Google Analytics is a data collection and marketing analysis tool offered by Google that aims to help businesses better understand the traffic coming to their websites, where they’re succeeding and where they need improvement.
With this robust set of reporting tools available to merchants at both paid and premium levels, businesses can better plan for the future by learning from past and present performance and trends. Google Analytics provides strong analysis across online channels like sites and apps, as well as ties into offline channels.
While Google Analytics certainly isn’t the only web analytics platform, one of its major advantages is that it’s compatible with other Google tools (like Google Ads and Search Console) and easy to use on a number of platforms.
In addition - and particularly relevant for ecommerce and multichannel merchants - Google Analytics offers a higher level of data aggregation called Enhanced Ecommerce, which allows for more granular analysis of an online business’s metrics to improve marketing strategy, planning, and growth.
Later in this chapter, we’ll cover the technical side of getting a site up and running with Google Analytics and Enhanced Ecommerce, but first - a quick overview of what Google Analytics measures on a basic level.
In the Google Analytics dashboard, there are a number of reports you can run to track specific information that can be customized to each individual site or business. There are five main categories of reports, which may be more or less important to a site owner, depending on the type of business.
Real-time reporting allows you to see what’s happening on a website in an immediate time frame. These reports are generated and updated within seconds of activity on a website, and can be useful for a number of reasons.
This type of data is important if changes have been made to a site and an activity increase is anticipated - for instance, interaction with a blog post or marketing campaign that’s meant to spark interest or traffic. Real-time reporting is also crucial for big brands that constantly experience high levels of site traffic - meaning any small increase, decrease or change in performance could have a huge impact to the bottom line.
Audience reporting can provide a broad range of data about who is interacting with a site. With around 15 categories to choose from, these reports help merchants understand not only the demographics of the users on their site, but also additional information like the devices they’re using, where they are located, their flow through the site, and more. A wide array of metrics can help segment users and determine the best course of action for a business from an audience perspective.
Acquisition reports display how users are being led to your website - what source brought them to you? It’s incredibly useful when it comes to understanding which of your marketing efforts are working to drive traffic to your site. There are several channels included in Google’s acquisition reporting, including:
Behavioral reports are important in determining what people are doing once they visit your site. This can include what other pages they are navigating to, what they are clicking on, what they are purchasing, bounce rate, exit location and time spent on specific pages.
This is also where Enhanced Ecommerce comes into play. With this added plugin enabled on a site, a larger variety of data and analysis options are available - which opens up a lot of possibility when it comes to understanding and optimizing what your users are doing when they interact with your store.
Conversion reports collect all of the data associated with completed events or transactions on a site. You decide what your conversions are - examples can include completed forms, trial sign-ups, email subscriptions or product purchases.
Google Analytics distinguishes between new and returning users using a unique ID assigned via cookie. If a user clears or blocks cookies from the site, Analytics will assign a new unique ID the next time that user visits the site. Something to note - this information cannot track across devices, so Analytics will count each device as a new user.
Looking at sessions - or periods in which the user engaged with the site - an initial site visit will start a clock, which will time out if the user is idle for 30 or more minutes. If there is a hit from this user after that period, a new session will begin.
A pageview hit is tracked when the user first hits the site, and then for each subsequent page they visit after that. Event hits are tracked when the user clicks something on the site that triggers an event (i.e., clicking a play button on a video), while conversion hits are tracked when users click something on the site that completes your conversion events.
With all the data Google Analytics and Enhanced Ecommerce collects, merchants are able to customize their goals and performance reporting strategies in a number of important ways by looking at customer buying behavior, customer engagement funnels and individual and overall product performance. Successful analysis - and synthesis of insights - can lead to an overall increase in revenue, engagement, and clicks.
Analyzing customer buying behavior at every stage of the funnel - before, during, and after purchase - is essential to understanding what people spend their money on, what their buying habits are, who your most valuable customers are, who’s most likely to be repeat customers and why, and more.
One benefit of using Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics is being able to understand a customer’s behavior before they buy, a unique opportunity for marketers and merchants. Customer behavior navigating the site, along with demographic data, can provide a picture of the customer before a transaction even begins - allowing you to better understand their motivations and make sure you’re providing them with the best experience possible.
Enhanced Ecommerce can efficiently visualize your marketing engagement funnel to determine the best path for turning potential leads into loyal customers.
Both the Checkout and Shopping Behavior Reporting functions show movement of customers through each stage of a process. Shopping Behavior will map out the flow of a customer through a site’s shopping experience, from the first click through final transaction. For the Checkout experience, the data visualization will show the customer’s experience with the checkout process specifically. This allows you to identify and optimize any breakage points that are preventing people from completing purchases - driving up your conversion rate.
Determining the LTV of individual customers can help you identify and target high-value customer segments. Understanding those customers’ behavior and preferences – which ad campaigns and channels they respond to, which products they prefer, what offers or products originally encouraged them to buy the first time and more – can help you determine the right way to both attract more customers like them and keep those same high-value customers engaged.
Analyzing customers’ buying patterns and tendencies provides key information that helps you tailor offers and campaigns to them – whether that’s recommending related products they might be interested in, trying to upsell customers who are high spenders or offering discounts to value shoppers. It can also help merchants in the long term by understanding seasonal buying patterns, how likely customers are to make repeat purchases, how long they tend to go between purchases and more.
In order to combat customer churn, you need all the information you can get at your disposal to encourage your customers to come back and shop with you again - rather than buying from your competitors. Customer behavior analytics will help identify patterns of churn and retention, and create paths of action to draw buyers back before they step away.
No matter what you sell, it’s important to keep track of what products are doing well, as well as what products may need to be updated or removed from your inventory. Analyzing product performance can offer insights into how to price your products more compellingly, offer a wider range or change your marketing campaigns and audiences for specific products based on the changing wants and expectations of your consumers.
Understanding the value of each marketing channel and campaign is a critical component of making sure you are focused on channels that drive sales - and attributing sales to those channels and campaigns helps you measure their value so you can make sure you spend your marketing dollars wisely. Having Enhanced Ecommerce enabled allows for much more accurate attribution to specific ad campaigns and unique channels.
Enabling the Enhanced Ecommerce plugin gives you access to a wealth of additional data about your website and customers. Below are several data types:
You can set up data configuration rules prior to data being processed. Once data has been processed, no additional configurations can be made.
You may not use Google Analytics as your primary reporting source of truth - most businesses have additional data sources they need to include, more complex reporting needs or additional customization requirements than Google Analytics provides. However, even if you’re using another business intelligence platform to connect your data sources (like Glew) you’re likely using Google Analytics as your source of web traffic - so adding to that data with Enhanced Ecommerce is still a good idea.
Doing so will allow you to push all the data we mentioned here into whatever platform you do use for reporting for additional visualization and analysis options (and, if it’s a business intelligence platform like Glew, connect it with multiple other data sources that impact your business, like additional advertising channels, inventory and fulfillment, customer loyalty and support, shipping and subscriptions and more). Want to see more? Start a free trial of Glew.
Remember these key takeaways before chapter 3:
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