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. This data is organized in five sections:
- Real Time
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.
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, 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?
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
- Items sold
- Categories and brands of products
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.
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.
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.