Google claims it can make images load faster without compromising image quality. PHOTO: Jani Brumat

The excitement of Walmart’s purchase of Jet.com is a real world reminder of why businesses love fast consumer sales online. And analytics have always been the core tool for ensuring that those purchases remain consistently convenient and speedy.

Now new strategies for engaging customers through Internet of Things (IoT) devices and virtual reality experiences are accelerating customer expectations.

But before understanding advanced tactics, marketers must ask what takes to monitor customer activity.

Consideration of analytic settings and a few basic reports can reveal how to monitor the frequency of online sales.

How Speedy Online Retail Changed Analytics

E-commerce has always been a game of speed. Consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets for e-commerce raised the profile for metrics associated with a rate of time.

Studies have already shown that consumers accessing online retailers via mobile devices are usually ready to purchase, and can stimulate cross device retail as well.

Thus the metrics should emphasize how long it takes customers to make purchase decisions in terms of time and in number of visitor sessions.

Start With the Right Questions for Speedier Analysis

You should start with basic questions nuanced for products and services and for timing when the purchases occur. Doing this allows you to know what reporting is needed, and to better planning of advanced e-commerce analytic features. This can speed up response to issues that may be impacting the customer experience.

Here are a few example questions that can spot ecommerce details that an analytic report should provide:

  • How long does it take for customers to decide to purchase?
  • Are certain order combinations selected at certain times?
  • Are customers ordering more from a tablet or browsing a potential purchase on a smartphone and finishing later on a home desktop?

Vetting these questions against an analytics solution reveal needed metrics essential to understanding purchase behavior, such as product IDs and product category segments based on the site layout.

Plan the Right Layout in the Reports

The next step is to vet the analytic tag settings against the layout and the reporting based on the aforementioned needs. Doing so puts the right reports in place.

Let’s say you have a site layout question — Is the e-commerce site hosted separately from your main website or is it hosted as a subdomain?

Analytics solutions typically have a filter manager that can display reports for subdomain-only traffic. This is useful for setting reports for a subdirectory of site pages that are dedicated to e-commerce.

Layout specific can also require tracking traffic across domains so that visitors are not double counted in the metrics. Fortunately, most analytics solutions offer cross device reporting, with a variation to setup details.

Google Analytics, for example, has a User ID for this purpose. Initiating means setting the user admin, then adding a script in the analytic tracking code.

Another setting consideration, this one specific to Google Analytics, is Enhanced Ecommerce. The feature, enabled in the main analytic tag, incorporates a data layer of information for product impression measurements.

Those metrics are part of specific behaviors, such as purchases and refunds, viewing product details, responses to promotion, and adding/removing a product from a shopping cart.

Enhanced analytics helps in highlighting multiple purchases in a session or a page hierarchy expected at each stage of a purchasing process, such as counting a visit when someone purchases a pair of shoes, then goes on to purchase a different pair.

This differs a bit from the goals — which are still essential for conversion reporting and making general comparisons among data sources, such as comparing number of visits from referral traffic sources versus social media sources.

Goals in an analytic solution are meant to count specific activity that occurs in a session (a site visit or app usage). Enhanced Ecommerce measures metrics for multiple activities in a visit.

No matter what settings are added, it is important to maintain a master “rollup” analytics profile that tracks all the traffic associated with the domain.

This arrangement is a set of unfiltered data that provides a comparison for diagnosing errors in traffic volume or metrics against a profile filtered for a subdomain.

Check Metrics in Periods & Influence on the Sales Cycle

With the right settings in place, your team can review sales conversions against a timeline or within a period.

Planning periodic review, with simple trend comparisons examined at 30 day, 60 day, and 90 day intervals, can indicate if, for example, the top selling products appears to be an ongoing trend and a worth further investigation.

Another consideration is examining how the sales cycle is occurring.

This is done through a set of reports designed to analyze time to purchase; Top Conversion, Path Length, and Time Lag.

Top Conversion is meant to display which combination of referral sources are leading to conversions.

The Path Length report shows how many conversions resulted from conversion paths that contained single or multiple channel interactions. 

path length

The Time Lag report notes the days that lead up to purchase conversion.

time lag

You can use these reports to examine other ideas on how well a site layout matches the sales cycle, such as reviewing page flow.

Plan Periodic Reviews for Functional Diagnostics

A more thorough review periodically can reveal technical issues or imply where content may be better positioned.

If a review reveals content elements or wording concerns, use an A/B comparison test. The test can consider simple elements on a shopping cart page or on product page.

Site speed reports highlight the added impact from page load concerns – reducing the time required to load a page can minimize poor site response that influence the customer experience.

This is just the beginning in e-commerce – We will examine ways to improve shopping cart conversions and using alert notifications to monitor reports in a few upcoming posts.

Ultimately analytics can reveal more than monitoring online sales. It is the essence behind understanding the drivers of e-commerce and ultimately your business model.

Title image by Jani Brumat