In a recent post, we talked about the importance of tuning the performance of your online channel to increase sales (“Lifting the Hood on your eCommerce Engine”). This week we’ll share with you the best diagnostic tools to allow you to measure and tune eCommerce performance.
As the saying goes: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. And there certainly is a lot to measure in the online world, with your customers and prospects leaving their digital footprint all over your eCommerce site.
So let’s get started.
Web Analytics Software
Web Analytics programs, like Google Analytics, measure and segment your overall website traffic. At a base level, Web Analytics tools tell you how many users visit your eCommerce site, how they get to your site, and how they interact with the site. In other words, Web Analytics tells you what’s working on your eCommerce site, and what’s not.
Google Analytics (GA) is the “800lb Gorilla” in this space. It’s free (unless you are a large enterprise and are willing to shell out $150K a year for some customization and hand-holding with Google Analytics Premium), and it is constantly being improved and updated with increased power. I’m a big fan of GA.
To meaningfully look inside your eCommerce engine, you and your team should become familiar with the following advanced components of Google Analytics:
- The “Conversion” section, including Goals and Goal Funnels, eCommerce Tracking, and Multichannel Tracking. Having conversion tracking in place will allow you to reverse engineer and duplicate your eCommerce successes. For example, you’ll be able to determine:
- Which traffic sources drive the highest converting traffic and achieve the best goal performance?
- What pages in your goal funnels lead to site/ shopping cart abandonment?
- If the user visits your site multiple times before purchase, how do your channels (Direct, Referral, Search) interact with one another to drive conversions? Which channels are most important?
- Advanced Segments and Filters. To answer very specific questions about a subset of your traffic, you’ll need to weed out the other segments. Only interested in non-bounce, Canadian Search Traffic? Only interested in traffic data to the “Lawn & Garden” section of your website? Filters and Segmentation can give you the granular data you need.
Some warnings about Web Analytics
First, these tools will throw mountains of information at you, and you can easily drown in meaningless data. So before you begin, determine exactly what you are trying to measure, and set the KPI (Key Performance Indices) for your site. Then set up your own customized Dashboard reports within GA to automatically generate reports on those specific KPIs.
Second, Web Analytics deliver aggregate data and averages over time. It’s impossible to hone in on traffic patterns and online behaviour of specific, high-value individuals. You’ll need Prospect Tracking software for that (see below).
Third, remember that most data from Google Analytics (or any similar tool) is an approximation. This is because GA has to make assumptions in its calculations. For example, GA determines Unique Visitors based on IP addresses. If one person accesses your site twice, but from two different computers, it shows up as two Unique Visitors, not one. Conversely, if two people access your website from the same computer, it shows up as two Visits from one Unique Visitor. Therefore it is better for focus on trend analysis rather than seeking too much meaning into specific numbers.
Note to Google-phobes and all those unwilling to share their data with Google: there are plenty of excellent “for pay” web analytics packages. Two powerful alternatives are Adobe SiteCatalyst (previously Omniture) or IBM Coremetrics.
To Be Continued …
There’s more to cover, but too much in a single post. Part 2 of The 5 Best Tools for eCommerce Diagnostics will cover:
- Individual Prospect Tracking software
- Usability Testing software
- Web Page Optimization software
- Customer Journey mapping
Until next time – Axel