle, shopping habits of the visitors and many other factors. It sounds impossible, but it isn’t. And, it’s worth the work.

Finding out what actions contribute most to conversions will allow you to accurately attribute the portion of the revenue to every channel your visitors use to reach the website and judge its efficiency. If we do this with care, we will make a great step towards an efficient and completely data driven business.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + errors and get the checklist we follow and keep in mind when setting up Google Analytics reports.
Google Analytics e-Commerce
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

Out of any other type of website, e-commerce websites stand to benefit most from implementing digital analytics to understand conversion and measure their potential to increase revenue. Google Analytics makes this, and so much more, possible. Without any customization whatsoever, Google Analytics comes configured to track website visits by sessions, pages and visitors.

How to Create Effective A/B Tests from Scratch

Create Effective A/B Tests
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

So you want to create effective A/B tests? Did you ever compete in a science fair as a kid? You came up with a hypothesis – a plant grows much better in direct sunlight, for instance – and then created a scientifically sound experiment to test your theory.

You made sure to control for only what you were testing – sunshine – by using all the same types of plants and soil, and the exact same amount of water in every experiment. You grew your plants in various amounts of sunlight and recorded the results. When it was done, you created a three-sided board to display your results and analysis.

The controlled-variable science experiment analogy applies perfectly to creating effective A/B tests for e-commerce stores.

Of course, you’re dealing with way more variables and ambient noise than a kid growing plants for school, but the principles stay the same.

Effective A/B Testing Checklist
Effective A/B Testing Checklist

Step 1: Where to Begin Testing

We constantly emphasize to our clients that effective testing is a long-term game. It’s not always a popular stance in the era of “move fast and break things,” but the whole point of testing is so that you move in only the right directions and don’t waste time or money breaking big things that matter.

Effective testing begins with you.

Testing begins with your mindset, your resources, your e-commerce store – everything that’s available to you and unique to you.

Strengthening your understanding of the testing process and integrating testing into your team’s process gives you ability to reel off successful tests consistently – thus raising your revenue through improved conversions.

Testing is a way to build up a systematic approach to optimizing conversions across your entire organization. It’s not something you just “start doing” or “implement” overnight. Like our favorite weightlifting analogy, it’s a process. No one walks into the gym and lifts 300 pounds on their first day. First you need to learn how to lift properly and how to fuel your body for effective lifting.

Step 2: Figuring Out What to Test

Since you’re not jumping in and lifting 300 pounds on day one, you’re also not rolling up your sleeves and testing a complete redesign of your homepage on day one.

Even if you already have a little testing experience, we usually recommend against our clients starting with full-page redesigns. If you have no testing experience at all, definitely start with something smaller.

It’s important to start with a balance of something that gives you a true lift but also won’t take forever to set up and run. You’ll want to be able to work quickly through the process of setting up, monitoring and analyzing the test results with your team and testing agency.

Getting through some tests early on also shows you right away any flaws you might have in your testing approach and how to fix them before you start testing something huge, like crucial design elements on your highly-trafficked homepage, for instance.

Here are some ideas on tests you can set up:

  • Customer flow through your checkout, removing clutter
  • Copywriting, or specific words you use in headlines, buttons and more
  • Use of social proof
  • Use of security indicators
  • Colors
  • Navigation and search improvements
  • Videos, animation or none
  • Calls to action elements, including colors, copy, and location
  • Fonts and text size
  • Identifying and removing distractions from pages

It’s also worth mentioning here that you should be sure your testing tool is capable of and configured to measure the right things – and that you’ve chosen the right measurements for the test you’re running.

For instance, if you’re testing the effectiveness of two landing page headlines and you’re measuring conversions as “clicks on the CTA button,” your results could be skewed by visitors’ reactions to the CTA button itself, which wouldn’t have anything to do with the headlines.

This example from Copyhackers shows this issue in action. Although the instance on the right saw an almost 124% higher conversion rate, it’s hard to know whether to attribute the lift to the page copywriting or the button CTA copy changes:

Copyhackers - Create Effective A/B Tests
Copyhackers – Create Effective A/B Tests

Keep your experiments single-variable (just like in your school science experiments) by changing only one thing at a time.

Step 3: Setting Up a Statistically Significant Test

Perhaps the hardest part of A/B testing is making sure your test will mean something.

By that, we mean making sure that when you’ve gone through all the work of setting up, running and analyzing your test, you need to know those results mean what you think they mean.

For instance, if you run a test trying to figure out what color to make your homepage button, but you only get 20 visits, and 15 think it should be blue, while only 5 think it should be green, you could conclude that it should definitely be blue…except that’s not a lot of visits, and what if the next 7 people pick green? Your results would feel way less conclusive.

The issue here is a sample size that’s too small. A lot of sample size calculators exist for figuring out how to run a statistically sound and significant test, but many inexperienced testers fall prey to the illusion that they can enter in their parameters and the calculator will spit out perfect, exact answers to the number of observations or length of test necessary.

You need at least 1,000 transactions – or around 25,000 uniques – in order for any kind of testing to make sense.

Testing guru Evan Miller summed up this fallacy and issue so perfectly that we couldn’t say it better:

When an A/B testing dashboard says there is a “95% chance of beating original” or “90% probability of statistical significance,” it’s asking the following question: Assuming there is no underlying difference between A and B, how often will we see a difference like we do in the data just by chance? The answer to that question is called the significance level, and “statistically significant results” mean that the significance level is low, e.g. 5% or 1%. Dashboards usually take the complement of this (e.g. 95% or 99%) and report it as a “chance of beating the original” or something like that.

However, the significance calculation makes a critical assumption that you have probably violated without even realizing it: that the sample size was fixed in advance. If instead of deciding ahead of time, “this experiment will collect exactly 1,000 observations,” you say, “we’ll run it until we see a significant difference,” all the reported significance levels become meaningless. This result is completely counterintuitive and all the A/B testing packages out there ignore it, but I’ll try to explain the source of the problem with a simple example.

We generally recommend using Evan Miller’s A/B test sample size calculator to help avoid this issue, and to make sure you’re keeping an eye on statistical significance at all times as you set up your tests.

Step 4: Monitoring Your Test – Patiently!

This step may actually be the toughest part of testing, because we’re wired by human nature to want to peek at our ongoing tests.

The advice not to peek at your tests is everywhere, and sometimes our clients will assume it’s because they’ll somehow ruin the test by looking early.

Here’s the secret: nothing will happen if you peek at your test early.

The reason a lot of testing consultants and experts will warn you against it is to protect you from yourself. It’s almost impossible to resist acting based on what you see when you look early. Even if you try not to, you’ll have that information in the back of your mind. It’s best to just not look!

Step 5: Running Your Tests the Right Duration

This ties in with “Step 3: Setting Up a Statistically Significant Test” because when you stop a test depends a lot on when you’ve experienced enough observations of an action to make your test statistically meaningful.

For instance, if you calculate that you need a certain number of observations to reach a sound test, then you can stop your experiment after you’ve reached that number.

This reinforces the need to calculate your sample sizes based on significance and not to simply run your experiments until you see significant change.

Here’s an example from Evan Miller showing why stopping the experiment in the latter situation is problematic:

Example A: Experiment run until a statistically significant number of observations reached

Example A
Example A

Example B: Experiment run until statistically significant difference in instances of the observations

Example B
Example B

As you can see in the second example, in two scenarios the test was stopped too early. This gives you completely skewed results that would over-emphasize the percentage change of conversions – probably leading you to make a change to the thing you’re testing, potentially to your detriment.

Step 6: Analyzing the Results Properly

Your first action when you reach this step? Check your results. Then check them again. And maybe again, for good measure. (Ask our founder Emir about the time he saw a very popular testing software serving the control treatment to 100% of a client’s visitors while the software showed an active test running the entire time.)

Fancy software and shiny calculators can tell us a lot, and they make testing a lot easier than in the olden days, but because we’re optimizing for humans, we need to always give everything a human eye.

At Objeqt, we calculate and validate our results using chi-squared tests like this one:

Success Rate Significance
Success Rate Significance

If you’re relying solely on software like VWO and Optimizely, then you should know those two tools have hidden all of the information about their actual analyses – presumably to keep their methodologies secret as they engage in a shootout for testing supremacy.

We’re not saying you need to doubt all results from VWO or Optimizely, but it does become impossible to independently verify your results when the actual analysis is hidden behind an opaque black box.

Remember how our overall testing method combines quantitative analytics and qualitative user research before we reach the testing stage? We do that so we always have a human perspective on data – and so we have cold, hard data to counteract human biases. This complementary relationship between data and your creativity and instincts also applies when analyzing your test results.

Your New Motto: Move Deliberately and Improve Things

In e-commerce and business in general these days, we constantly hear the refrain “Move fast and break things.”

We understand the sentiment behind it – this mindset encourages you to experiment and try things, put ideas into action as quickly as possible, and move on to other things if the actions fail to pan out fast. It helps organizations avoid stagnation or endless planning loops without action.

The problem, though, is it also encourages hasty testing and iteration based on potentially incomplete results.

Testing requires patience, but it doesn’t mean stagnation. Applying science rather than gut instinct all the time results in making changes proven to result in higher conversions – and thus, higher revenue.

Creating a testing system and integrating a testing mindset and process into everything you do will help you create sustainable gains across the board. Rather than running headlong without a destination in mind, you’ll move steadily and inexorably toward your goals – and those revenue gains.

This article is fourth in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Want to conduct effective A/B tests to grow revenue for your e-commerce store…but not sure how to get started? That’s literally what we do. Schedule a free consultation with us to see if we’re your kind of testing agency and how we can help.

Create Effective A/B Tests
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

Testing is a way to build up a systematic approach to optimizing conversions across your entire organization. It’s not something you just “start doing” or “implement” overnight. Like our favorite weightlifting analogy, it’s a process. No one walks into the gym and lifts 300 pounds on their first day. First you need to learn how to lift properly and how to fuel your body for effective lifting.

Defining Your Ideal Customer in e-Commerce

Defining Your Ideal Customer in e-Commerce

There is a lot of information on defining your ideal customer, but most of it isn’t written for you. It’s written for software-as-a-service companies, or startups, or both. And while e-commerce can benefit from many of the same best-practices, some of the information written in those articles just doesn’t apply.

This article is written just for you, and it’s all about how to define, find, and attract your ideal e-commerce customer.

First, my definition of an ideal customer:

An ideal customer is someone who has a problem you are uniquely equipped to solve, who is willing, able and happy to pay for that solution, and who is delighted to have found you.

And they shouldn’t drive you nuts (nobody says this, but it’s important – ideal customers are not the ones who take up all of your customer service agents’ time, return more products than they buy, and complain about you on social media). Nobody needs that.

This is why I included the “delighted” clause; people who are delighted to find you genuinely appreciate what you have to offer. They’ll be more inclined to become loyal customers, make repeat purchases, and recommend you to their friends, which are vital elements to any growth strategy.

How do you find these ideal clients?

First, you need to admit a hard truth

Your product isn’t for everyone. I repeat: Your product, unless it is toilet paper, is not for everyone. This is usually the hardest hurdle for business owners to leap, because you want everyone to buy your product (naturally). You think everyone could use it!

But not everyone will want to use it, become addicted to using it, and talk their friends into using it too – that’s the customer you need.
Limiting your scope to an ideal customer isn’t a liability, it’s an opportunity.

Businesses that are able to become leaders in their niches do very, very well.

Then, you need to ask yourself (and your current best customers) some questions

I might begin a conversation about ideal customers with questions about basic demographics (gender, age, education, career, geographic location), role in the company or role in the family, needs, wants, fears, and favorite hobbies – but that’s just a warm-up.

What I really need to know to begin understanding a client’s ideal customer is this:

  • The most important goals this person wants to accomplish (what is really important – in and outside of work?)
  • What is at stake if this person fails to accomplish those goals?
  • What drives them CRAZY on a regular basis (and I mean, pulling-their-hair-out nuts)
  • What are the greatest benefits your ideal customer stands to gain from your product?

These questions lead us into the real meat of the issue: Ideal outcomes, worst fears, greatest pain points, and biggest benefits.

The ideal outcome is what the customer wants most from your product. If I’m buying a sweater, my ideal outcome would to be warm (but not too warm), and feel deliciously cozy – reserve me a place by the fire and bring me a cup of hot cocoa. If you try to sell me a sweater, I may or may not buy it. If you sell me that cozy place by the fire, I’ll buy it every time. You’ve spoken to a deeper desire.

Worst fears are incredibly valuable to know for marketing purposes – they always get a response. What is the worst thing that could happen if your customer doesn’t have your product? What do they stand to lose?

Greatest pain points are key to understanding how much your ideal client really needs your product (and how effective of a solution you’re actually offering – you can use this to develop products as well). The amount of pain is directly proportional to how much time/money/resources your ideal client will spend to fix it.

The benefits question not only tells you what people love about your product, but also gives you deeper insight into your customers’ ideal outcomes – especially the ideal outcomes they’re really achieving. These insights are golden for your marketing and content strategies.

How to get these answers

You’re going to have to do some intensive customer research. A good place to start is by identifying your current favorite customers (or a segment of customers that outperforms all of the others). These are the people you made your products for, who support your business loudly, and who you genuinely enjoy (because they genuinely enjoy you). They also have to be the ones willing to pay full price, unless your ideal customer is a bargain hunter (hey, that could be your demographic, in which case, run with it!).

Then, send them a survey with questions that get at those four essential truths, along with any other pertinent questions you’d like to ask, like how they found you, what they were looking for, what industry they work in (if applicable), and why they ultimately chose to buy from you. You might also want to ask if they have, or would, recommend you (Why? Why not?).

Use this as a launching point to begin fleshing out your ideal customer profile – a list of characteristics common to your ideal customers. Then, use that list to identify potential ideal customers and target them in your marketing.

A targeted Facebook ad, for example, should drive increased traffic to your site. Then you’ll want to observe your conversion rate to see if you are, in fact, hitting your target market accurately.

Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at Shanelle Mullin offers a variation on my method for constructing an ideal customer profile.

Looking at your recent, happy customers can give you an idea of who your ideal customer is. There are two ways to go about this: customer surveys and customer interviews.

A lot goes into an ideal customer profile, so you want to use customer surveys to understand four key things:

  1. Who they are.
  2. The problem they came to you to solve.
  3. Their shopping process.
  4. Their buying process.

Note that the answers you’ll receive for questions related to the last two will be skewed by time. They won’t accurately remember the shopping or buying process months later. Only ask those types of questions if you have a large group of recent, happy customers.

Typically, you’ll want to ask 7-8 questions per survey. It’ll give you a good amount of data, but it won’t scare people away.

Make sure every question you ask is actionable. What will you add to your ideal customer profile based on the answer? If your answer is nothing, don’t ask the question.

Also, in this case, you’ll want to avoid yes/no or multiple choice questions. That way, you truly hear from the customer and go beyond quantitative analysis.

Aim to collect 200-250 responses total. If you go through fewer than that, you won’t be able to identify patterns and trends.

For more information on conducting a productive customer interview, check out her in-depth article on the subject.

Be careful of the customer you wish for

Having worked with dozens of marketing, growth-hacking, and conversion companies with their clients, I can attest to this truth: Sometimes, you think you’ve identified your ideal customer, and you change your site and SEO to attract them, and you end up attracting entirely the wrong audience.

I was working with a package tracking company once that was having this trouble. They wanted to rank for the keywords “package tracking,” and succeeded. The problem was, grandmothers who’d sent gifts through Amazon were trying to track their packages through them, when their actual product was an internal package tracking system that would ensure a package got from a corporate basement to its appointed desk, six floors above. The package tracking company wanted people searching for “package tracking” to find them – and that’s what they got.

To fix that problem, they had to adjust their messaging for clarification and refine their SEO strategy.

Refining your ideal client

If, after you’ve identified your ideal client and adjusted your marketing accordingly, website traffic is down, or conversions are the same or down, you may be missing something. The issue could be in your messaging, it could be that your marketing is slightly off-target, or it could be something entirely different – you can begin to form a picture using Google Analytics, but you won’t really know unless you ask.

You might want to try an exit survey – a pop-up survey that appears once someone clicks off your page – that asks what the user expected/hoped to find but didn’t. You might discover that your best efforts only succeeded in attracting Amazon Grannies!

Other perspectives on identifying ideal customers

I asked Tiffany daSilva, Growth Hacker and Digital Marketing Consultant, to weigh in on how she starts off her e-commerce clients in identifying their ideal customers.

With an e-commerce site, we are inclined to believe you can just turn it on and target everyone, and you’ll get rich. But whether you’re selling garden furniture or t-shirts, there’s always an ideal customer that you should be refining your website for.

If the company doesn’t know who this is, they need to do their homework.
They need to look at industry data, even as a starting point just to understand who is looking for their products. The next step is to go to Google Analytics and see who is actually visiting their website.

Hopefully, they should see some synergy. However, sometimes we think that our ideal customer is a particular gender or age, yet the visitors to our site (and those who are the most engaged) are outside of this target. This may mean you need to you need to speak to these people directly and figure out why they are interested in your site, and whether they have an intent to buy, and what you can do on your website to help them.

If they have no intent to buy and your website is clearly targeting the wrong audience, I would then look at the ideal customer profile you have articulated so far, and use that when choosing testers for UX or user testing. This will help you understand what your ideal customers are saying about your website and how best to target them.

This work is what a CRO can provide for you, but it is so much more important to go through the process yourself. Without an ideal customer profile and clear goals, CRO will just be a moving target with little return.

While Tiffany daSilva and I both look at existing customers as our foundation, she looks at all of the existing customers and asks how many of them are “ideal,” whereas I only look at the customers we can already identify as being “ideal.” That difference comes from my background in Lean methodology and customer success – but really, both roads will take you where you need to go: Researching your customers.

What happens when you ID your ideal customer?

As your ideal customers begin to come in, you’ll want track how they find you, who they are, what their lifetime value (LTV) is to your business, and which characteristics correlate with greater or lesser LTV. With advanced tracking in place, you’ll be able to see which customer segments are the most profitable, who are the loudest advocates, and which ones are so engaged with your brand that they become integral parts of your social media communities.

With this information, you can optimize your marketing strategies to catch the attention of even more specific types of customers.

But it all begins with defining your ideal client. Because once you have that clear definition, you’ll be able to find the most effective ways to reach them, and the most effective ways to position your products and brand to attract, retain, and delight them. It’s the key to your marketing strategy, conversion rates and growth.

Defining Your Ideal Customer in e-Commerce

There is a lot of information on defining your “ideal customer,” but most of it isn’t written for you. It’s written for software-as-a-service companies, or startups, or both. And while e-commerce can benefit from many of the same best-practices, some of the information written in those articles just doesn’t apply. This article is written just for you, and it’s all about how to define, find, and attract your ideal e-commerce customer.

How Analytics Help e-Commerce Stores Boost Sales

How Analytics Help e-Commerce Stores Boost Sales
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

When it comes to building a sustainable, profitable e-commerce website, only one thing matters – sales. See a spike in sales of your brand new products and you’ll be happy all day long. Watch your total sales slump after your holiday promotion, and you can kiss the holiday spirit goodbye.

When the latter happens, most small business owners react by spending more money on advertising, changing the price point, altering the site layouts and so on. These impetuous, aimless actions aren’t strategies – they’re what happen when you’re flying blind. And what happens when you fly blind? You’re bound to come crashing down.

Almost 65% of businesses fail in the first 18 months and 90% in the first few years – often because of the lack of long-term marketing strategies to navigate the challenges of online business. When you understand analytics, you’ll be able to optimize for more sales and predict when and why sales may dwindle. It’s the single best skill you can acquire and, quite possibly, the one with the most ROI attached.

What is Analytics?

Analytics is the process of measuring site statistics to drive continual improvement of your customers’ online experience. All that translates to achieving your desired outcomes. In short, analytics provides relevant information you can use to improve your business.

As an e-commerce business, your number-one desired outcome is increasing the sales of your product. If your site has gained a significant number of visitors, it’s time to start using analytics software to collect their data and analyse it.

The most popular tool is Google Analytics. It’s free and relatively simple to install on your e-commerce site. You can access it here.

How Analytics Can Make You More Money

1. It helps you understand what’s affecting your sales performance

Sometimes your product just doesn’t have product-market fit. But you wouldn’t have developed it in the first place if you didn’t know there was an audience ready and willing to buy (right?). So the answer to poor sales might not be market sentiment or external factors, but rather a breakdown in user experience.

Analytics help you get a better picture of how customers use your website and where they run into problems. For example, analytics can reveal cart abandonment numbers, and even at which stage of the purchase customers drop out.

You can use this insight to optimise your checkout page to reduce shopping cart abandonment and improve your sales, which likely won’t take much effort or expense, but have a huge impact.

2. It’s how you optimize conversion across your e-commerce site

Once you have carefully studied the actions of your visitors or web users, you will be able to act accordingly in order to optimise your website. You’ll also have an idea about which things need altered and which aspects of your website appeal more to your target market.

You’ll know which products are the most viewed and which ones are all but ignored. You can adjust certain aspects of your website that need improvement, like updating the headline on the homepage, editing product descriptions to match the message with product and brand, re-positioning your call-to-action button on the checkout page, and resizing product images to make them larger and clearer.

You can then fix any technical problems; or you can focus on how to improve, streamline or reshape site navigation to better assist your site users or visitors.

3. It’s the foundation of your sales and marketing strategies

Web analytics show you where your best return on investment (ROI) comes from in terms of ad spend and marketing strategies. With hard numbers as your foundation, you can be confident that you’re giving customers the experience and products they want.

For example, by tracking the items that get the most views, you can tell which products are appealing most to your visitors. Add segmentation and you can see where each group of visitors come from, what each group tends to look at, and what characteristics add up to someone highly likely to buy. That wealth of information is what you need to effectively target your pay-per-click advertising, social media advertising and many more.

Once we’ve identified what Google Analytics can do for us, let’s discuss e-commerce analytics and some KPIs you should be following in order to understand you buyers.

Setting Up Google Analytics For Your E-commerce Site

To begin setting up Google Analytics, click here and sign in with your Google account.

Account screen with properties
Account screen with properties

The above screenshot is already set up for tracking specific web site. New users will be offered a detailed guide to set up a new account in Google analytics. Follow the steps required for the setup. Make sure to add the Google Analytics tracking code to your store so Google will start tracking traffic.

Google Analytics Tracking Script
Google Analytics Tracking Script

Your code will contain a Universal Analytics tracking code, unique to your website (aka. “property” – you may have several properties on every account). After everything is set up correctly, you’ll start seeing data in your Reporting tab. This is where the magic happens, so let’s get familiar with it.

Google Analytics Audience Report Overview
Google Analytics Audience Report Overview

Besides information on the Audience (your website’s visitors), Google Analytics uses Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions, which describe the customer journey as visitors move through your e-commerce store and make purchases. You’ll find these sections on the left-hand side-bar in the Reporting tab.

Set up your goal

Let’s get real here for a minute: The main goal of any e-commerce store is to sell. That’s our goal for analytics too – getting the information you need to make more sales. Every time a visitor makes a purchase, it counts as a completed goal and shows up in your analytics reports.

But, in order for Google Analytics to start tracking your conversions, you have to define and set up a goal, which can’t be as vague as “sell more!” Don’t worry, it’s easy.

To start, click on the Admin tab in the main menu at the top of the page. On the right hand side you should see the ‘Goals’ sub menu. Click on ‘Goals’.

Google Analytics Add New Goal
Google Analytics Add New Goal

Click on the red ‘+ New Goal’ button. Select a template and then select ‘Place an order’ on the drop-down menu. Now click the blue ‘Next step’ button.

Google Analytics Setup Screen for the Goal
Google Analytics Setup Screen for the Goal

Next up, name your goal. For example ‘Purchase’ for your macro conversion goal or ‘Blog post read’ for micro conversions, and leave it checked as ‘Destination’ under type. Now click the blue ‘Next step’ button to continue.

Google Analytics Goal Setup Description Screen
Google Analytics Goal Setup Description Screen

The final step is to define the URL of the Thank You page. This setting is extremely important because it will show you exactly whether visitors are completing the purchase or not on your e-commerce site.

Most e-commerce platforms’ Thank You pages have ’/checkout/thank_you’ as seen below. Leave the monetary value turned off. Turn the funnel optional switch to ‘On’. Now list the pages (with their respective URLs) that your visitor goes through during your checkout process.

Google Analytics Goal Set Up Final Screen
Google Analytics Goal Set Up Final Screen

Final Step: Verify Goal!

Once you’ve completed all the relevant steps, click ‘Verify this Goal’ and make sure the percentage is more than 0% (unless your store is brand new and had no sales yet) so you know you got the destination URL correct. Now you’ll start seeing conversion data for your reports.

Get Insights Quickly With Google Analytics Dashboards for E-commerce

There’s a vast amount of data available in Google Analytics you can explore. For e-commerce sites, the data generated by Google Analytics are huge and can be daunting, especially accessing the key metrics at a glance.

The solution – Google Analytics Dashboards for E-commerce. This is a great way to get an instant overview of what’s happening in your e-commerce site.

These dashboards show you report summaries comprising a maximum of 12 widgets (boxes), at a maximum of 10 rows per widget. Each Google Analytics account has an allowance of 20 dashboards.

To get an idea for what’s possible, here are some custom dashboards you can explore from e-commerce experts.

All-in-one Ecommerce Dashboard, by Paolo Margari
All-in-one Ecommerce Dashboard, by Paolo Margari

The above report uses the 12-widget dashboard limit and includes some of the most important e-commerce transaction metrics. The top left bar chart labeled “Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Medium and Device Category” shows conversion rate by device type, broken down by desktop, mobile and tablet. There’s also a “Transaction by Medium” pie chart that shows the top six sales referral channels.

If you look closer, you’ll see corresponding tables for those graphs, as well as standard e-commerce metrics like transactions, conversion rate and revenue. They also use a “Transaction and Ecommerce Conversion Rate by City” report, which is one way you can segment your data.

Final note

Google Analytics offers incredibly useful features for your e-commerce site. Have you used analytics for your e-commerce site? Let us know your experience in the comment below.

For those of you who did not establish the analytics account yet or added analytics to your web site, here is a quick checklist what you need to do.

  1. If you do not have Google Account, create one now
  2. Go to the Google Analytics page or type ‘google analytics’ in your search engine
  3. Open the link, most likely the first in the results
  4. Follow the instructions on the screen
  5. Once you complete the process, you will get the tracking ID. Tracking ID is a randomly assigned ID number, unique to your account.
  6. You will then receive the code in JavaScript. This code is called snippet and it must be implemented on every page of your website
  7. Once you do this, the code will automatically send the information about your web traffic to Google Analytics.
  8. Congratulations, you have just set up the Google Analytics to track your website! Seeing results may take a few days.
How Analytics Help e-Commerce Stores Boost Sales
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

When it comes to building a sustainable, profitable e-commerce website, only one thing matters – sales. See a spike in sales of your brand new products and you’ll be happy all day long. Watch your total sales slump after your holiday promotion, and you can kiss the holiday spirit goodbye.

Know Thy Customer: Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO

Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

A while ago, we started working with an e-commerce client who wanted us to help optimize their checkout page for conversions.

On the surface, they had everything they thought they needed to A/B test: $5 million in annual recurring revenue stemming from high traffic, plus a solid analytics program and the ability to analyze that data.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document on tools and applications we recommend and use for CRO research.

They’d been running some tests on their own and doing a good job, carefully measuring results and making sure the conversion sample sizes were large enough to be statistically significant.

When we started working with them, though, they couldn’t solve the mystery of their checkout page.

They’d tested a lot of things – colors on the checkout page, the placement of various elements, etc., and they couldn’t figure out why their data told them people abandoned their checkout process on that page at an alarming rate.

We looked at the tests – they were solid.

We looked at the data and analytics – also solid.

Then we asked, “What do your customers say?”

They hadn’t thought to ask. So we helped them ask.

As it turned out, their trust elements were scaring people away. The company, proud of its commitment to security, had recently added, “We are now using Komodo, the best security there is,” to their “verified by Visa” and SSL certificate info – and it was scaring people away.

“Why would they need the best security? It seemed like maybe there was a reason, like something bad had happened in the past,” one customer told us. Others echoed those sentiments.

We ran the tests based on that idea, and they confirmed – the line about Komodo had to go. We ended up replacing it with just the logo mark instead.

And then we helped the company set up a robust customer research program, the qualitative complement to their already successful quantitative analytics program.

There were two lessons at play here that we see a lot in testing and conversion rate optimization:

  1. Challenge your assumptions through testing, and
  2. Put your data into human context, always.

The human brain is only knowable to a point.

We can spend forever crunching datasets and watching people interact with our pages and products, and we still might not have the faintest inkling of what’s going on in their minds as they consider whether or not to buy our product.

Data can tell you a lot, but to get context, you need to talk to people.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Source: Nielsen Norman Group

How to Approach Qualitative Customer Research

The category “customer research” encompasses a lot of things, but for e-commerce stores, we prefer to think of four major ways you can approach it:

Calling and interviewing customers

This is the most straightforward method and the one that’s been around the longest. Marketers and sales professionals have been utilizing customer calls for decades.

Most often, you’ll do this by recruiting people from your website or because they’re existing customers. That can be done through some kind of automated form or during the follow-up phase via email.

Many e-commerce operators will also compensate the customer for their time with a discount or some other offer. We’d recommend trying a friendly, non-incentivized approach first, but understand that a lot of times incentives can help you get more calls confirmed and spend less time trying to get people to agree.

Regardless of how you recruit or incentivize the customer, you should move the conversation to the phone. Email surveys can be a good tool (see below), but if you’re looking for a candid conversation about your product, an in-person conversation works best. You’ll be able to ask follow-up questions and hear their tone.

You can also supplement phone calls with on-page chat apps like Intercom or Drift. These won’t replace voice or face-to-face interviews, but they can lower the barrier to having a conversation with a real customer.

Tracking interactions

Some of these tactics will overlap with quantitative analytics and usability testing a bit, but tracking interactions gives you the ability to consider your customer’s actions in the context of your real page.

Rather than having to look at a datastream and figure out what actions the numbers represent, tracking the way customers interact with elements of your page shows you exactly what actions they take – and don’t take.

This can include things like heat maps, analytics, scroll mapping, referral tracking and more.

Sample Heatmap
Sample Heatmap

Surveying customers

This one’s easy to lump in with interviewing, but surveying is a lower-barrier way to get customer feedback while still providing you useful information. If you’re having trouble getting enough people to agree to phone calls or other in-person interviews, surveying can fill that gap.

You should take their results separately from your interviews, however, as there won’t be as much nuance since you can’t ask follow-up questions or clarify answers on the spot.

To gather surveys, you can implement a user form on your website – you can even call it your store’s annual survey – and then ask questions about customer demographics, how they use your product, and what they want from your product and experience on your site. The goal here is to understand how your product fits into the context of their lives.

Usability testing

This type of customer research offers you “live” tracking – rather than relying solely on something like a heat map, which shows aggregated activity after the fact, usability testing lets you watch users interacting with your website in real time.

This comes in handy when you’re trying to understand how your customers physically interact with certain elements on the page. It won’t necessarily tell you why, but watching users can give you a lot of insight. It’s especially useful for multi-stage operations like onboarding or checkout sequences, or to see if elements of your page are as intuitive as you think they are.

(It’s worth mentioning that sites like UserTesting ask the tester to narrate their thoughts as they’re navigating your page, giving you insight into actions and thoughts.)

Best Practices for Surveying

Just get started

Sometimes the hardest thing is getting started. We get that, so our advice if you’re thinking about implementing a customer research program is to just start. Try one thing first, just one campaign.

If you have an email list (and you really, really should), then start there. Examine what areas of your e-commerce site you’d like to work on optimizing first, and create a brief survey asking about customers’ experiences in that realm. Then send it to your email list with a friendly introduction asking them to do you a favor.

You can expand to including that survey on your website, and then move toward asking questions through chat. Starting to add a customer research component to your CRO doesn’t mean you have to sign up for all the fanciest tools right away – just ask your customers about your product and their experience on your site.

Craft the right discovery questions

You wouldn’t ask a personal trainer about stock tips or a stockbroker about a workout routine – don’t ask your different audience segments the same questions.

Generally speaking, you have three main types of people you want to reach through your customer research efforts:

  1. Qualified nos
  2. Customers who bought moments ago
  3. Existing customers

And in general, you’d like to find out four things from each of those groups:

  1. Uncover where customers come from
  2. Discover appeals
  3. Understand reservations
  4. Understand position relative to your competitors

Depending on your goals, you could craft an endless variety of questions to get at those answers, but here are a few you can start with:

  • Why did you choose us?
  • What do you use us for?
  • What value have you gotten out of it lately?
  • What new things would you like to see?
  • Are there any aspects to our products or shopping experience that you find frustrating, or which you’d be likely to change?
  • What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you buying from us?
  • What was your biggest fear or concern about using us?
  • What was your biggest challenge, frustration or problem in finding the right product online?
  • Where exactly did you first find out about us?
  • What persuaded you to purchase from us?
  • Please list the top three things that persuaded you to use us rather than a competitor.
  • Which other options did you consider before choosing our product?
  • Which of our competitors, both online and offline, did you consider before choosing our product?
  • How were you recommended to us?
  • Did you take a look at any of our competitors?
  • On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Research to Identify Testing Opportunities

Of course, asking people what they’re thinking, even in the most targeted and unbiased of ways, doesn’t always get you information you can use.

People might lie. They might not understand a subconscious thought process. They might misremember. They might tell you what they think you want to hear.

Source: You Should Test That
Source: You Should Test That

Humans are, well, human.

So relying solely on customer research isn’t a good idea either. The best foundational base combines insights from your analytics and customer research to give you more three-dimensional insights.

We always call this the “foundation” of your testing process, because taken together, your qualitative and quantitative data can tell you what to test.

There’s an infinite number of things you can test on any page at any time. Remember our client from the beginning of the article, the ones wondering what on earth was wrong with their checkout page? They tested so many things, but only the combined analytics and customer research data pointed them toward the right thing.

If you spend the time and make the effort to build out a reliable analytics program and a customer research program, you can rest assured that the tests you develop and run will provide actionable results.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document on tools and applications we recommend and use for CRO research.

This article is third in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Why You Need Qualitative Research for Effective CRO
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

We can spend forever crunching datasets and watching people interact with our pages and products, and we still might not have the faintest inkling of what’s going on in their minds as they consider whether or not to buy our product. Data can tell you a lot, but to get context, you need to talk to people.

Analytics in a Nutshell: An Introductory Look at Setting Up Google Analytics for CRO

An Introductory Look at Setting up Google Analytics for CRO
This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

How do you improve something? Anything. Any process, any action.
You start by understanding your baseline. You can do 10 pushups today, but after a month of daily pushups, you’ll be able to do more. Setting up Google Analytics for CRO for e-commerce stores is a way to measure/track by setting a baseline and tracking indicators in order to improve.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + errors and get the checklist we follow and keep in mind when setting up Google Analytics for conversion optimization gains.

“You can’t improve what you can’t measure” is how some people put it.

“What gets measured gets managed” is equally true.

Analytics is just a way to measure by setting a baseline and tracking indicators of improvement (or lack of improvement). But when you look at the Google Analytics dashboard, all of a sudden this simple concept becomes incredibly complicated.

And what you need to track for conversion optimization for your e-commerce website only complicates it further. You need accurate and timely data – and lots of it.

What sort of data do you need? ResearchXL (used by ConversionXL) divides their areas of research into four main categories:

  • Technical
  • Heuristics
  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative

Web analytics is the main tool used to measure quantitative data, like the number of visits to your website, number of conversions, and numbers of new or returning visitors.Quantitative data is all about the hard numbers, which is why you need to supplement that information with qualitative or heuristic research, which are more descriptive (they rely on customer surveys and feedback) but are also more open to bias and misinterpretation.

Since quantitative data is collected by a computer program in real time, you can be relatively sure you’re not missing anything – provided the analytics tool is configured properly.

That’s the kicker. You have to configure your analytics program, including Google analytics, to make sure collecting all of the information you need.

Configuration is a large part of the CRO’s job. We call it an “analytics health check,” typically offering it as a service to determine if a client’s analytics tool is working properly and tracking everything accurately.

At this point, we’re not focusing on one set of data over another, though we’ll be doing that later. Right now, we’re trying to collect as much data as possible from which to extract insights, and you can only do that when you customize the out-of-the-box settings on your analytics program.

How Web Analytics Works

Web analytics records every action of every visitor to your website in real-time, as each person interacts with the content.

There are many analytics tools that do this, all with similar features, but Google Analytics is the one most-often used – by more than 70% of the market.

Every analytics tool works by leaving a short piece of JavaScript code on every page of the site. This piece of code is called the “tracking code” or “snippet” which collects and sends user-action data back to the analytics program which presents the data to you in readable form.

One of the overview screens in Google Analytics
One of the overview screens in Google Analytics

Google Analytics isn’t only popular because it’s free (at least in basic form), but also because it is continuously updated, entirely customizable and has a large community creating customizations that are also available for free. Since Google Analytics is sufficient for almost all uses, it became not just the tool of choice, but the industrial standard for analytics tools.It’s one of those things that’s easy to learn but difficult to master.The non-custom version is usable by everyone and pretty self-explanatory, but the real depth of data only becomes available once you customize it. You’re basically transforming the tool from ordinary kitchen knife to a Swiss-army knife.

In the simplest terms, before you can rely on Google Analytics to give you the information you need to understand how your website is doing now, and how to improve it, you have to teach GA a few tricks:

  • What you want it to track
  • How to track it
  • How to report it

What to Track: Basic Metrics

Metrics are the bread and butter of digital analytics. Common metrics in Google Analytics are:

  • Sessions
  • Unique visitors
  • Time on site
  • Number of pages viewed…

And many more.

There are also what we call “dimensions,” like location, page, language, gender, product category etc. Some metrics are really a combination of two metrics, like “sessions per page” or “visitors per page.” You can also create custom metrics.

Once the actions are reported in metrics, we can draw some conclusions from them.

A good place to start is simply counting the number of visitors who actually interacted with any given content. That’s a good indication of the popularity of the content.

However opening a page means nothing if the user clicks in and clicks out after a few seconds. That is called a bounce. You want your bounce rate low. If it’s high, it means visitors aren’t finding what they hoped to find.

We can also compare certain types of actions or content for more insights, like finding out which types of content attracts visitors more than others, or which parts of the website may be experiencing usability issues. We can also compare the actions of different segments of visitors; for example, how visitors from different countries interact with the site.

The third way to draw conclusions is look for correlations. You’re looking for things like how one segment of visitors interacts with the site, or what sequence of interactions typically lead to conversion. You might select one category of visitors based on their largest average order value, then observe what interactions they had with the site to convert so well. Then you can use that information to optimize your site – essentially finding ways to tweak the user’s experience so they follow the same path as your successful customers.

Gathering this data is how CROs begin creating hypotheses to test, which leads to optimizing for conversion.

How to Track it: Segmentation & Events

One of the best features of any web analytics tool, including Google Analytics, is the ability to segment. Segmentation allows you to select different categories of visitors based on any number of characteristics – where they came from, what they were looking for, how much they bought, etc.

Sample of a segmented report in Google Analytics
Sample of a segmented report in Google Analytics

Event tracking

With some customization, any analytics tool can track individual events on your website. This will unlock further wealth of data and allow you to exploit it to gain more insights in the way your visitors interact with the site. By using event tracking, any activity on the website, from clicking individual links to playing videos and downloading files can be tracked.

An example of event goal in Google Analytics
An example of event goal in Google Analytics

Analytics categories like Goals and Conversions function on a ‘page view’ mindset. Event tracking is different – it’s more focused on user-experience. In Google Analytics, events are basically interactions, like downloading a PDF or e-book, playing embedded videos, clicking external links or call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

While event tracking requires customization and additional JavaScript code, it is relatively easy to implement and maintain using tag managers.

Goals

Your analytics tool can track your on-site goals too – if you configure it to do so. Goals are specific actions you want your users to do, such as viewing certain web pages, or watching a video, or spending a given amount of time on a page. Some of the most frequently used goals are “destination goals” that let you check whether the visitor actually got to a web page you define as a goal. An example would be a ‘thank you page’ signifying that the user completed a purchase on your website.

How to Report it: E-Commerce in Google Analytics

Google Analytics has a fully customizable e-commerce tracking feature that integrates with your e-commerce platform and allows you to view the performance of your website in Google Analytics, shown in terms of revenue. You can see the number of products being sold, average revenue per customer, the shopping behavior of your customers and other data that is highly relevant and actionable. This is also a customizable feature.

Yes, this was just a quick overview of setting up Google Analytics for CRO!

As you can see the digital analytics is the virtually indispensable tool for any eCommerce store. While it is theoretically possible to operate a web store without web analytics, it is not a recipe for long term success or growth.

Regardless of what web analytics tool you choose, it will open a new world of opportunities and provide insights not only into the performance of your web store, but also into the minds of your visitors. Learn to master Google Analytics and you’ll improve your website and compel more of your existing visitors to become customers.

Analytics is the key to increasing the revenue of your web store, and is possibly the most cost-effective way to do so.

This article is first in a six-part series of our Google Analytics for E-Commerce. To read the rest of the series, click here.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + errors and get the checklist we follow and keep in mind when setting up Google Analytics for conversion optimization gains.
An Introductory Look at Setting up Google Analytics for CRO
This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Google Analytics for E-Commerce

Analytics is just a way to measure by setting a baseline and tracking indicators of improvement (or lack of improvement). But when you look at the Google Analytics dashboard, all of a sudden this simple concept becomes incredibly complicated.

And what you need to track for conversion optimization for your e-commerce website only complicates it further. You need accurate and timely data – and lots of it.

You Can’t Improve What You Can’t Measure: Why A/B Testing Starts With Analytics

You can't improve what you can't measure: Why A/B testing starts with analytics
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

The most common question we get from e-commerce shop owners is “When can I expect to see results from our A/B testing?”

It’s a natural question. You’ve decided to invest in the more sustainable and long-term gains you can get through a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program based on A/B testing. You’re looking beyond just traffic as a revenue growth track, and you’re ready to start seeing results from testing – now.

And we understand – we’re in it for your results, too. We also want to see you get the best possible results from taking the time to set up a strong testing program and create revenue gains through deliberate experience design changes. We balance a desire for long-term revenue growth with short-term “quick wins” to build a pervasive testing culture.

Those are the exact reasons why we’re completely honest with most people and tell them: we don’t know when you’ll see results.

A/B Testing Variations
A/B Testing Variations

The exact amount of time it takes to see results depends on a lot of factors. Oftentimes, e-commerce businesses need to set up the foundations of a testing process from the ground up. It depends on what your goals are, and what “results” means to you.

Most of the time, when we first start working with a client, we don’t start with testing at all. We start with understanding your business and the first step in that process is analytics.

The Relationship Between Analytics, Testing and CRO – or “The Gym Analogy”

Our favorite super-simple definition of CRO comes from the folks at Qualaroo. CRO is (emphasis ours):

…the method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website.

And then they simplify it even further. CRO is:

…finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.

We love how both get straight to the point, but we highlighted the words “analytics” and “user feedback” in the first definition because those two things are the key to why some organizations succeed at testing and CRO – and some don’t.

CRO is about figuring out where to close those holes in your funnel and improve your visitor experience. You can figure out what you need to do through targeted A/B testing.

But if you can’t trust the numbers underpinning the whole enterprise are accurate…what’s the point? That’s where analytics come in.

A properly set up analytics program provides the accurate data you need to support a testing and optimization strategy. It forms the foundational bedrock of the whole process.

Let’s use what we call “the gym analogy.”

You may see this pop up throughout our blogs because it’s such a useful analogy for understanding the process of testing and CRO.

You hire a personal trainer because you want to be able to lift 300 pounds. On the first day, you ask, “When will I be able to lift 300 pounds?

If you asked, “When will I be able to lift 300 pounds?” your personal trainer would never say “Five months.”

Your personal trainer would probably explain that the ability to lift 300 pounds comes from a variety of factors, including how often you’re going to work out, your nutrition level, the types of exercises you’re doing, your existing strength level, your musculature and more. They would never just say, “Five months.”

As you begin your workout regime, you’ll see a lot of “small wins” on the way to 300 pounds. One day, you’ll be able to lift 100. Another day, you’ll notice you’ve lost weight and gained muscle. And eventually, through meeting a number of small goals, you’ll be able to lift 300 pounds.

In our analogy, your workout routine and all those great exercise habits represent testing. And the foundational thing you need to lift weights? Weights, and weights that you can trust actually weigh what they say. That’s the analytics part of the analogy – data you can trust to form the foundation of your system.

What Makes a “Proper” Analytics Setup

So what makes an analytics setup trustworthy and accurate? There are a few major elements:

1. The Right Tools

You’re only as good as your tools. Here at Objeqt, we’re big fans of industry standard Google Analytics, and here’s why:

  • It’s free. This is a major one. We’re respectful of our clients’ budgets and a “free, powerful enough” tool always beats a “paid, slightly-more-powerful tool” in our opinion. The fact that anyone can sign up for Google Analytics without having to worry about pricing themselves out of their own testing process gives it a major thumbs up in our book.
  • It’s an industry standard. A lot of people in CRO and e-commerce use Google Analytics. This means once you’re set up with Google Analytics, you have lots of options. There are a ton of resources, so you can work with it yourself. Or you can work with a consultant – and most professional testing and CRO consultants should know their stuff in Google Analytics.
  • It’s easy to use and scale. A lot of tools require a lot of study before you can move past the simple early metrics and really get into the meaty stuff. Not so with Google Analytics. Whether you’re looking at very standard KPIs or really diving in, the tool doesn’t get in your way or require hours of tutorials to become proficient at setting up experiments like this one:
Google Analytics Tracking Code
Google Analytics Tracking Code

For more information on how to install Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager you can read our blog posts on Google Tag Manager.

We also like CrazyEgg or its alternatives such as Mouseflow, or HotJar, the useful tools that tell you about your users’ click and scroll habits using heat maps. In essence, CrazyEgg and other tools track where your visitors click, where they start or stop scrolling, and where they linger, through heat maps like this one:

Sample Heatmap
Sample Heatmap

These types of tools provide useful information for understanding customer behavior. All the tools can show the data in multiple types of heat maps, such as:

  • Click maps, that show where your visitors click on your website
  • Hover maps, that track the movements of the mouse pointer
  • Scroll maps, that track the vertical movement of the screen as visitors read your content
  • Uniquely, MouseFlow offers attention heat map that shows the amount of time visitors spend on each section of the page

Of course, their usefulness does not stop there. Every one of these tools features session recorder, where you can watch the interaction of each individual visitor. Their creators have included a few more options, such as form and funnel tracking or extremely useful session recording. HotJar also offers possibility to create surveys and polls.

Of course, everything these tools do can also be achieved using Google Analytics event tracking in conjunction with Google Tag Manager and Page Analytics. However using heatmaps and session recordings adds an important visual dimension that may help gain insights faster.

2. The Right KPIs

The right suite of analytics tools get you started on the right track, but next you have to set up what you’re measuring with those tools.

The things you can measure are almost infinite, and which ones you select will depend on your ultimate goals, but here’s a list of some you can consider to start with:

  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Cart abandonment point (where in the process)
  • Checkout conversions
  • Traffic to sales pages
  • Unique visitors
  • Returning visitors
  • Scroll depth
  • Length of time on page

Once you’ve determined what you’re going to measure, you can set up your tools and platforms to deliver you data on a regular basis.

3. The Right Analysis

Of course, having the data isn’t the end-all, be-all either. You have to know what to do with the data and how to analyze it to see what it’s telling you.

For instance, if you’re looking at your cart abandonment data and you’re seeing a lot of dropoffs right after you ask customers to fill out a form, you could start thinking of tests designed to find out why. Is your form too long? Does it happen too early in the process? Do you require too many fields? All of this stems from being able to read your data.

The Other Side of Research

Of course, data can only tell you so much. For the best possible research-backed foundation for your testing program, you’ll need to talk to your customers.

How to ask your customers the right questions to get information to complement your data is a topic for another day, but it’s important to remember: once your analytics are set up, your job isn’t done.

This article is second in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

If you’re enjoying our posts on the philosophy and process of A/B testing, subscribe to our free A/B testing email course!

 

You can't improve what you can't measure: Why A/B testing starts with analytics
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

CRO is about figuring out where to close those holes in your funnel and improve your visitor experience. You can figure out what you need to do through targeted A/B testing. But if you can’t trust the numbers underpinning the whole enterprise are accurate… what’s the point? That’s where analytics come in. A properly set up analytics program provides the accurate data you need to support a testing and optimization strategy. It forms the foundational bedrock of the whole process.

Pricing CRO Style: Matching Price to Audience

Pricing CRO Style: Matching Price to Audience

Pricing has so many roles to play in e-commerce. It has to cover product costs, personnel costs, and marketing costs to keep the business running (and profitable!), and it can act as a marketing tool, differentiating you from higher priced competitors. It’s a fine line to walk if you try to do it all – and most companies think they have to do it all.

But when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO), the lowest possible price isn’t always the right price – in fact price doesn’t necessarily depend on what the other guys are doing. The price you can charge for optimal conversions is based on a whole other criterion: Your audience.

Playing The Price is Right

Let’s play a game: True or False

If you lower your prices, your conversions will improve.

Well?

False – it depends on your audience and your unique value proposition (why they’re buying from you, rather than anyone else).

It’s counter-intuitive, but people don’t buy based on lowest price. They buy based on:

  • Trust
  • Brand (which is tied to trust)
  • Ease of purchasing
  • How well you communicate your value proposition
  • Proof your product will deliver the buyer’s desired outcome (also tied to trust)
  • Reduction or removal of risk (read: Trust)
  • Immediate action incentives

Basically, your sale depends on building trust, delivering desired outcomes, and tipping the scales of decision by gently prodding your buyer to act. When you have that combo in place, you’re no longer a price-based decision, you’re a value-based decision.

But – if your value proposition is, in fact, that you guarantee the cheapest price around, and that’s working well for you, then you’re already appealing to your target audience of bargain hunters. You don’t necessarily need to attract those who seek value to run a profitable business. Just look at Wal-Mart. You do still have to understand your audience and gain their trust though, because cheap prices won’t overcome those deficiencies. So read on.

Trust Issues

The biggest conversion killers have to do with trust. We want to know that we’re not going to be victims of a scam or unscrupulous business people, so we look for indications that the businesses we purchase from are on the level.

Your buyers, every one of them, will feel better about buying from you when:

1. Your site looks professional and updated

Both of the stores below are reputable, but which one would you prefer to buy from based on web design alone?

Store Visual Appearance
Store Visual Appearance

Or…

Store Visual Appearance
Store Visual Appearance

The funny thing is – the first web page actually has more trust indicators. They show their physical address and telephone number, they have a brick-and-mortar store, they’ve been in business for over 36 years, and below the fold, they have a quality guarantee AND a video of the store owner dancing the Cha Cha.

But the second website has a more updated design, the modern “Need Help?” chat window, and a top bar that is clean and simple with a search feature, “my account” and cart. I feel more comfortable here, and when I take the time to scroll below the fold, I see that they’re the “world’s largest online dancewear store” (clearly many people shop here – and that’s social proof). The only thing that troubles me is that they have this floating quote with zero attribution.

Social Proof
Social Proof

This site would convert much better if they had real, attributed quotes from happy customers, or even better, user reviews on their product pages.

2. You show user reviews

Even if your user reviews aren’t 100% good, just having them on your site has been proven to boost conversions. Think of bad reviews as a chance to publicly show your excellent customer service skills. And good reviews? Those are golden.

  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers. – eMarketer
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more. – BrightLocal
  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews –  iPerceptions

3. More social proof

For B2B e-commerce businesses especially, a great way to show social proof is to display the logos of companies that buy from you. B2C companies can get in on this action too by showing pictures of people who use their products (bonus points if they’re celebrities).

4. Product images are big, professional and varied

The simple act of making your product images larger has been shown to increase sales by 9%. But it’s not only size that counts, you also need good resolution (no grainy photos!) and alternate views of every product. ConversionXL recommends alternate views, detailed close-up shots, and pictures of people using the product.

5. You state your return policy and privacy policy

Buyers want to know what they can expect from you if the product doesn’t work out – and what they can expect from you when they trust you with their personal information.

6. Trust badges are prominently displayed

Trust badges include security seals, Better Business Bureau badges, McAfee, Norton, SiteLock and Google – but perhaps the most trusted badge is Paypal. ConversionXL research showed that Paypal garners more trust than all of the above. It’s also a handy way to pay.

The bottom line is: People will pay a premium to buy from businesses they trust.

Desired Outcomes

This is where understanding your audience really comes into play, because what buyers want most is the outcome. There’s an old saying that nobody who buys a hammer wants a hammer – they want a hole in the wall. What is the end result your buyers hope to achieve when they have your product in-hand? If you prove you can deliver that, they won’t care about the price. Here are a few ways to do just that.

1. Don’t pick desired outcomes out of thin air – do your research

It’s an all-too-common mistake for business owners to think they know what their customers want, without actually having asked them! Just like there’s “no crying in baseball,” there’s no guessing in business. Ground your assumptions in actual, qualitative and quantitative research (ie. words and numbers both).

2. Don’t settle for the easy answers

What people really want most isn’t faster shipping or lower prices, it’s to feel a certain way. As Talia Wolf wrote in Emotional Targeting 101:

When we buy something, we don’t purchase a ‘product’, a special price or features; we purchase an experience and a better version of ourselves.

When analyzing buyer responses to your qualitative data surveys, be on the lookout for hints of what their aspirations are, as well as the practical considerations they appreciate most.

3. Clearly state your value proposition

Your target audience’s desired outcome is closely tied with your value proposition – in fact, your value proposition had better include your audience’s desired outcome, or you haven’t achieved product-market fit.

Joanna Wiebe, Conversion Copywriter and Founder of Copy Hackers defines value propositions like this:

A value prop expresses what your prospect strongly desires 1) that only you offer or 2) that you offer best / most interestingly / most beautifully / most affordably / etc. A quick formula for your value prop is this:

Our customers are loyal to us because they want {highly desired X}, and we offer them that {in Y way}.

4. Show that you’re delivering on your promises with user-generated content

Yes, this trust exercise is also important for proving you can deliver on your audience’s desired outcomes. User-generated content can include product reviews, testimonials, links to third party review sites, and best of all – user photos. Check out Modcloth of outfit photos.

5. Price based on perceived value

“Perceived value” is what consumers think the product is worth to them, rather than a monetary value based on material quality and cost. In the 2010 book Money Makers by David Snider and Dr. Chris Howard assert that “When the benefits outweigh perceived costs, your prospect will take action.” Once you’ve changed your content to sell the desired outcome, the benefits of buying your product will become more apparent, and have a better chance of outweighing the perceived costs in the buyer’s mind.

Essentially, when your customer believes they can get exactly what they want from your product, you can justify charging more for it.

Action Incentives

Even when you’ve targeted the correct desired outcome for your audience and made your website as trustworthy as possible, you can raise your conversion rate even further by providing a little extra incentive. Something that spurs them on to “Buy Now!”

Usually that means putting something on sale, but not always.

1. Show your stock numbers

When stock numbers are low on a certain item, or on certain sizes, show it. Anyone who is on the fence of purchasing or not will move, because of Loss Aversion.

Loss Aversion
Loss Aversion

Loss Aversion is the idea that humans will do more to avoid a negative consequence than to make a positive outcome happen (because negative consequences hurt worse than positive results reward). It’s closely related as Scarcity, one of Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence.

Basically, it hurts (and hurts bad!) to lose something you want, even if you don’t want it very much. In fact, when you face the prospect of losing something, you want it even more. It’s why “Now for a Limited Time Only!” and “Only 5 left!” work so well to boost conversions, even when the product is full price.

And, of course, this tactic works really well for limited time sales.

2. Buy Now for [Incentive]!

“Buy Now for free shipping,” or buy more for free shipping – basically, act now to get a lower price or faster delivery, or even a free extra item, like a mystery gift bag. Having an order minimum for Free Shipping is one of the best ways e-commerce stores can increase sales they wouldn’t otherwise get.

In a study conducted by eConsultancy, Free shipping was the most popular motivation for 82% of UK and 80% of US consumers.

What’s easy for you to offer that has value to your customer? Make that your incentive and watch conversions rise! (But your incentive had better be good, because otherwise you’re undermining their trust in you, which will cost you in the long run).

3. Limit options

Sometimes, the sheer number of options you have on your site undermine your conversion rates – people can’t decide. In The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz says the more choice customers are given, the easier it is for them to choose nothing. If you have lots of products, invest in really good search and filter features so people can narrow down their options based on – yep! – their desired outcomes.

What’s Your Price?

The right price for any item depends more on how well you prove it will deliver the buyer’s desired outcome than any other factor. Your buyer wants to feel secure in their purchase, which is why trust is of paramount importance; your buyer wants to feel good about the purchase (all decisions are emotional); and your buyer might need an additional incentive to make his or her move.

You don’t need to have the lowest price to convert. You just have to give your customers the best set of reasons to convert with you.

 

Pricing CRO Style: Matching Price to Audience

Pricing has so many roles to play in e-commerce. It has to cover product costs, personnel costs, and marketing costs to keep the business running (and profitable!), and it can act as a marketing tool, differentiating you from higher priced competitors. It’s a fine line to walk if you try to do it all – and most companies think they have to do it all.

But when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO), the lowest possible price isn’t always the right price – in fact price doesn’t necessarily depend on what the other guys are doing. The price you can charge for optimal conversions is based on a whole other criterion: Your audience.

Google Data Studio Introduction: How-to Guide

Google Data Studio Introduction: How-to Guide

Ever since “data gathering” became a common term, the problem of how to gather increasing data gave way to another, harder problem.

As the quantity of data grew, interpretation of the data became progressively difficult. Suddenly, data analysts were faced with such an overwhelming amount of data on anything conceivable that it was difficult, bordering on impossible, to isolate the meaningful bits and pieces.

The more sources you need to consider in your research, the slower and less efficient this process becomes. There are many tools researchers use to overcome this issue, ranging from rudimentary solutions, such as using Google Sheets, to using custom-made software tools to import data from various sources and compare them.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document how to organize a report in Google Data Studio.

Data reporting in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the sources of data that gathers a large amount of data. All this data can be immensely useful to CRO researcher. Provided, of course, you can wrap your head around this multitude of information. So far, this problem in Google Analytics has been solved by using Dashboards or Google Sheets. Both of these tools allow for easy sharing and updating of reports to different users.

One of the most frequently used solutions for data reporting is Dashboards, integrated in Google Analytics interface. This solution allows users to quickly and easily add the reports they need fast access to, and share them effortlessly. Dashboards are entirely customizable and even feature automated email delivery on specified intervals.

Dashboards suffer from two limitations, though.

  • You can only put 12 different reports into one dashboard. If you need more than that, you need to create another dashboard.
  • Also, there is no option to allow the user to have any control over the data the reports contain.

Google Sheets, on the other hand, allows for unlimited numbers of reports, easy visualization with built-in charts, and real-time updates of information.But using Google Sheets requires spending time and effort to create and format the reports.

And once again, the user of the report has little control over the content of the report.

Why is this point important?

The purpose of organizing data into reports is to enable users to, well, use those reports.

The idea is to allow your team (however technically proficient they may be), to easily understand and interpret the data so they can use it to produce results. If you’re analyzing an e-commerce website for the purpose of increasing sales, for example, you need to be able to show your salespeople several sets of data (like performance with different consumer segments, products, campaigns, acquisition sources, etc.)

The trouble is that you can’t always anticipate what information will spark a breakthrough (or what missing piece of information could inhibit one). For example, you may send them report on acquisition by source and medium, but some crucial piece of information is contained in data for acquisition by referral.

While dashboards allow for customizing which reports to include, if you need something different, you’ll waste valuable time trying to get it (communicating with the report creator, trying to explain exactly what piece of missing data you’re looking for, etc.)

There has been one alternative to these solutions: Business intelligence software, such as Tableau, for example. Tableau (and other similar tools) is a full fledged business intelligence tool that allows for integrating multiple data sources – not only Google Analytics, but a multitude of web and server-based sources.

But then there’s Google Data Studio – which was just announced in May 2016, and even more recently made unlimited reports available for free.

So how does Data Studio compare?

Why Google Data Studio?

At a glance, Google Data Studio seems to address all of the shortcomings of Google Analytics Dashboards. While Dashboards will remain go to solution for quick and easy sharing of most important data, Data Studio adds versatility to your reports and makes them useful.

Google Data Studio gives you many options for how to share your data: Through email, or giving users direct access to Google Studio (along with “view” and “edit” privileges). This makes sharing the reports with users easier than ever. That way, users can find what they need on their own, rather than having to ask the GA ‘gatekeeper’ for anything the dashboard report leaves out.

Users can format reports easily with a built-in editor, and segment and filter their own data, without any need to contact the report creator.

Data Studio also allows for easy data importing from Google Analytics, other Google services, and data sources maintained by Google. And this data integration is a very important feature. So, before we go into actual using Data Studio, let’s get familiar with some basic concepts of data integration.

What is data integration?

Data integration means collecting the data from multiple available sources and bringing them all together in one place. This makes it much faster to compare different datasets and uncover correlations and interactions between different sets of data.

How data integration works - Source wikipedia.com
How data integration works – Source wikipedia.com

ETL – extract, transform, load

Extract, Transform, Load (ETL), is the process of accessing a data source and pulling out the data we want – extracting and transforming the data from the source form into the format we need, and finally, loading the data into our own database structure.

The extraction part is, technically, the most demanding. There are so many different formats and types of databases, many of which are maintained with software from rival companies that don’t ‘play well’ together. For these reasons, data extraction tends to cost a surprising amount of money to do.

Transforming data means taking the extracted data, and making it applicable to your purposes. For example, if your data is designated as 1 in its native database, but you need it to be designated as A in yours, you’ll need to “transform” it.

Loading the data is the process of adding the new data to your existing database and making it available for analysis and visualization. It can be done by replacing existing data or merging it. Complex system will even track the history of the changes.

Why CROs need data integration

Before we go into testing the actual piece of software, let’s just briefly elaborate on the importance of data integration for CRO.

In the digital world, everything is available in some form of data.

Any meaningful analysis requires access to this data, in the fastest and easiest ways possible.

When you start the process to optimize for conversion, you set off to gather as much data as you can so you can analyze that data to recognize patterns of visitor behavior. Your success depends not only on the availability of data (a problem that is relatively easy to solve), but on your ability to draw correct conclusions from it.

The better this data is organized and visualized, the easier this higher-level task becomes.

For example, you may be optimizing a large e-commerce store. But an e-commerce store is never just an e-commerce store. It’s probably also a mobile site, or possibly even an app.

In addition, to be able to correctly estimate the available data and put it into perspective, a CRO researcher may want to compare the website performance against another set of data, maybe even the total population of the country or target markets, number of internet connections, data on competitors and other benchmark data that can serve as predictors of future (or potential) performance.

If all this information is typically gathered by multiple tools, and to access and analyze it, you need to spend valuable time integrating and comparing the data. That is time much more profitably spent in actual analysis.

So far, the realm of data integration and aggregation has been dominated by expensive tools – tools that often were overkill for small and medium companies. There are, of course, open source solutions that can be used for free. But they suffer from their own share of problems.

Recently, Google released Google Analytics 360, a bundle consisting of already existing products and a few new ones. Google bills it as an integrated solution for all your data analysis needs. And from the looks of it, they certainly do seem to cover a lot of ground.

Data Studio is an integral part of the bundle, which is currently in Beta.

Hands on with Google Data Studio

Anyone with access to a Google Account can access Google Data Studio and start working almost immediately. As usual, there is a short registration procedure.

Google Data Studio - the screen you get once you open the website
Google Data Studio – the screen you get once you open the website

The main screen of Data studio consists of the menu on the left hand side where you can create new reports or select a data source from which to import data and a list of reports created so far.

Connecting Data Studio to data sources

Before we start reporting, we need to create a data source connection that enables us to draw data for visualization.

Connecting Google Data Studio to various data sources is easy
Connecting Google Data Studio to various data sources is easy

Adding sources is done through a connector – connectors represent the interface between the data source and Data Studio. You just need to open the ‘Data Sources’ tab on the left hand menu (the second option on the menu), select the data source of your choice and follow the instructions to authorize access to that source.

Adding a data source to report
Adding a data source to report

Google Data Studio currently supports the above data sources. Since it’s only in Beta, we can expect more will be added eventually. However, even with this limited selection, Google Data Studio can provide a great way to visualize different data.

To begin, we added the Google Analytics data source. Data Studio immediately showed all the dimensions and metrics available from that source in a table, called schema.

 The schema of Google Analytics account
The schema of Google Analytics account

Using this, you can add anything to your report. The “Field” column defines the character (dimension in Google Analytics terms) of the measurement. It denotes what the metric is actually measuring.

The “Type” column states the unit of measurement, or what type of metric is used to measure. It can be a number for numerical metrics, or text for descriptive ones, and even geographical latitude and longitude for locations.

The “Aggregation” column defines how the metric will be aggregated. If you use a metric that is reported as number, than you can select it to be reported as an absolute number, sum, average or automatic. Some metrics, like longitude and latitude, cannot be aggregated.

Confused? Just select an auto setting – it will try to recognize the best method to use.

Once you have defined the schema you want to use, it is time to do actual work.

Creating a report

Google Data Studio Main Screen
Google Data Studio Main Screen

When you click on “create a new report,” you get an empty space that you can fill with tables, charts, pie charts and even geographical maps. You can create your own templates and Data Studio will guide you through the entire process.

The interface makes aligning the charts and images very easy with helpful lines that provide a visual reference for alignment.

Here, we connected Data Studio with the Analytics account of the Google Merchandise Store. Once you add different visualizations, your final report could look like this:

Google Data Studio Sample Report
Google Data Studio Sample Report

You can also add filters and controls, so users can adjust the charts to view only the data that interests them, instead of all of the aggregated data.

For example, you can add a chart depicting the total number of sessions on a website. If you add a country filter, you can include or exclude sessions from individual countries you are interested in. This is how it looks:

Checking or unchecking the country to shows or hides the data on your chart
Checking or unchecking the country to shows or hides the data on your chart

The filters enable you to do the same for any dimension you want. You can filter the data by device, users, or any other dimension from Google Analytics.

To make your reports truly outstanding, you should follow some guidelines.

Google’s Analytics Advocate, Daniel Waisberg, created an incredibly useful step-by-step guide, that includes 5 best practices for creating reports:

  1. Filter controls give power to the users

  2. Headers and page dividers are great for organization and consistency

  3. Chart diversity makes the report more engagingColor styling helps guiding the eyes

  4. The Report purpose informs the design

  5. Following these guidelines makes your report more lively and easier to interpret.

Conclusion

So far data integration with Google Analytics has been relegated to using either custom made solutions, open source software, or improvising. One of the most frequently used methods was Dashboards, a feature integrated in Google Analytics. Another option, for more complex reporting was using the Google Sheet Analytics plugin, that allowed bringing in the data from analytics directly into sheets. Visualization and integration was done by creating charts and other suitable visual content manually.

These methods have their limits, and the setup process is very time consuming.

But, with Google Data Studio, you’ve got the same results in mere minutes.

That said, Google Data Studio isn’t perfect.

The primary issue is that its data source integration is limited, at least directly. You will not be able to integrate the data coming from most social networks, for example. In fact, the connectors that are available right now are mostly Google oriented with only two non-proprietary sources available – MySQL and PostgreSQL

You can always use Google Sheets to import data from other data sources manually or automatically and then import these data to Data Studio. This is a roundabout way, however. As Data Studio is still in the Beta phase of development, I would expect that this capability will be added later on.

Whether Data Studio will eventually graduate into a full fledged solution (which will most likely not be free) with a limited free version, similar to Google Analytics, and be accepted as another contender in the marketplace of business intelligence tools, such as Tableau (the most widely used Business intelligence system we’ve encountered), Microsoft Power BI, BOARD and others remains to be seen.

FREE Download: Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and get our bonus document how to organize a report in Google Data Studio.
Google Data Studio Introduction: How-to Guide

Google Data Studio seems to address all of the shortcomings of Google Analytics Dashboards. While Dashboards will remain go to solution for quick and easy sharing of most important data, Data Studio adds versatility to your reports and makes them useful.

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

Imagine you had a goal to ride a bicycle a hundred miles.

Of course, you’d want to make sure you knew how many miles you’d gone. You’d want to strive for that first 10, that first 20, the huge milestone of 50. You’d want to make sure you kept putting a lot of effort and energy into riding that bike so you could get to 100 eventually.

But you’d also make sure you were using the right wheels. You’d also check to see that your seat was the best kind for you, and that your pedals were the right type. You’d want a professional to look over your chain, brakes, alignment, and everything else that makes your bike run as efficiently as possible.

Because if you’re putting tons of energy into just hitting distance markers, you might be able to hit those goals faster and more easily with a tuned-up bike, right?

We should think about e-commerce the same way. The goal is always revenue, always more miles, but instead of thinking constantly about traffic and the sheer effort it takes to keep growing traffic base, what if we thought about the efficiency of the store at the same time?

Ultimately, there’s two ways to improve the revenue of your e-commerce store:

  1. More traffic to your properties
  2. More conversions with your existing traffic

We get super focused on growth and traffic, and for early stage e-commerce stores, we encourage that laser focus. Your store flat-out can’t be successful without traffic. Without traffic, improving your conversions won’t accomplish much, and you’ll lack enough data to even run tests.

But once you’re seeing a solid traffic base and you’re wondering what else you can possibly do to improve your numbers, start thinking about your website in a different way. Instead of, “How do I get more people to visit my site?” start thinking, “How do I get more people who are already visiting to take the actions I want?”

We’re talking about the art and science of conversion rate optimization (CRO), of course, and the main mechanism to conduct CRO – A/B testing, or split testing.

At its most basic, A/B testing sets up one change in one variable, and records any difference in your customer behavior to help you determine if you should make the change or not.

So you have the control, which is exactly what you’re already doing, and then the same exact page with one thing changed:

A/B Testing
A/B Testing

We go a lot more into how to set up effective A/B tests in some of our other posts, but it’s important to keep your tests scientific by only changing one element at a time.

For instance, if you’re trying to figure out if adding an interstitial helps or harms your sales page conversion rate, don’t also change the copy and button colors at the same time. You won’t be able to tell which change caused the uptick or drop in conversions.

It takes some patience, but isolate exactly what you want to improve and change one thing at a time.

Why to Divert Some Attention from Growth Toward CRO

Let’s back up for a minute before we jump further into “What is A/B testing?” and answer “Why A/B testing?”

If growth is so important, why does it make sense to stop focusing solely on growth and start paying attention to CRO?

Because when it comes to getting the best results for your effort, it’s hard to beat the incremental changes and potentially huge gains you can get through optimizing based on testing.

For example, let’s say – as the example below shows – that you have 10,000 visitors to your site during a given period. We’ll call it 10k visitors a month, for simplicity.

Shopping Conversion Funnel
Shopping Conversion Funnel

So every month, 10,000 people visit your site. Of those 10k, 60% visit your shopping area, 30% place an item in their cart and 3% make a purchase, leaving you with 54 conversions, or customers who bought.

Imagine that through some small tweaks like adjusting your sales messaging or shopping cart process, you could increase all of those numbers by 2% at each stage.

Now, 62% of visitors make it into the shopping area. 32% of them put something in their cart. 5% buy it. Instead of 54 purchases, you now have 99, or almost double!

And if you could replicate those small gains across every important area of your web property, you’ve doubled your conversions without making any effort to grow your traffic.

That’s why testing matters. You could carry on running your store as usual, working on growing your traffic, and making changes to your website based on your intuition or what you’ve seen other stores pull off successfully – but nothing will work as well as honing in on what you should be doing based on durable testing.

Difference can be visualized like this:

Conversion Rate Optimization Impact
Conversion Rate Optimization Impact

A strong e-commerce operation may still get some conversion jumps without testing, but a statistically strong and properly set up testing program makes that line follow a much more exponential curve, as successful tests build on successful tests.

The Four Building Blocks of A/B Testing

If you’re ready to add optimization to your toolkit for growing your e-commerce business, that’s excellent. Let’s talk broadly about the things you’ll need to succeed.

Testing mindset

This may feel a bit fuzzy, but it’s the most important thing to arm yourself with before you start working on your CRO. At Objeqt, clients come to us at a variety of success levels and for a variety of reasons, but the first thing we work on is testing mindset and approach to testing.

Here are the things we believe about testing:

  • Testing produces the most sustainable lifts of any tactic you could employ
  • Testing should be done consistently and continuously
  • Testing requires patience to generate the best results
  • A successful testing program should combine short-term successes and long-term goals
  • The entire organization should adopt a testing culture where data- and research-driven testing leads to actionable changes
  • Testing significantly minimizes an organization’s risk exposure
  • Conversion improvement is as or more important than traffic for revenue growth

We talk about all those principles in detail in other posts, but those ideas form the basis of our testing philosophy.

If you’re new to testing, or if you’re thinking of testing as a quick and easy “hack” aimed solely at boosting revenue, we’d encourage you to carefully consider your longer-term goals.

Testing requires patience, and your testing philosophy should be geared toward discovering the right adjustments to make to deliver a better customer experience and sustainable gains for your store – not a quick boost and then on to the next thing.

Traffic for statistically sound tests

As a wise person once said (probably): There’s no replacement for traffic. Get it or you can’t test.

It might feel arbitrary and exclusionary, but there’s a reason behind this idea. If you run split tests with too few visitors, your test results might not be statistically sound.

For instance, let’s say you’re running a test about changing your call-to-action button on a landing page. You only have 10 visitors to that page, and 4 pick red and 6 pick green.

On its surface, 60% for green seems pretty conclusive, but when it’s only a difference of two visitors, it’s hard to justify changing all your buttons to green with any confidence. You might run the same test another day and the results could be swapped because there’s just not enough traffic to test.

The Kissmetrics sample size calculator tells us that this test isn’t statistically significant:

Kissmetrics Sample Size Calculator
Kissmetrics Sample Size Calculator

There are a lot of automatic calculators out there to tell you how many conversions you need to run a statistically sound test, including Optimizely, VWO and our personal favorite from Evan Miller.

Each calculator runs a bit differently. If you have any questions about your model or what a calculator is telling you, we’ll always recommend working with an expert contractor. You get the double benefit of putting a specialist in charge of your testing, and you get to go back to what you do best – leading your e-commerce business.

Quantitative research (analytics)

Analytics needs to come before testing.

This can sometimes be a hard sell for store owners who already have enough traffic to begin a testing program – if that’s the case, most of the time the business is doing well and has had some success with traffic growth tactics.

It’s hard to say, “OK, now it’s time to properly set up a system for accurate quantitative research and analytics data gathering, and only then will it make sense to test!”

But this goes back to that crucial testing mindset – why test if you have a weak research foundation that ensures your test results will be useless? Or worse, dangerously incorrect?

We have a few posts that go into way more depth on how to properly set up an analytics program, including this one that we recommend starting with.

Qualitative research (customer research)

Analytics forms only one part of a solid research program. As we like to tell our clients, you can’t improve what you can’t measure – and data only tells you so much.

Complementing your analytics with a comprehensive customer research program yields the kinds of customer insights you’d only dream about otherwise. It’s crucial to try to understand your customer deeply and predict what will be important to them as they experience your website – before you start testing.

You have an infinite number of things you can test, but not all of them will make a difference to your customers. So you can use this deep research to hone in on the important things and only spend your time testing those.

Testing for Sustainable and Continuous Optimization

So now your bike is as tuned up as it’s ever going to be, and you’ve also put in all the effort growing your stamina and physical ability – you’re ready to cycle a hundred miles. Congratulations!

But bike technology changes. Parts wear down. Things fall out of alignment. Your needs change. If you’re ready to go your next hundred miles, you’ll need to continuously tune up your machine, right?

And e-commerce stores are the same way. Testing helps store owners establish a proven process and system for optimizing the most important aspects of the customer experience on a continuous basis.

This article is first in a five-part series, The Foundation of A/B Testing for E-Commerce Growth. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Want to learn more about how you could grow your revenue through effective testing? Let’s talk! Book a free consultation with one of our experts and we’ll identify your exact next steps.

 

e-Commerce Growth: Understanding A/B Testing
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

Once you’re seeing a solid traffic base and you’re wondering what else you can possibly do to improve your sales, start thinking about your website in a different way. Instead of, “How do I get more people to visit my site?” start thinking, “How do I get more people who are already visiting to take the actions I want?”

We’re talking about the art and science of conversion rate optimization (CRO), of course, and the main mechanism to conduct CRO – A/B testing, or split testing.