Click the links above to jump to a specific section, or continue scrolling to discover how you can dig into your Google Analytics data to improve ecommerce performance.
1. Learn how to use Google Analytics properly
Google Analytics is a goldmine of data for marketers. But Hosting Canada‘s Gary Stevens’ best tip for using the platform for your online store isn’t conventional: “The best tip I have for using Google Analytics is to check out the Google Analytics Academy.”
“Most people I know only use Google Analytics for a few things but the truth is Google Analytics can do so much more than they think.”
Stevens explains: “The academy has 6 different courses and starts with a beginner course and works up to Analytics power users. After that, there are three other helpful courses to take. Being a true master of Google Analytics is a massive advantage when trying to plan out traffic strategies and analyzing how well they work.”
(Fancy learning more about Google Analytics? We’ve compiled a list of the best GA training resources to help you make the most out of your data.)
However, Stuart Cooke of Levity Digital advises to “establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to track for your store. This will determine what goals you set up in Google Analytics and what information will be most valuable to you.”
“For example, if one of your KPIs is to generate more visitors to your website, you might want to look at traffic to the site, the time each visitor spent on your page, conversion rates from different traffic sources, etc.”
Newsletter2Go‘s Bert Winterfeld agrees: “Don’t trust the default metrics in Google Analytics. They are set up to fit as many business cases as possible, but they might not fit yours. So know your metrics and know how they are measured.”
3. Segment the data for your best KPIs
Once you’ve found your main KPIs, SHIFT Agency‘s Aristide Basque thinks you should “always look at your metric based on different segments of your audience. Your conversion rate might have improved in the US, but dropped in Canada following a test you’ve made.”
To do this, simply find the report you want to dive deeper into. Click the “All Users” segment and choose from a selection of premade segments. (Or, create your own.)
Directive‘s Liam Barnes also adds that “from a user experience standpoint, it is important to understand what devices the majority of your purchases come from.”
“If there are a lot of mobile users, but your website converts better on desktop, understanding that difference in user behavior can provide you with better insights on how your users interact on separate devices,” Barnes says.
Kernez‘s Ross Kernez also advises to break down your metrics by channel: “Visitors come to your site from various channels, and since you have to spend resources (money, time) to attract them, it is important to understand which channels work and which do not.”
“Each channel has its own efficiency, which is determined by the ratio of its costs to the total amount of revenue from orders.”
4. Compare your data with offline trends
Have you spotted an anomaly in your data?
Revenue River‘s Michael Tucker says: “If you’re hopping into Google Analytics every day and look at the same basic metrics you’re marginalizing your impact. Anyone can look at bounce rates and conversion rates. Where actionable insights come from is how you connect those data points.”
“Don’t do it this just with online metrics, tell your story with offline metrics and trends too (seasonality, competitor behavior, industry news, etc.).”
PRO TIP: Get Useful, Actionable Data on Your Ecommerce Store’s Performance
To improve the performance of your online store, it’s vital to have access to useful and actionable data. But, with so many metrics available to track, it may be hard to determine which ones will actually help you move the needle.
That’s why we have created a concise dashboard template that only tracks the most important metrics for analyzing the core elements of your ecommerce businesses, such as:
Transactions and orders. How many transactions does your online store process in a day, a week, or a month? How many orders, and how many were placed on the same day of the previous month?
Sales volume and trends. See how much money has been generated from sales in the current month. Analyze daily trends to compare with your sales goals and take action to reach them.
Website traffic trends. Track the number of new and returning visitors to your website and the number of individual sessions initiated by these users.
Conversion to customers. See what percentage of your website visitors convert to customers.
Revenue per customer. See how much revenue you get from each unique visitor that interacts with your store during a given time period.
Amount per transaction. Track the average dollar amount each customer spends on a sale.
Best-selling products. See your most popular products in terms of volume and revenue in a given period.
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing the most important KPIs for monitoring your online store’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in ecommerce reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics account with Databox.
Whilst setting up your Google Analytics account, you might’ve seen an option for Enhanced Ecommerce.
Jeffrey Aspacio of NextDayFlyers explains what this feature means: “This is different from the Standard Ecommerce feature which only collects transactions while the latter allows web owners to create a purchase funnel and lets the see which step/s visitors drop-off in the funnel.”
“Enabling the enhanced ecommerce feature also allows access to helpful reports such as product list performance report, checkout behavior report, the shopping behavior report and the internal promotions report.”
Viacheslav Ponomarev of 49.95 says that “with this extra data, you can configure the transfer of data on views of product cards, steps for placing an order and other user actions on the site. Advanced electronic commerce allows you to:
Get data on the full sales cycle, starting from viewing the products in the catalog and ending with the order process. Track the effectiveness of advertising.
Store this data in one group of reports convenient for their subsequent processing.”
You can find this data by heading to Behavior > Events > Top Events. Then, click the Enhanced Ecommerce filter:
COFORGE‘s team also “use Google Universal Analytics with ecommerce tracking turned on,” according to Eric Mellilo.
“With these items enable and setup, we can begin tracking our store metrics much better. We can also look for checkout friction points and build in conversion improvements.”
6. Create goals for your store
Jonathan Aufray explains: “To measure your online store using Google Analytics, [Growth Hackers] create goals for each page. The objective is to track conversions (this could be leads generated or sales) in order to find out what works and what doesn’t.”
“Once we find the pages converting the most, we replicated the strategies to other product pages.”
Fixel‘s Elad Levy explains that with these goals, “you can identify and address bad user experience (using popups or plain copy) as well as opportunities to restock items that still drive organic traffic.”
How do I set up ecommerce goals in Google Analytics?
You’ll probably need to create Goals before continuing with any other tip we mention here. So, let’s take a quick break and recap how you can create custom goals for any on-site activity, including:
Long session duration
Playing a video
Viewing 5+ pages
Create your own Google Analytics goal by heading to your Admin Dashboard > Goals. You can build up to 20 goals for your website property.
7. Track your goal conversion rate
“One of the most important metrics you can utilize in Google Analytics for your online store is conversion rate,” says Pupford‘s Devin Stagg.
“Diving down into conversion rate by landing page, product page, and source/medium can give you valuable insights into your pages as well as your traffic.”
…No wonder it’s the most popular metric that online site owners track:
Stagg continues: “If a page typically converts well, you can measure a specific audience’s quality by looking at the conversion rate. And hey, if you can double your conversion rate, you will double revenue!”
8. Investigate conversion paths
Hexe Data‘s Krzysztof Surowiecki “strongly recommend[s] checking the conversion path reports, focusing on conversions multi-channel funnels. It’s essential to know which channels are assisting during the conversion process and which are directly converting.”
“Thanks to this, we can better allocate the budget between sources that appear on customer paths, not only at the end but also at the beginning and in the middle of its path who buy the most.”
You can find this report under Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Overview:
MashMetrics‘ Thomas Bosilevac explains: “While your social media attempts may bring a low transaction rate, you may notice a high blog read rate or newsletter sign-up. The multi-channel report will show that users are coming to your site, engaging, signing up for your emails, and then buying after the first few.
“GA will show the transaction came from Email. But attribution will give some love to social media too,” Bosilevac adds.
Summarizing, Chris Paterniti of Dilate Digital says: “You really need to pay attention to conversion paths and WHERE sales might be coming from in the FIRST interaction.”
9. Look at conversion path lengths
“Google Analytics provides a unique insight into your site’s user experience, and can also show you some potential weak spots in your sales process that you can address,” says Alexandra Zelenko of DDI Development.
“By using the Path Length report, you will identify how many interactions it takes before your customers purchase. What’s more, it will help you to measure how many times a customer needed to interact with your online store before converting.”
You can find this report by heading to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Path Length:
Zelenko continues: “The reason for this is that not everyone is going to buy on their first visit, especially for higher consideration purchases (e.g. buying a jet aeroplane). These people more than likely will see the Facebook ad, do some Googling or direct searches and THEN buy, once they trust your brand.”
10. Prioritize top-performing product pages
You can use your landing page report to find which URLs your visitors are landing on, as Website Promoter‘s Paul Granger explains: “This will give you an idea of what SEO is effective and what is not.”
Granger adds: “You can click on Landing Pages and see which pages tend to be viewed most when first visiting your website, compared to which pages are the most popular. You can use this to get an idea of which pages are most popular – you can then ensure that these are visible on your website’s homepage.”
Lauren Walter, part of the Search Optimism team, thinks “it’s important to measure the performance of your product pages to see how long users are staying on these pages as well as when and where they leave your website.”
“This can tell you a lot about how shoppers view your products and what is important to them.”
Adam Bastock thinks you should “create a custom report which emails you each week with a report on:
The Source / inbound link of these pages”
Bastock continues: “It’s a great way to see if there are people finding your website through organic and getting empty pages – or even worse if you’re running Ads to empty pages.”
These weekly reports could remind you to check your Google Analytics data–especially when 37% of experts look at their online store weekly:
12. Watch for duplicate transactions
“Duplicate transactions can happen when users complete a transaction and then stop using their browser,” John Morabito of Winston Digital Marketing explains. “When the browser fires back up, if the tab is still open, it will fire another transaction.”
“You can see whether this is happening to you by setting up a custom report with the number of transactions and transaction IDs. If you have more than 1 transaction per ID, that’s an issue usually. You can fix this using GTM.”
13. Filter out your own IP address
Chances are, you’re visiting your online store multiple times per day. You want to check everything is running smoothly, and preview items before they’re uploaded.
However, ZooWho‘s Claire Shaner has a word of warning: “Make sure to filter out your internal employee traffic! This is crucial, especially for small companies. If you don’t filter this out, your metrics will get muddy and your numbers won’t be accurate.”
“Ask all employees for the IP of the computer or device they use to access your online store or site. Then create a filter in Google Analytics to exclude these IPs from your data.”
14. Sync Google Analytics with your ecommerce platform
“My best tip is to connect Google Analytics with your store purchases,” says Joe Sloan of APORTA Shop.
“Shopify makes these a seamless connection that allows you to quickly understand what default sources (CPC, organic, social, etc.) are driving sales to your business.”
Sloan continues: “If you see that the majority of your sales are coming from emails or from blog posts it makes it clear where you need to invest your time and strategies. It also helps to know if you need to adjust a strategy that is not producing the expected results.”
In fact, Sloan isn’t alone with this process of importing data. The majority of our experts use 2 or 3 additional tools with Google Analytics:
Ade Holder of 427 Marketing adds that you should “never trust the “Direct” traffic, this channel includes traffic that Google is unable to work out the original source for. Some people report that up to 80% of direct traffic is actually Organic!”
For that reason, Holder recommends to “cross-reference it against your internal report (through your CMS or other reporting systems). Analytics won’t report on every single sale.”
Ready to start measuring?
With hundreds of metric and dimension combinations to play around with, spend some time getting lost inside the data Google Analytics has collected for your store.
These tips are a great starting point to find what’s working–and what isn’t.
Use your findings to improve your online store. You’ll soon start to see sales trickle in.
About the author
Elise Dopson Elise Dopson is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing companies. With a focus on data-driven ideas that truly provide value, she helps brands to get noticed online--and drive targeted website visitors that transform into raving fans.
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