How to really interpret your ecommerce analytics

There is a lot of talk about eCommerce stores using analytics to understand their marketing but it’s not just about looking at the numbers after the set up has been done. The thing about analytics tools in general is that they can never tell the full story if you don’t spend some time understanding the set up and doing some tweaks here and there. Failing to so do means you are not getting the full story about your marketing efforts or your customer’s purchase. Analytics are never that cut and dry so if you’re going to use them, you need to be aware of a few things.

nterpret your eCommerce analytics 1


About Your Direct Traffic

When someone types your URL directly into the browser, such as, Google considers that source of traffic as direct traffic. In fact, Google treats a lot of traffic from social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter as direct traffic, instead of referral traffic. There are times when browsers won’t pass on the referrer for security reasons so all traffic is treated as direct traffic. That’s probably why your direct traffic visits may not give you the full picture.

A customer may have touched many other channels before arriving at yours. They are bombarded with display ads, social media, paid search, and email so if you’re not fully aware of the role each properly played in your analytics ecommerce conversion rates and transactions could be credited to the wrong channel.


The Last Touch Principle

Another key point to remember is that visitors don’t necessarily click on your ad before they buy from you. It’s highly possible that sometimes they’ll find your ad on a different channel, such as one of your paid ads at the workplace, make a note, and find your site later at home using a branded keyword. This is important because those conversion metrics in Google Adwords are based on last touch: the last thing they touched before making the buy. So when you’re checking your analytics ecommerce conversion rates may be showing you that your paid search plays a role is assisting conversions rather than directly leading to a customer buying. This isn’t something that Google Adwords can really quantify.


Accessing the Data You Need

The fact is, standard reports won’t show you what you need because understanding your eCommerce store analytics are more about interpreting the data than WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). You will need to tweak and cross reference your view by creating custom reports. Custom reports let you really tie revenue and conversions together by showing you which keywords are high converters or at least helping in customer engagement.

Custom dimensions and metrics do require a bit of work but it’s worth it to get an accurate picture of what’s going on with your online store. Remember metrics are some data type, like visitors or page views, and dimensions give you a breakdown of those metrics like the countries or cities were visitors are accessing your site. From the Admin section in your Google Analytics account, you can create new custom definitions for any properties you wish and make it active.


Creating Your Custom Dimensions

A custom dimensions that could be useful to eCommerce stores is membership. Depending on if your store is geared toward having customers be members before purchase, or as an incentive for better deals, this dimension could help you understand which types of members are better converters. You could see visit durations of each membership dimension and how much each spent on your site. With that kind of detailed information, you could even discover that your membership model may not be working as well for you as previously thought.

When you’re working to understand your analytics, it’s important to realize that the standard reports that Google Analytics offers are meant to be customized so you can see how your acquisition channels are working or not working. It’s not what you see that makes the difference, it’s how you interpret it.

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