Hella Data – 5 Ways to Take Ecommerce Website Analytics to the Next Level

Monday morning rolls in like that obnoxious old friend who pops into town for the day, and the weekly analytics dashboard reports auto-generate and arrive in the inbox of the various stakeholders, leadership, and functional teams (if not, stop reading right now and go kick-off that project).  Most likely, they are largely ignored, because frankly, how much do they change day over day?  Not to mention, the next reading option, the Thrillist Top 10 Beaches to Retire On for under a $1 a day, seems a bit more applicable to your state of mind at this point.  These are stats that everyone will end up seeing during business reviews, weekly, monthly and quarterly reports anyway.  If there are indeed any major callouts, like the traffic on Tuesday at midnight spiked to never before seen numbers in the history of the company but all went to a 404 page and bounced (because the guy in marketing gave a key influencer a dead URL to tweet out), it will be the subject of the 436 emails to follow, in a never-ending thread from hell.  There will be painful discussions on the potential lost business, and this will happen, whether or not anyone actually looks at the analytics site report.

Data Overload, Will Rogers

Or more commonly, there is so much data overload in the website analytics excel report attachment that even if you wanted to blow off the next 2 meetings with finance & the guy from marketing that wants to just have coffee (to discuss before mentioned miss), and you suddenly have a desire to dive into deciphering it, it would require a duel major of statistics and computer data science.  Even the best stabs at deriving insights from Google Analytics and/or Adobe’s best in class Site Catalyst, often end up just being a stream of data regurgitation in text form.

Data, it’s NOT what’s for dinner.

Shockingly, data should actually inform the key business decisions in all areas.   Website analytics is most useful when deriving insights that inform everyday decisions, not follow them with back looking evaluation of performance.  Whether it be brand marketing, performance traffic driving, merchandising, product assortment, or site technical tools and capabilities – analytics should come before the direction and investment is set, not used exclusively for post activation analysis.  

Eyes Wide Open, Data Insights – What should web analysts be looking at?

1. Source of Traffic Broken Down with Specific KPI’sIMG_5606

Overall key performance indicators for a website exist in a silo and are virtually meaningless.  What does a site wide conversion rate, traffic unique visitor count, bounce rate or even revenue number really tell anyone?  In actuality, very little, however, these are the numbers most business leaders are basing site performance and brand health on.  Even checkout funnel analysis is completely out of context when viewed as high level.

Analysts should deep dive into the KPI’s AS THEY RELATE TO INDIVIDUAL SOURCE CHANNELS.  Meaning that if that hot, designer shades wearing, way cooler than you in your best selfie, fashion blogger that is the ‘it’ girl of the moment is producing a f*ck ton of visits that aren’t converting, business decisions can be made intentionally, as far as value of investment.  (brand awareness play, top of the funnel consumer exposure, etc. is all very important but it should be a deliberate decision to forgo direct ROI) On the flip side, the time on site, page views, and conversion for a generic paid search campaign (also top of the funnel) can likewise be driving mass traffic, AND at the same time converting at the rate of a Google anointed golden child.   When demand creation budget is low, that’s where the money goes for top of the funnel expansion.  The data should inform where the investment is made for any particular goal, whether it be conversion, awareness, exposure to product campaigns, etc.

  1. It’s all about the Timing

One of the most informative reports for informing timing of press releases, brand campaign activation, social posts, key influencer promotion, email deploy, affiliate discount activation, you name it…. Is the traffic and sales report by time of day.  Hourly reports by day (with day over day, and week over week comparison) will inform as to when your consumers are most likely to hit the site, and more importantly, when they are most likely to purchase.

Most specifically, when there are one-shot opportunities at stake, such as a big campaign debut on social media or a flash sale –  schedule the time of day deploy for when your consumers are typically primed for purchase.  Whether it is just getting to work in the morning (yes, you are not the only one that shops at 9 am on a Monday morning once settling in for another long week at work), after kids go to bed (wine is a fantastic online purchase catalyst) or whenever YOUR fans of brand tend to engage.  You don’t know unless you are looking at the data through the hourly lens, and know your site trends for each day of the week.  (By the way, check out the internet search history of company staff internet surfing at the 4pm hour, it’s a wonder we haven’t shortened the workday by now, no one is accomplishing anything other than a fierce dedication to finding the end of the internet.)

  1. Penetration, Go Deep

The allocation of traffic and revenue by source channel is a huge indicator of brand health.  It is directly indicative of a proportional distribution of marketing channel investment and exposure, and will highlight whether a business has full coverage of the consumer purchase funnel, indicating long term business growth.

Are you increasing new consumer acquisition or recycling existing consumers?  Looking at a channel source report will indicate how consumers are engaging.  For example, if 15% of your revenue is from direct send email, 25% through branded key term search, 10% through remarketing media display banners, another 15% through paid social media retargeting, and 30% direct type in traffic, it is entirely possible that 90%+ of current revenue for the company are existing consumers of the brand.  This is not sustainable for any brand long term and is short sided marketing.  Know if you are driving brand awareness and increasing your bucket of consumers!

Conversely, one of the most apparent indicators of brand health (are you hot or not?) is also based analyzing the same information of traffic driving penetration research, but through an opposite lens. (data is awesome and totally frustrating at the same time).   Looking at direct type in traffic, brand keyword searches (Googling volume in general, whether or not they land on your site), new email sign-up month over month, as well as percentage of 1st time purchasers, all indicate whether you are increasing the top of the funnel consumer base.  In short – traffic and revenue allocation, like work life and play life, must be balanced for long term survival!


  1. Exiting through the Gift Shop (Are we really ever going to know who Banksy really is?)

Deviating from the entry and source traffic focus, how users leave the site is extremely indicative of whether there is a functional consumer journey, as well as if site content is  landing the visitor thoughtfully.IMG_0598

Some areas to consider when particular pages are experiencing a high exit rate:

  • Shipping and Return FAQ’s: Are you jiving with locally established consumer expectations for consumer services, return policies, shipping terms, fulfillment time frames?  (if Joe ‘Amazon’ Blow is delivering in under 48 hours for the same product, and likely cheaper price, why does your consumer need to buy from you?)  Exiting the site from these pages may be a telltale sign that consumers are not getting jiggy with company policies and/or cart to door time frames.
  • Final Checkout Page (prior to confirmation): Specifically, if users are bouncing AFTER investing time into inputting billing, shipping, payment and city they were married in (and didn’t experience death by security questions), there is a definite problem.   Choosing to lose that 7 min of their life that they will never get back by exiting at this point in the journey could be indicative of high shipping or add-on costs not previously apparent, (possibly return policy, if this is where they are first getting that info) or information such as estimated fulfillment time.  Ensure that you are competitive in these areas.
  • Product Walls: Exiting from product walls is typically indicative of either lack of inventory, poor consumer journey – are they landing on a populated grid wall that is relevant for where they are clicking from or what they are searching for? Potentially, a poorly site merchandised page is the culprit (again, from where the user is coming from).  Look at whether the best sellers are at the top of the page, whether additional color/style choices not apparent with a badge on products, and the presence of a filtering system for users to isolate the most relevant products on a heavily marched category.   Basically, a girl knows what she wants, and if she can’t get to it, she will bounce. (also free relationship advice, your welcome)
  1. On-Site Search

What consumers are looking for, but more importantly, how consumers are searching for that product, is low hanging juicy fruit, if webmasters are paying attention and executing on this easy win/win.

Searching in local, slang, or REAL language does not always jive with what our all knowing brand God’s in the cool part of the office have decided to term the last product name or marketing campaign.  Sometimes, users just want waterproof, not ‘all weather terrain resistant’ or pink and not ‘blush’ – analyzing on-site search data AND most importantly, mapping those popular search terms to the relevant products will decrease exit stats promptly in this area of the website.

If consumers are searching relevant products, in a content friendly manner, and they are still bouncing, a couple of factors may be the cause.  There may be a need for a ‘back in stock on ….’ messaging (in place of Not Found landing page).  Potentially, in the case of where product is only available off-line, a redirect to store or partner locator.  Other options may be a ‘similar product suggestion’ search results or gender landing page.

In any event, never land consumers on a content starved dead search result page.  If they are going to continue surfing the web to avoiding doing work, cleaning the house, practicing French or having dinner with the in-laws, make sure they are doing it on your site – no dead ends!

You are not at a Rave, Don’t be in the DarkIMG_5824

Obsess the data (not the hot girl you dated from Tinder) and it will be quickly apparent where the misses, gaps, and opportunities exist for growing the online portion of the business.  The more time invested in looking between the lines of the high level KPI’s, the more brands wil
l know their c
onsumers and how to offer up a premium experience, rather than missed opportunities.  In this case, you truly don’t know, what you don’t know.

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