Your smartphone receives push notifications from apps of all sorts. So shouldn't you get similar notifications when monitoring e-commerce activity?

If you answered "especially in regard to analytics," then you deserve to be at the head of the class.

Notifications or alerts are among the most valuable time savers in analytics. They prevent analysts from wasting time rooting around in dashboards every day and focus their attention on notable changes in metrics or data.

By setting alerts, analysts can better manage the media that impact customer experience.

Analytics Alert Basics

Let’s start with a few alert basics, using Google Analytics as a framework.

Google Analytics defines these alerts as "intelligence events." Other analytic solutions have their own alert notifications, usually with some variations in settings.

In Google Analytics you can set alerts via the admin panel, click on the custom alerts, and then set the dimensions, metric and segment categories that will trigger the alert.

You can indicate whether you want to set up your phone as well as your email for notifications.

This is no small detail — you are setting the notification to the persons who may be responsible for responding to a metric change. So if the metric is associated with a set of products – more on that later – you may want the inventory manager to be notified that products are increasing being sold online.

Now you are ready to create the alert itself.

Components of Google Analytics Alerts

There are two selections that must be made to make an alert. The first is a “This applies to” drop-down menu, which sets the reporting that the alerts are monitoring.  

The second is an “alert me when” menu for selecting conditions on which an alert is triggered. These panels allow three kinds of parameters to be used in the conditions:

  1. A change in volume. For example, an increase in visits by 100 or decrease by 150 would send a notification.
  2. A percentage change in volume. In our visit example, an increase could be represented by 10 percent.
  3. A threshold amount – when a metric is less than or more than a set amount.

Each of the “Alert me when” triggers can be used in a few ways to understand changes in transactions or customers.  

Monitor Transactions When Most Needed

Most managers associate alerts in an analytics solution with website activity like clicking a button. They’re technically right, since analytics started with an association to a website solution.

But alert conditions can encompass valuable e-commerce transactions. That is especially true in today’s climate where e-commerce and offline retail are a blend

For example, the “This applies to” setting includes three choices pertaining to your store offerings.

  • Products
  • SKUs
  • Product groupings according to product lists or affiliations

Other e-commerce selections include as unique purchases (which are useful for custom-built items) and average order quantity (when you are looking for seasonality).

Other Alert Settings

You can also set an alert for goal settings — monitored activity such as a page reached or time in session spent. In one instance, I’ve seen goals used to highlight certain completions in a sales funnel (when a shopper reaches a shopping cart page versus a product page and shopping cart page).

You can also set an alert to a response to an AdWords campaign function such as a call function — setting to a call function to see if spikes in orders are also happening by phone as well as by online purchase.

Google Analytics Call Campaign Alert Idea

There are a lot of combinations available when your e-commerce team applies creativity based on retail operations and the analytics reports.

To Monitor Unit Changes or Percentages?

So is there a certain alert condition that is better than others?

Like in many instances for analytics, it depends on the knowledge needed and with alerts, what you know.

If you know the impact of a certain volume amount, you would use a threshold. You may want an alert when a product order reaches a certain amount, so that the inventory for the product should be checked.

In some instances you may want to use percentages as a way to seeing changes that scale with the purchase activity.

In either case, you will have to play with alerts to help adjust the amount of notifications needed to alert your team.

Let’s say you do not know where to best start. You can set a 10 percent increase as an arbitrary starting point. But consistently low site visitor volume can trigger too frequent notifications for small spikes. A percentage can scale the size of the change with the volume amount. Over time you can revise the percentage as needed.

Overall alerts can be the right notification system to help coral your operations behind the scenes of a website. Organizing your operations and customer service based on e-commerce alerts will keep your business earning an A+ grade with customers.

Title image by Nick Karvounis