In Episode 78, we continue our series on Growing Your Online Sales. In this, the second show of the series, we are diving into Google Analytics to learn how it can help you with your online store.
Understanding and keeping tabs on what customers are doing on your site, where they are coming from and several other factors play a large part in the success of your site. And Google Analytics is a great way to get started.
Though there are a ton of features you will find, in this show we are taking it from the beginning and helping you to understand how to best use Google Analytics. To help us to start uncovering its potential, we have asked Beka Rice from SkyVerge to join us and share her insights on how to get started without being too overwhelmed.
We chatted about:
- The basics any online business should understand, whether you are selling anything online or not
- The essential pieces every online store owner should know when starting with Google Analytics
- What specific reports you should use, such as Shopping Behavior and Checkout Behavior and what they will help you with
- When Google Analytics is not the right choice for you as a online store owner
- Beka’s final thoughts on what you should also pay attention to when starting with Google Analytics
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. On today’s show, we dive into analytics, specifically Google Analytics, and your online store. I know from my own experience that getting into those analytics takes time because of all it has to offer. And often it can be overwhelming. So for this show we want to focus on the store owner who is just starting with Google Analytics. And to help us with this, I’ve asked my good friend Beka Rice from SkyVerge to join us. Hey Beka, welcome to the show.
Beka Rice: Hey, thank you so much for having me. It’s good to speak with you again today.
Bob: Yeah, I was thinking I think last time was the first WooConf and we did a little live thing there with, well, you were one of three. I think we were talking online courses. It’s good to have you back on the show, going in a totally different direction this time.
Beka: Yeah, absolutely, though, coincidentally, that was tied to the talk I actually did there, so I guess we’ll bring it back full circle.
Meet Beka Rice, WooCommerce Lead at SkyVerge
Bob: Perfect. So now, before we jump in those questions for those who don’t know, can you share a bit about who you are and what you do at SkyVerge?
Beka: Absolutely. So I’ve worked at SkyVerge for a few years now and we are a business that provides tools for eCommerce stores large and small.
We’ve built a large majority of the official eCommerce extensions available at WooCommerce.com. So we’re the largest third party developer for WooCommerce. We also built six Shopify apps. And we have one app called Jilt which is a cross-platform tool for eCommerce, Shopify and Easy Digital Downloads to help people save abandoned carts and recover lost revenue. So we try to focus on tools that will help eCommerce merchants improve their stores and drive more revenue.
Bob: Excellent. I’ve used or written about a lot of your extensions, especially the eCommerce extensions. Some of them are some of the top-traffic posts, too, because they’re so wildly popular. You guys are doing a fantastic job over at SkyVerge.
Beka: Thank you. It’s always good to hear.
For someone diving into Google Analytics for the first time, what should they pay attention to?
Bob: OK, let’s start with the very basics— no matter what your business is, and it doesn’t even need to be selling my products. But it’s somebody just diving into Google Analytics for the first time. What are the two or three essentials they should be paying attention to as far as stats?
Beka: Sure. So there’s a couple of ways we could think about the problem and one is just for your site in general, maybe you’re not selling something yet, but you’re getting ready to launch a product. One of the things that you can focus on is where your traffic is coming from. And so if you look at your acquisition before it’s in Google Analytics, you can see the top channels for your site and where visitors are coming to you from, whether that’s direct traffic or social referrals, organic search traffic, for example, from Google searches. That will give you some ideas as to how people are getting to you so that you can later focus your marketing efforts. So if you’re just starting out, not really selling anything yet, that’s one of the places I would look to try to build some traffic in those different channels. Maybe you’re not getting a lot of social traffic, so you might consider some Instagram marketing or similar things, depending on your products.
There’s a couple of eCommerce-specific metrics for someone who’s already gotten started, who’s already selling things. One of the metrics I think is really useful is in the eCommerce overview in Google Analytics. So if you go to Convergence, eCommerce and then the overview, the average order value is a really important metric for store owners because there’s a lot of tactics that you can use to boost that average order value.
And since these are people who have come to you and are shopping with your store, they’ve clearly been willing to purchase. Sometimes driving some additional revenue per order can help you make some drastic changes in how much money your business makes overall. One thing I didn’t mention in the intro earlier is that I write a lot at Sellwith.WP.com and we have a whole series devoted to increasing average order value. That was definitely a big one.
And then for people who are going past that and getting a little bit more involved, we’ll talk about some of the behavior reports probably a little bit later in the show, but your cart abandonment is also one that I would look at so that you can see if you can recover some of those carts or if there’s ways you can optimize your site’s browsing and checkout experience to reduce that abandonment, since that’s one of the biggest losses in revenue for eCommerce stores. Many of us many of us have seen. I think it’s the Baymard Institute report that talks about how almost 70 percent of carts are abandoned. And so that’s another one to keep an eye on as you’re getting started with your store and see where you can optimize that.
Anything else in the basics you would say, yes, this works for everybody?
Bob: I want to talk a little bit about those reports next. But is there anything else in the basics as far as, yes, this works for everybody. This will work great for store owners, too, for a specific reason. Anything else to touch on before we dive into those eCommerce-specific reports?
Beka: Yeah. So for store owners, there are several e-commerce reports that, I think, you can take to a basic or a really advanced level. So if you’re if you’re looking for something aside from those couple of metrics, I would also recommend looking at the product performance. Google Analytics can show you things like the number of purchases. Average price for a product, which is helpful if you sell variations. So you can kind of see the average selling price for that. And then the refund amounts typically and the quarter detail rate: how many times that product has been added to the cart based on when it’s viewed. Those kinds of things can give you some insight into how products perform individually. As many store owners have more than one product, that’s a helpful way to get a pulse on your store as to when people are looking at your products and seeing how effective your product pages are in getting people to add items to the cart.
What should we be looking for when we view our shopping behavior reports?
Bob: Now you mentioned before and we want to touch on a couple at least, specific reports, and it sounds fascinating. I want to dive into those to hear your thoughts on them. One of them is shopping behavior and one of them is checkout behavior. Can you give us a little insight into what you’re looking at when you’re using those?
Beka: Yeah, absolutely. For any store owner who is using Google Analytics, it’s important to set up the enhanced eCommerce tracking and so if you’re using WooCommerce the free WooCommerce Google Analytics plugin does basic enhanced eCommerce tracking so that can give you some of the the product data that I’m talking about. Or you could use Google Analytics Pro or another plugin that supports these. These shopping and checkout behavior reports will give you some advanced details about what people are doing in your store. You can look at all of those eCommerce reports in Google Analytics as holistic views of different parts of your store. We’ll touch back on the product performance report a little bit later. But the first place I recommend new store owners take a look at is the shopping behavior report. in Google Analytics that’s under conversions, eCommerce and then shopping behavior.
This is the highest level bird’s eye view of the shoppers on your store. And so it’s a really specific look at how many people are coming to shore and what they’re doing. And so there’s a few steps in that. This is a report that’s automatically generated by Google Analytics where it shows you all of the sessions to your site for everyone that coming to your store. What’s really neat about this is it shows you this is a funnel. It shows you a drop-off in each step with an eye towards eCommerce. So of those sessions how many of them move forward to take some sort of shopping activity. So I’m looking at some data right now from a test I have.
And this obviously doesn’t get a ton of regular you know non e-commerce traffic, right? So people come to this store. They see some product information but then usually they’re kind of testing. You see that there’s 60 percent of people that take some sort of shopping action when they come to the site. And you can view the number of people who don’t have shopping activity. So that’s one of the first kind of important things to look at when people are coming to your site. Are they taking part in some sort of eCommerce activity?
So that activity would be viewing a product, adding a product to the cart, doing something to interact with the store. That’s really helpful, especially if you’re relying on content marketing or some other kind of marketing to get people to your site. Now you can take the next step and say, okay they’re here. That’s great. Now, are they actually doing something with my store, which is the next important question, right? We want these people take the next step towards purchasing. That’s the first step in the shopping behavior report, which is kind of neat and kind of important for store owners to see. Then you can take a look at the sessions, the product views, so any people who look at your products. That’s also very important.
But even more important is the transition between product views and adding to the cart. So in the shopping behavior report, you see how many people look at your product pages and how many people actually decide to buy something. You know, product descriptions are hard to get right, right? You may be using some pre-made content for that. This can be a valuable decision point, to say, is there a way I can influence that metric? Can I get more add-to-carts? Google Analytics will also break out that third step in the funnel, which is sessions that have added an item to the cart.
You can see how many people were already viewing a product, how many people come into the funnel at that step, how many people just added something to the cart without looking at a page. So you can get a sense of how effective your product pages are at getting people to add items to their cart. And then try to influence that metric with changes to your product pages, maybe improvements with your product images, maybe improvements in descriptions or getting more customer reviews so you have some social proof on your site. So there’s a lot of steps you could take which, with each of these funnel steps, you are trying to influence change on these metrics. And then there’s two final steps in that report. One is sessions that have a checkout and then sessions with a transaction that is an actual purchase.
Sorry for the background noise. You probably heard my rooster outside.
Bob: [laughter] It’s still trying to wake you up.
Beka: [laughter] I tried to shoo him away earlier, but it sounds like he’s coming back now A shoot shoot away earlier.
So when you when you transition from the Add-to-Cart to the checkout, that’s also a great kind of insight into how many people have added something to their cart. When they are checking out, that’s where you’ll get the cart abandonment metrics I mentioned earlier, which is, are these people who are browsing and adding items, just trying to get a sense of the shipping information? Is there a way I can save some of these sales that I’m losing? And then, finally, getting into transactions and seeing how many people who have entered my store actually end up purchasing. Overall this shopping behavior report is a valuable in getting a holistic view of of your site and how people from the site are entering the eCommerce functions at your site and what you can do in each of those steps. So some really cool data there and it’s not too fine grained though, right, so we’re talking about a lot of really broad things.
That’s where the checkout behavior report comes in. For eCommerce stores, typically you have a one-page pay checkout with WooCommerce by the fall. You’ve got all the addresses, you know billing information, shipping information, payment selection, all that happens on one page. So the check out behavior report may or may not be too useful for you, depending on what your setup looks like. But basically it’s a zoomed-in view of that fourth step that we talked about, when people get to checkout and whether they end up purchasing or not. It tracks events on your checkout specifically: you know how many people start checkout. How many people provide a billing email. How many people select payment and how many people actually place the order. If you’re using something like Google Analytics Pro to do this it has predefined steps for you so it tracks automatically if you are using custom code or you want to track your checkout file in a certain way. You can add custom stuff there. So that’s a report that you can dictate and say, for example, I want to track how many people start checkout, how many people put in their email and how many people check out. And you can track those steps.
And if you work with your site’s developer, you can play with that report a little bit and get a fine tune look at your checkout to see if people are dropping off in that process and where they’re dropping off. Maybe they get to choosing a shipping method. Well, that’s probably an indication that you should make the shipping methods more apparent throughout the store before they get to that point, so that they’re not surprised by that. And so you can start to get some fine-grained detail in that checkout behavior report. A generic solution might be good for you to start, but as your store grows, you could hire someone to work with you to get some really detailed information in that checkout report. So these reports are super useful for eCommerce stores to get a sense of your browsing and especially your purchasing behaviors.
What is Google Analytics Real Time useful for?
Bob: Yeah, valuable information there. That’s incredible, everything you can get there and it has me leading into the next question, which is something I just wanted to throw in because we have all these reports. It’s a feature that’s called real time in Google Analytics. In a nutshell, it’s showing you where people are at a given point in time. I mean you can watch them and it shows how many people are on a certain page. And I remember when I first found it, shortly after it was released, I was having fun with it. I think I was selling a few things and I was watching it. I would sit there and see somebody get to a point and I would sit and quietly chant, Buy, buy, buy. And it never worked. It was like, oh, they’re gone. Oh now, where did they go? But seriously, is there any real value in this feature for an online retailer, since it’s in real time and you have to be sitting there to see it?
Beka: Yeah. First, the motivation factor is definitely one. It’s cool to see that people are actually visiting your store, because sometimes when you’re selling online, you sort of miss that. You don’t have people walking in the door and saying hi. So that part is pretty neat. But in a practical sense, there’s been some sort of interesting things there. One being the events list that you can see there so you can actually see events you might be tracking. So that might be signed in, signed out, viewed product, added to cart, started checkout, placed order.
You can see some of those events happening in real time, which is pretty cool. And then conversions of those as well, towards towards goals or purchases. So it’s neat from that perspective to kind of see some of this happening happening in real time and just see, you know, oh my gosh, I got somebody to add things to their cart. But then we don’t even start checkout for a lot of these. And it gives you a reference point to refer back to those overall reports, to get a better sense. It’s also sort of interesting if you’re running a specific promotion. Let’s say you started a social media campaign or ad and you want to know the traffic coming in from that. Typically, with social media, you’re going to get a big bump right away.That’s going to be an immediate hit, as soon as that tweet goes or that Instagram post goes up. It’s neat to see if a promotion drives traffic to your site immediately and which pages those people go to visit.
In that perspective, I think it helps to see some of that in real time versus an after the fact post mortem so I get a sense that, if I tweet something, all my Twitter followers will go to whatever I tweeted, but it seems like a lot of them go to the shipping policy page or something. So you can get a sense of that and potentially direct some of your social media marketing a little bit better from that point. So I think it’s definitely a little bit more advanced and kind of a fine-tuned, nitty-gritty detail. But once you’ve covered the basics, it’s a neat report to gain some insights from and to monitor.
Bob: That’s interesting because that’s what I do sometimes especially, with social. I’ll send something out and I’ll use that to actually see how quick the reaction is. And like you said, often especially, on Twitter, all of this it goes by so fast anyway in your stream. It’s a good way to gauge and sometimes, if you have a few spare minutes, it’s kind of fun to see where people are popping out.
Beka: It’s a super neat report.
Is there any situation in which you would not advise a client to use Google Analytics?
Bob: Now is there any time that you advise an online shop owner to not use Google Analytics? They’ll say, oh, I want to use Google Analytics. Everybody talking about it. Is there really a good example of where it’s not useful for somebody?
Beka: Yes, so it’s a good general tool. But it’s more like a Swiss army knife. It’s not a scalpel. And so I think especially for stores starting out, having some metrics is better than no metrics, right?And so there is WooCommerce reports, which are, you know, oh great I can see some of my overall sales stats. But something like Google Analytics is a great place to start to gain some more insight into those analytics. So if you’re not using something, I definitely first checking out Google Analytics.
However if you want to go past that and get something that might be a little bit easier to use or something that has a little bit more detail on what you’re tracking, I think there are other options that can be tailored to your store a little bit easier than Google Analytics because it can be kind of a bear to work with sometimes. So just metrics is one great option for stores that have a higher volume and want to track some different events and flows especially because you can kind of set up some custom funnels and user information there. And they also don’t have restrictions on them like Google does in terms of being able to track alias users based on their email address. Things are a little bit more anonymous with Google Analytics. Mixpanel is another option as well. So there’s definitely some other options out there, especially if you have something like a subscription business and you’re trying to track things, you know, renewal rates, that sort of stuff.
Any other Google Analytics essentials we haven’t touched on?
Bob: I think that makes sense. Okay, one last question. We talked about it in the beginning and you have talked about it throughout. There’s tons of stuff here but are there any other essentials in Google Analytics that people should pay attention to when using it for their online store that we really haven’t touched on?
Beka: Yes, there’s there’s a ton of information in Google Analytics.
Bob: OK pick up pick a couple. How about that?
Beka: Yeah. Actually, part of the problem, I think, is that it can be overwhelming as a new user to understand all the reports. I recommend reading a lot about it to understand how it works and what reports are going to be most useful for you because this also depends on your industry and what you’re selling and whether product is a digital versus shift. There’s a lot of factors that are going to influence what’s most important for you. As a general rule, there’s a few other things to pay attention to. Obviously, those two shopping and checkout behavior reports that we mentioned earlier. Also taking a look at some of the items in the behavior section of Google Analytics can be interesting, not necessarily just specifically eCommerce-related but looking at when someone comes in, what are some of the first events that have happened for them? Have they added a product to the cart? Have they viewed a product? Then where do they go from there?
And they are a little difficult to understand at first, but once you’ve dug into them and learned about them, they’re powerful reports to get a sense of how users move through your site, how they browse your site and what they do as they go. As you get more data, it can be interesting to see how you can influence change on those workflows and maybe cut some steps out to increase conversions or traffic in other parts of that flow. So those behavior reports are interesting but they take time to understand and get used to, for sure. But if you’re sending events to start with, at least you have that data when you’re ready to use it. It’s interesting to get to that point.
And then in terms of other eCommerce-specific events and tracking, we mentioned briefly earlier our product performance report. And there is a solution to that called product list performance as well. These two you can treat similarly. But basically it’s going to show you in the product performance report things like revenue per product. It’s a little easier to see here than in the WooCommerce reports. And like I mentioned earlier the cart-to-detail buy-to-detail rates for that is so you can see how effective each product is, not as a whole. Those are going to be important as you try to optimize revenue for certain products. Especially if you have some products that are really high earners, evaluating that report and seeing how you can bump those stats to drive even more revenue from those. And then product performance treats products as groups. So if people have come to that from the category page or a related product, you from an upsell or a cross-sell.
You can also see some details in terms of how those lists of products that you might have in your store drive revenue. And so you might make only, let’s say, a couple of hundred dollars a month from lead products but you might make a lot more money from your product pages. While that tells you where you should invest time in optimizing your site, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to improve related products. You should really be trying to see if you can drive more revenue from these category pages, maybe make them easier to navigate or to sort or filter your products.
So those couple are our super useful eCommerce reports that sometimes get overlooked in favor of those shopping behavior reports. And then one of the final things you can progress to, which is, again, a little tough for beginners until you’ve got some basic tracking in place, is that you can also set goals on your site which can be interesting in the longer term and for more detailed analytics. Setting a goal can be something like visiting a certain URL, creating an account, things like that. And so based on the events that you send to Google Analytics, using a plugin, or some custom development, you can a goal and track progress towards that goal. That can be neat for shops that are doing certain promotions. The goal may be to have someone enter an email on a landing page. You can measure those with custom goals and then look at funnels for those goals as well. It’s not quite as easy to set up custom funnels and custom goals like that, as it might be in something like Kissmetrics or Mixpanel but it is possible to get there in some other way. And if you’re already using Google Analytics, those are good things to investigate once you’ve covered the basics in terms of some of the shopping and regular eCommerce reports.
Where can we find Beka Rice on the web?
Bob: Well that’s a lot of information and I have the feeling you’re just touching the tip of the iceberg. But this alone is a great step to help people get started with food for thought when there actually started to dive into their analytics and this just tells me that, yeah, we need another show or two where we can go deeper into Google Analytics. We’ll definitely leave that open. Now. Can you let our listeners know where are the best places to find you on the web?
Beka: Yeah, absolutely. So we talked about SkyVerge a little bit earlier, and what we do there. SkyVerge.com is where we blog about things specifically related to customizing and changing your site. I also write at SellwithWP.com, which is a site geared towards independent merchants and store administrators. It’s actionable advice for you to implement changes to your store, improvements, useful tips. And if you want to get in touch via Twitter, my Twitter handle is Beka_Rice. I’d be happy to chat further. There’s actually a lot of information. We’ve only done a broad overview here. You can go really deep with some of this analysis in terms of those eCommerce tracking goals. I encourage people to do a lot of reading of it and we’ll share some helpful resources for beginners as well in the show notes so you can get started with some of that.
Bob: Pretty cool. And I’ll just say that you’re the first guest I’ve had that brought on a rooster and I felt you’ve added something to the show.
Beka: He’s keeping pace out there.
Bob: Well, I want to thank you for taking time to be on our show today.
Beka: Yeah, thank you so much Bob, for having me.