Ecommerce Analytics to Measure for a Successful Holiday Season

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In our efforts to "Always Improve, Always Advance" we're excited to present another guest blog post featuring information eCommerce retailers can use to positively impact their business outcomes. Today's post is written by Abhi Jadhav.

The holiday shopping season is almost upon us. And it could be one of the biggest in recent years. Online spending is predicted to grow from $2.5 bn to $3.35 bn this year during Thanksgiving and Black Friday alone - a whopping 33 percent growth!With customers being in the spending mood, online retailers who are ready can stand to make a lot of money. So what does this have to do with eCommerce analytics one might ask? Well…everything! The key to maximizing online revenues during the holiday season and in particular on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday is to be able measure and adjust promotion tactics fast. Let me explain using an example.On Thanksgiving Day, let’s say you feature a snazzy tablet for sale on your home page at 40 percent off. And though you have a dozen other deals going on, this tablet is the mainstay because you expect to make the most money off it. What if halfway through the day you were able to measure the conversion rate on all the items on sale and find that the 32 inch HDTV at 30 percent is doing way better? Wouldn’t you want to capitalize on that demand and switch out your home page promo to feature the TV? And maybe instead of generating $500K in sales that day, you may end up at $750K! Wouldn’t that be nice?This is what web-based eCommerce analytics tools can help you with. A well-defined eCommerce analytics plan for the holiday season can give your bottom line a nice bump. Let’s take a look at what it takes to put such a plan in place.Audit Your Web Analytics SetupLike any other technology on your website, your web analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) implementation may have deteriorated over time. Tags may have fallen off, and what you see in your Google Analytics dashboards may actually not reflect reality. So get out that magnifying glass and do a detailed web analytics audit of your website’s pages and its conversion funnel.What you are looking for is whether the actions you take on the site (visiting pages, adding to cart, proceeding to checkout, etc.) are accurately reflected in the data that is collected in Google Analytics. This is the basic foundation to useful eCommerce analytics regardless of the time of the year.Implement eCommerce Analytics TrackingIf you use Google Analytics, then make sure you implement what is termed “enhanced ecommerce tracking” for your site. In many cases, that may be as simple as turning on a switch in Google Analytics. In other cases, customization may be needed. Using enhanced eCommerce Analytics to measure site performance puts you in a whole different league than using basic Google Analytics. Here’s a quick screenshot to illustrate what’s possible.

Enhanced eCommerce

Once this is setup, you will be able to slice the data in a variety of segments. For example, you will be able to see the conversion rate, revenue, and transaction count by geography (i.e. visitors from US vs elsewhere), by landing page, and most importantly by product.This will give you the power to look at data fast and make decisions on the fly come Thanksgiving. Here is more information on how to use ecommerce analytics. Implement a Tool to Modify Site ExperiencesYou’ve probably been hit up by one of the dozen A/B testing vendors by now. Yes, their eCommerce analytics tools can help run tests on your site to improve site experience. But something else that is not talked about much is their ability to show different site experiences based on a variety of factors. For example, you could vary discount codes or even a home page features for new vs returning visitors.This can be a very powerful tool in your belt come Black Friday because you could be running different promotions based on the source, location, or recency of the traffic.One last tip here - If you’re not looking to invest in a new tool at this time, then look at Google Tag Manager at the very least. It is a free tool, and it can also be used to implement some of the things I mentioned above.Plug Obvious Conversion LeaksBefore the big sales days, do a deep dive into the conversion rate of your website. Look at the rate at which traffic moves from the landing page to the search results pages to the product detail, cart, and checkout. Look through this data and see if there are opportunities to improve conversion through simple fixes. Here’s a simple example – the bailout rate on checkout pages can be high if there is a “can’t miss” coupon code box but no coupon code available.

eCommerce Promotion Analytics

Here’s a slightly advanced idea - Do an inventory of the various promo message placements that are possible on your site. For example, you could place a discount in the header across the site, use product specific discount sashes, or place the coupon code in checkout to reduce bailouts. Once you’ve identified the placements, run a small promotion for a week, one spot at a time. If you have access to an A/B testing tool, even better. Your goal here is to figure out the most effective placement for this discount code to maximize conversion. You can then use the conclusions from this exercise to place discount codes during sale days.Create a Performance Measurement PlanThis is the most important eCommerce analytics step in getting ready for holiday shopping season. You will probably have a promotion plan and a merchandising calendar for the season. Augment those plans with a performance measurement plan.The performance measurement plan needs to be designed to be able to measure the conversion rate, revenue, and transactions on the site on an hourly or daily basis.Here are a few reports that should be part of your eCommerce analytics plan:

  1. Product Conversion Report – This is a simple report that tracks the rate at which products are viewed and purchased. Using this report, you will be able to figure out what products need to be bumped up or moved down on the sale page on your site
  1. Discount Code Utilization Report – You need to know whether people are using the discount code you have published. This report will help determine whether the terms are easy enough for people to understand. Or whether the code is too restrictive. Use this report to ensure healthy discount code usage
  1. Placement Conversion Report – Create a report to measure the rate at which placements on your site are helping drive product purchases. This will help determine whether the all-important first, second, and third spots on your sales page are indeed living up to expectations.
  1. Hourly Conversion Report – This is probably the most important report you could create. Create a report that will provide conversion rate, revenue, transaction counts, and product names by hour. If you have a baseline from the previous year, compare the report to that baseline to see if this year’s performance is better or worse, and then make adjustments to the site accordingly.
Enhanced eCommerce Reports

These are the top five analytics activities I recommend to prepare for the holiday season. Web analytics can be a huge competitive advantage if you use it well. And the work you do here can be used not just for the three big sales days but also through the rest of the season. An additional benefit of this approach is that you will now have a baseline and a game plan that you can use next year!Abhi Jadhav has been practicing data analytics for over a decade. During his corporate career, he led product management, SEO, analytics, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) teams at Travelocity. Abhi is now the Managing Partner at Bay Leaf Digital, a web analytics services firm. His latest venture is Amplytics, a web analytics audit tool for web analysts and technologists.

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