Wouldn’t it be great if you could read your customers’ minds? How about predicting the future? At the very least, it’d be nice to know about potential threats before it’s too late.
These may seem like fantasy daydreams of an idealist, but the truth is they fit closer into the realm of cold, hard logic. Concepts like these — understanding customer behavior, foretelling future trends, and spotting problems before they start — are all under the umbrella of analytics. The data that goes through your site has more “magic” in it than a crystal ball.
The key is knowing what to look for; otherwise you could get lost in all those numbers. In this article, we explain the best metrics to watch for ecommerce if you’re using Google Analytics. We explain not only what to look for, but also how to apply it to improve your sales.
Let’s start with data on your customers, the heart of any business. While you can program in specific segments to monitor age and gender, there are a couple of areas that can be even more fruitful, and they’re readily available:
- Location (Audience > Geo > Location)
- Technical Specs (Audience > Technology > Browser & OS; Audience > Mobile)
Because balancing shipping logistics is integral to ecommerce success, you want to keep a close eye on where your customer base is, literally. Geographical analytics tell you where your biggest markets are (and aren’t) so you can plan your shipping and where to store your inventory accordingly. This data also offers invaluable insight if you’re planning to expand.
Technical specs are crucial to optimizing your site. The Technology tab shows the most and least popular browsers and OS your customers use; you can use this data directly in your site design to cater your site experience to these avenues. Just around the corner in the Mobile tab, you can see a breakdown of how many users visit your site on mobile or desktop devices, to further tailor your web design to the most popular mediums.
These two areas are particularly useful, but really the Audience section of Google Analytics is full of helpful information. The User Flow section, for example, shows a web of the user pathways, a useful tool if you’re good at discerning patterns. For example, maybe all your Facebook referrals go directly to your Shoe products — you could use this to buy more shoe ads on Facebook.
Additionally, the New vs Returning section (Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning) is useful for distinguishing repeat customers from first-timers. Check these numbers to find the perfect balance between campaigns targeting new shoppers and promotions to keep the old ones happy.
The Acquisition data both allows you to monitor the performance of your marketing campaigns and tips you off to your most effective avenues for promotions. Again, you’ll want to look for patterns to discern what works and what doesn’t.
Specifically, look at where most of your traffic is coming from. Start with the big picture in the Channels tab: search engine results, social media, emails, etc. Knowing your biggest referral sources allows you to customize your marketing campaigns, i.e., taking money from lackluster Twitter ads and putting it into more effective PPC Google ads.
From there, you can compare individual sources. For example, if you find social media draws the most traffic, then which social media channels are most successful? Maybe you should invest more in your Snapchat campaigns than those on Instagram.
Also take note of what types of sites are sending you referrals found in Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. Analytics is great for discovering friends you never knew you had. You may notice a lot of traffic coming from unexpected sources — maybe niche forums, or an individual influencer’s account. If so, you can proactively nurture this traffic source, rather than letting it die out from neglect.
For ecommerce, Conversions analytics essentially means “sales data.” While all of it can be useful at different times in different situations, here we’ll identify three metrics that are especially useful:
- Product Performance (Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Performance)
- Average Order Value (Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview)
- Time to Purchase (Conversions > Ecommerce > Time to Purchase)
Product Performance is pretty self-explanatory — you want to showcase your top performers more and consider discontinuing poor performers (and burning through the leftover inventory with special promotions).
However, there’s something less obvious that you should also look for: products with high sales rates and low page visits. These are products with a high demand that customers aren’t aware of — perfect candidates for featuring on your home page and external campaigns.
The Average Order Value is a mean statistic for all shoppers; you can find it in the Overview section. While this is a good indicator of your site’s overall performance, pay attention if this value gets too low. In that case, you need to modify your sales strategy, typically by adding discounts, gifts, or free shipping for orders that exceed a certain amount.
Similarly, Time to Purchase is another stat that acts as a warning alarm. If shoppers are taking too long to shop, it reflects poorly on your UX and signals room for improvement.
Dig deeper into the source of the problem. It could be your navigation system is too confusing or counter-intuitive and shoppers get lost too easily. Alternatively, it could be the shopping experience that’s problematic — in which case, you can add shopping aids.
More detailed spec charts might help customers understand your products better. You could also present a comparison guide that lays out all the relevant information, so visitors don’t have to waste time clicking back and forth between pages.
The last stat we’ll single out is your Bounce Rate, the percentage of visitors who leave your site almost as soon as they arrive. Your overall bounce rate can be seen on the Google Analytics Home Screen, but even more useful are the bounce rates of your individual pages, which can be found in Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
For starters, your pages with the highest bounce rates need the most work (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). Reevaluate those pages’ designs and cross-reference the data to see if you can identify what specifically is causing people to leave. A/B testing can reveal the problem if you can’t find it on your own.
Moreover, you can also use bounce rates to judge how successful your external campaigns are. If a certain referral is sending you a lot of traffic, it’s still a failure if most of that traffic bounces — it signifies a mismatch either in the type of person that uses the referral or the site itself.
If all else fails, maybe your navigation is to blame. If a user can’t get where they want after a few tries, they’ll just give up.
Don’t forget that the internet is part machine — it’s capable of collecting data in ways that brick-and-mortar retailers can only dream about. Use that to your advantage by harnessing analytics. Keeping an eye on your site data directly improves the quality of your business decisions and takes the guesswork out of managing your business. To err is human, but the numbers never fail.