Analytics for eCommerce Websites: An Introduction for Online Store Owners

Written by on 12th April 2018

In the wake of the new year, many things are changing for online store owners. Competition is increasing rapidly. According to the Statista global eCommerce sales report from 2014 to 2021, online retail sales amounted to $2.3 trillion and are expected to rise to $4.88 trillion by 2021. You need to be at the top of your game. Analytics for eCommerce websites is one subject to master as you squeeze all the value possible from your business processes. Learn the basics of eCommerce analytics so you can stay in the race.

This is Why You Need Real Data to Successfully Run Your Store

Every business’ goal is to make money. You need to take every chance you can to increase your return on investment. Best practices in marketing and sales don’t mean anything if you don’t understand your funnel. You know that your Twitter followers and email newsletter subscribers are leads, but you don’t know how to best reach them without real data from their actions.

Leads take several steps within your funnel before becoming customers. By understanding which customer journey touchpoints are your weakest links, you can improve them to increase conversions. Collecting and analyzing data from your social media profiles, off-site content, and your website will give you a 360-degree view of your customers and provide the knowledge you need to make smart decisions.

How Does Analysis Vary Between eCommerce and General Websites?

When it comes to conversion analytics data, all website owners want to know how much traffic they get, where it comes from, and what people do when they land on their site. Online store owners need to know all of the above plus how much retail revenue is generated from site visitors and which products that money is spent on. Increased revenue is essential for eCommerce.

So, analytics for eCommerce websites has all the elements of analytics for general websites with the added need for sales data. In your Google Analytics account you must take an additional step: you must enable and set up eCommerce tracking to collect transaction and item information from your website (if you have a retail app, you will need to set it up separately).

In addition, you will need automated inventory tracking to make sure you and Google Analytics know what’s in stock at any given time and how many of each item has sold. If you are using a content management system that is not designed specifically for online stores, setting up automation will require a some work, but is worth the effort.

Which Metrics Do You Need to Pay Attention to?

When generating reports, your collected data should give you insights about whether you are meeting your goals or not. So, while there are four general categories of metrics to analyze, you should be looking for anything that helps you determine the success rate of your specific objectives.

For example, if one of your current goals is to generate more traffic, you may need to increase your social media following, which requires access to not only Google Analytics, but Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or other analytics as well. Here is a breakdown of metrics to pay attention to, divided into stages in your lead funnel.

Stage #1: Awareness Metrics

During the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, your prospects are just discovering something new – your brand and/ or a problem that they have. For you, this is the time when prospects first see your content (most likely on social media, another website, or your blog). Follow and run reports on the following.

  • Paid Advertising Metrics – From social media to Google PPC ads, you need to pay attention to your paid advertisement spending and engagement rates. Your ads should help you generate enough traffic to meet your goals while keeping costs low enough to generate profit.
  • Off-Site Content Metrics – Posting off-site content with links back to your website will help improve your SEO rankings and often generate traffic immediately. Off-site content includes guest blog posts, YouTube videos, social media posts, infographics, and more. Any content posted on a website other than your own that is published with the goal of directing visitors back to your website should be monitored. Note what works best and what doesn’t work well so that you are able to continue with the content marketing methods that are best for your goals.
  • Blog Data Metrics – Many website visitors find an eCommerce website after conducting a Google Search that leads the prospect to the company blog. While your blog posts can nurture prospects and leads at various stages of the buyer’s journey, some of your blog posts should address awareness stage questions like, “Why does my dog lick his paws?” Those type of posts should be monitored as such, separately from posts that address the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.

Stage #2: Interest Metrics

During the interest stage of they buyer’s journey, your prospects have become leads, and are developing interest in solving a problem that they have. You will know you have an interested lead when someone follows you on social media, interacts with your content, subscribes to your newsletter, or downloads one of your lead generation magnets (eBook, buyer’s guide, etc.). Pay attention to these metrics in particular.

  • Site Traffic Metrics – This refers to the amount of traffic your website has, where it comes from, your most popular pages. In the eCommerce industry, average sales conversion rates are slowly decreasing over time, and are as low as 2.48%, globally. So, until you can optimize your conversion, assume that maybe two to three out of three prospects who land on your site are going to eventually make a purchase. How much traffic do you need to ensure enough sales to be profitable?
  • Bounce Rate Metrics – A high bounce rate is a conversion killer. Throughout the lifetime of your online store, you will be monitoring and optimizing your pages to improve the bounce rate. The lower this number is, the better.
  • Social Media Engagement Metrics – When you run campaigns on social media, you need to know which posts are the most effective. You can monitor these metrics through your social media dashboards. You can also integrate all of your accounts so that you can see everything in one place; this is the simplest way to get a bird’s-eye view of your campaigns.
  • Email Newsletter Metrics – If you have an email newsletter (you definitely should), keep track of delivery, open, click-through, and conversion rates. This will help you at all stages of the buyer’s journey.
  • Blog Data MetricsSee Stage #1.

Many eCommerce ventures include lead magnets and contests. While this isn’t something you necessarily have to learn right at launch, it is a good idea to pay attention to data revealed through Lead Magnet and Contest Metrics during the interest stage of the buyer’s journey.

Stage #3: Decision Metrics

During the decision stage of they buyer’s journey, your leads are becoming ready to make a decision about how to solve a problem; this stage of the buyer’s journey includes research about the best solution for the lead. Modern consumers will read reviews about your products and brand, shop around for the best deal, and look for other ways to meet their needs. Monitor and analyze the following.

  • Reviews Metrics – You can’t track reviews through Google Analytics, but it should be a priority to monitor them. Modern consumers conduct research before making a purchase, so you need to know what they’re going to see when they search for you and your products. Monitor brand mentions across the web and make sure people are saying nice things. When they aren’t do what you can to remedy the situation.
  • Pricing Metrics – Are your products more expensive than your competitor’s? If so, is there a reason? Unless you deliver a better product and exceptional service, you may need to figure out how to keep your pricing low. Platforms like Prisync can help you maintain a competitive pricing strategy.
  • Blog Data MetricsSee Stage #1.

Stage #4: Action Metrics

During the action stage of the buyer’s journey, your leads are now “qualified” and will choose whether or not to make a purchase. In eCommerce terms, your final conversion goal is an online sales transaction. Record and take the time to evaluate your final conversion rates.

  • Transaction Metrics – Your golden ticket to eCommerce success is sales transactions. You want to be informed about how many sales take place and which funnels lead to sales, as well as which aren’t working. Try pairing Google Analytics with a service like Omniconvert to understand your buyers and optimize your conversions simultaneously.
  • Inventory Metrics – Which products are selling? What products do you need to sell more of? Keep track of what’s in stock and take note of inventory management best practices to stay in the lead.
  • Customer Demographics – Initially, you likely had a target audience. Now, you want to know if your customers match your buyer personas. Are your buyers primarily men, women, young, old? Where in the world are your customers. Use insights gained to update your marketing and sales practices, shipping strategies, and more.
  • Device Metrics – The trend I’ve seen recently is that people are shopping on mobile, but making purchases from their PCs. This may not be the case for your site. As you optimize your processes, you want to know the primary methods shoppers use to make purchases and make it easy for them on their terms. Responsiveness and a streamlined checkout process are paramount.

Depending on your marketing strategy, you may need to pay attention to Upselling and Abandoned Cart Metrics as well at this stage of the buyer’s journey. As you scale, you’ll find yourself going further down the rabbit hole.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that sales conversions (actions) are the result of the success or failure of efforts made at all stages of the buyer’s journey. So, you must broaden your focus to encompass figures from awareness to interest to decision to action if you want to see the big picture and make the best decisions for your online store.


Author bio:


Ashley Kimler is part of the superhero team at Heroic Search in Tulsa. She’s been working in the digital marketing industry for over a decade. Follow @ashleykimler and @heroicsearch on Twitter to see what she and her team share next.

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