Basics of web analytics for eCommerce

Learn the basics of web analytics for eCommerce

5 minutes read

If you are running an eCommerce business, there are many important reasons why you should use web analytics to track and improve your performance and literally no reason to completely give up on it. It’s cheap, risk-free, not necessarily time consuming and, most importantly, it works. Learn what you can do today to start your journey with web analytics for eCommerce.

Data – there is hardly any other word in the dictionary that gets thrown around so much nowadays as this one. The big data market, which refers to data volumes large enough to require more than just a single PC or traditional data processing tool such as Excel to process, is set to grow to over $ 40 billion worldwide by 2018. There are many good reasons for that. With data, you can learn whether the decisions you make everyday bring the results you expect.

The question that may be forming in your mind right now is – what’s in it for me? Why should I, the owner of an eCommerce business, jump on that bandwagon? The answer is simple:

So you don’t remain in the dark

Any day you run your eCommerce store, selling products, answering your customer inquiries and providing them with useful content, your website produces large quantities of data. How many people visited your website? Where did they come from? What products and site attracted the most visitors? What site turned the most visitors off? Which campaign and ad that you run brought the most revenue?

Do you know the answers to those questions? You can’t unless you use web analytics on a daily basis. You may make a lot of great marketing decisions such as developing useful and valuable content for your customers to enjoy, building great landing pages and doing your SEO homework properly. However, you just can’t be sure that you’re going in the right direction if you don’t use web analytics.

OK, so how do I start?

Today the market is full of various web analytics solutions. Some of them are completely free to use, others require you to pay. The good news is that some of the most popular analytics solutions, such as Google Analytics, Open Web Analytics and Piwik, are 100% free and simple to set up. You can easily combine it with your Magento store as well as any other platform by using extensions or hard-coding a short piece of code.

It would take a whole other article to go through the full list of web analytics software offerings worth taking a look at. We’ll do it next time. Instead, let’s focus on Google Analytics, the most popular web analytics tool in the world, as an example to tell you about some of the most important benefits of using web analytics.

To start with Google Analytics, all you have to do is access the service from your Google account and set up a new analytics account for your website. You will receive a piece of JavaScript tracking code that needs to be added to the header of your website (you can use an extension specific to your platform to add this code). And that’s it for the basic setup!

Audience Overview in Google Analytics – the first screen you’ll see after logging in.

Where are they coming from?

The very basic benefit of using a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics is the ability to see where your website visitors come from – the Acquisition section. Default channels include:

  • organic search – visitors who found your website in organic (non-paid) results in a search engine such as Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo
  • direct – visitors that typed the address of your website directly into the address bar
  • referral – visitors that came to your website by following a link from another website
  • socials – visitors from various social media platforms

There are many ways to customize it. For example, you can use custom links to track how many visitors came to your site from a specific social media post or ad (use Google’s custom URL builder to do that). Armed with that knowledge, you can easily see which channels are the most important for you and which ones underperform.

The Acquisition section gives an insight into where your website visitors come from.

What do they do?

The Behavior section is another essential part of your Google Analytics account. With that, you can track how people use your eCommerce website. One of the most basic metrics is the bounce rate – the percentage of users that left your website right after visiting just a single page. When one of your pages has a tremendously high bounce rate, it may mean one of two things: it’s completely irrelevant for the people who arrive there, or it fulfills their needs so well that they no longer need to see more (e.g. a page that explains how to use your product). It’s up to you to decide, which one it is.

Thanks to the Behaviour section you can track how people use your eCommerce website.

What makes them buy?

The fundamental goal of your eCommerce website is to sell. And with Google Analytics, you can track sales as conversions. In essence, you set up a process that consists of a few stages and ends with your end goal – conversion. A typical scenario may involve your shopping cart. If making a purchase means getting through five pages with the cart being the first and a “Thank you” page being the last, the “Thank you” page will be your end goal. If a user ever sees this, it means they’ve completed a purchased. While tracking the process, you may find out that one of the pages is especially confusing and causes many people to abandon the process. Now you can improve it.

Advanced eCommerce tracking

Google Analytics also offers advanced eCommerce tracking. It requires a more advanced implementation (additional eCommerce code). But with this, you can actually measure how much money each page generates. eCommerce conversions are different than standard conversion. With standard conversion, when one user downloads a PDF file (the end goal) repeatedly, it only counts as one conversion. In eCommerce, if one user does it repeatedly, each time adds revenue as specified by you (e.g. $8).

Customize and report

If you want to track only specific pieces of data, you can set up a new view within your Analytics account and provide it with various criteria. For example, you can create a separate view for a single web page only, which won’t influence your primary view. And once you receive data, you can easily generate and print a report to be included in your presentations.

The following is just a quick glance at some of the most popular web analytics features offered by Google Analytics. One that we intentionally omitted, as it definitely deserves an article on its own, is A/B testing. You can use web analytics to measure the performance of different variants of the same web page to find out which resonates better with your audience.

The tool, as well as some other web analytics software offerings, give you much more power than that. With that power, you can find out whether your ads, content and virtually any decision you make brings you the results you want. If you use the power wisely, your business will become more effective with each day.

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